Of Shelters and Strays

By Sam Reiner

When people visit New Orleans, they expect to see many different parts of life in the city. Things like creole food, jazz music, beignets, and oysters are a few of the attractions that people come to New Orleans for. However, there is one more thing that people don’t expect to see when visiting or living in this great city, stray animals. While every city has their share of strays, New Orleans is a different story. Back in 2005, the city was decimated by Hurricane Katrina and around 600,000 animals were either killed or left stranded as a result of the storm. For years after Katrina, many of the areas that were hit remained untouched. This led to many of these stranded animals to live and breed in these now desolate areas. Meaning that the stray problem in New Orleans started to get worse and worsened as time went on.

While the exact number of animals on the streets is unknown, there is no denying that something needed to be done to help these animals find homes. This is where animal shelters come into play, as now they are the ones who receive and take care of these poor animals. While there are many shelters in New Orleans, I was very fortunate to be able to speak to Natalie Csintyan, an employee at Zeus’ Rescue and ask her a few questions about their facilities and what they specifically do for the stray animals in the city.

Founded in the wake of Katrina by Michelle Ingrum, Zeus’ Rescue is a no kill shelter that takes in many animals from all over the city. Also, according to Natalie, the number of how many exact animals the shelter can hold changes based on a few different factors. She said that “it’s going to depend on the size of the dogs, the size of the litter for puppies and kittens and that will fluctuate on what’s going on… there’s no hard-set number because it depends on the animal itself. For one person working in the back of the house with the dogs, usually the max amount of dogs you want one person to work with is 25 to 30.”

While most shelters receive their strays with the help of the SPCA, Zeus’ is a little different in the sense that it is not a government funded shelter and thus has more freedom to do what they want. However, this does not mean that they do not work closely with the other government funded shelters in the area. When asked about their relationship with other shelters Natalie said “We work very closely with other shelters, so we work with particularly Jefferson Parish animal shelter a lot and also the SPCA…” She was also very informative about how the shelter becomes full.

According to her, “We’ve [Zeus’] got owner surrenders, we’ve got lost and found strays that come in, and then we’ve got animals that come in from shelters in the area that we pull from high kill shelters.” Something else very important that was brought up was that because other shelters are open intake, they have no choice but to accept every animal leading to them becoming quickly inundated with strays making Zeus’ not just important to the community, but to other shelters too.

After talking to Natalie one thing has become clear to me, the importance of these shelters has been overlooked for far too long. The service that they provide not only keeps animals that may carry diseases off the streets, but also provides them with a home, food, and water. There are many different ways that people can help shelters like Zeus’. When asked about how people can support Natalie said, “…I think the biggest things that the neighborhood can do, and you can do anywhere, is just adopt.” After talking to one of these shelters, it seems like they need as much support as possible and it is our job as residents of this great city to give them that support. That means if you’re looking for a new pet, visit your local shelter and adopt your new best friend. It helps out far more than you could ever imagine.

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