Field Trip: Pen Pals
An unusual partnership brings an animal shelter and emergency evacuation site inside prison walls
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina gave birth to many unexpected partnerships. Some dissolved as a semblance of order returned to the Gulf Coast, but others—like that between The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and a medium-security prison in Louisiana—have grown into beautiful friendships.
In the days and weeks after the 2005 storm, The HSUS’s temporary shelter for animals at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzalez, La., filled up with strays and pets rescued from the flooded region. Animals kept coming in, though, and finding suitable shelters—in an area whose animal facilities had been severely impacted by the storm—became a major challenge.
That’s when Amanda Smith, a prison administration staff member at the Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI), happened to read a newspaper article about the sheltering needs at Lamar-Dixon, and asked then-warden James “Jimmy” LeBlanc if the prison could help by fostering displaced animals on prison property, which includes 2,500 acres of land and several barns.