NEWS BEAT: Pet Projects

Flooded out of its long-time headquarters in the upper 9th Ward and inundated afterward with desperate cases of pets abandoned to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, the local nonprofit devoted to ending animal suffering is emerging from the crucible with new facilities and a vision to bring “pet tourism” to New Orleans.

NEWS BEAT: Pet ProjectsIn May, the Louisiana Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LA/SPCA) opened the first of three new buildings planned for an 11-acre campus in Algiers. The agency had been working out of a rented coffee warehouse since the storm but now has a more appropriate facility for its multiple missions, which include reuniting lost pets with owners, finding owners for homeless pets, investigating animal cruelty cases and public advocacy. In the future, however, the campus will include facilities that director Laura Maloney says are specifically designed to embody the agency’s principle that pets should be treated like family members.

The second phase, which will begin construction soon, is an adoption center designed to allow people and animals to meet in accommodations that feel more like a home environment than the clinical facilities typical of animal rescue and control.

“We call it an adoption gallery and it will be an apartment-like setting,” says Maloney. “When you visit a dog (for potential adoption) he or she will be in a room like a bedroom or a kitchen. It’s very comfortable for the animals and it’s great for the visitors to see them in settings like the ones in their homes.”  

The third phase of the project is the most ambitious: the construction of a 28,000-square-foot arena for national animal events, such as kennel club shows and dog agility competitions. Maloney says the agency has been coordinating with local tourism officials since the project has the potential to bring in a new segment of the travel market for large-scale events.

The LA/SPCA is a private organization and funding for this $17 million project is coming through donations from both locals and those outside Louisiana’s borders who felt compelled to help animal causes after the Katrina disaster.

“The nation saw a high level of need here,” says Maloney.

The latest major contribution, however, was from a familiar source of support for the LA/SPCA. The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, a local group that has been the agency’s largest supporter, made a $2 million contribution to the project, which will be named the Dorothy Dorsett Brown LA/SPCA Campus when it’s complete.
– I.M.

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