Pen Pals. Inc. Dog and Cat Shelter and Adoption Center was founded in 2008 after Hurricane Katrina hit the state of Louisiana as a category five storm with maximum force. A conservative estimate reveals that over 50,000 animals were abandoned by their owners in New Orleans, LA, as they fled to safety. Some animals were trapped in homes or chained to fences to brave toxic waters and 105-degree heat with no food or water.
Rescuers were understaffed and overwhelmed by the scope of the problem and the time-critical nature of their effort. Motivated by compassion, relief came from these few dedicated volunteers and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI). DCI assisted by housing many of these abandoned animals. A makeshift animal clinic was set up, and inmates were trained in caring for animals of all types, shapes, and sizes. A vision was born out of this tragedy.
In response to the events of this tragic situation, an agreement was made between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, and DCI to establish a permanent shelter and a temporary emergency animal shelter on the grounds of the prison. The HSUS obtained a grant of $600,000 to fund the construction of the facilities. The permanent clinic, Pen Pals, Inc., Dog and Cat Shelter and Adoption Center, provides comprehensive training for future veterinarians and promotes the rehabilitation of those incarcerated individuals trained to assist.