This Dog Inspired a New Movement Toward Humane Rescue Programs

(Cover Photo Courtesy of Humane Society of Lousiana)

Brownie, a Pit Bull Terrier shown above, is not your average dog. She was hanging around a grassy area and a parking lot when she was spotted. Living as a stray was tough for her, which meant there were timid, but aggressive behaviors that required management whenever she encountered people on the street.

After leaving food and water behind so that she could have support, Brownie wanted to stay in the area. Living in St. James Parish, this pup was being fed by a second-year nursing student and a long-time animal rescuer named Abbey Michael.

Abby and the state’s Humane Society brought in a volunteer trapper, who was able to catch Brownie safely.

After being captured, the Humane Society of Louisiana (HSLA) transported Brownie to a veterinary clinic in New Orleans. She began to show signs of recovery while getting to be around safe people and other dogs. [1]

“Living on the streets is very difficult for our companion animals,” said Jeff Dorson, HSLA Director. “Hungry and thirsty, they roam our streets foraging for just enough to get by.”

When animal control officers get involved with dog management when one is labeled as a potential threat, the results are often less than positive. With Brownie, people are gaining a new perspective.

Talks Have Started to Build an Animal Shelter

Established in 1988, HSLA currently operates one of the largest humane groups in Louisiana. Approximately 80% of the dogs and cats that enter the shelter system in Louisiana are saved and eventually find loving homes. That figure is up ten percentage points from 2020, and HSLA officials want to keep seeing it rise.

St. James Parish does not currently have an animal shelter. However, when unowned or neglected animals require support, the Sheriff’s Office has taken them to the St. John Parish Shelter. Everyone admits that this practice doesn’t adequately reduce or support the stray population.

“Brownie’s story clearly illustrates the need for the parish to provide services since neither residents nor humane organizations can provide everything needed,” said Dorson.

HSLA helps many dogs like Brownie with their transport center. Approximately 12,000 pets have been successfully adopted from the state and taken to their forever homes in northern states. [2]

Rural shelters are included in this program. Each year, over 1,500 homeless pets from these small, out-of-the-way organizations receive rescue and transportation across the United States to prevent euthanasia.

Additionally, the team behind this HSLA program operates a rehab and rescue barn for horses saved from cruelty and neglect. This setup allows them to be closely monitored and cared for by the crew to ensure their health can be rebuilt. It would not be unusual to see dogs like Brownie have a chance to still run free while being in a supportive environment with this program.

Dorson estimates that about 100,000 abandoned cats and dogs are currently trying to make it through each day. Since only 33 parishes currently have animal control services, he wants to get St. James and others to have a more supportive infrastructure. It’s been a slow process, but he believes Brownie’s story will help people see the reality of what life is like before and after as a stray. [3]

Community Meetings Have Been Held Since 2021

Abby Michel might have been taking care of Brownie, but she also has been one of the primary forces behind the parish getting a shelter and organizing a local humane society. Her mother, Erin, has been part of the journey from the beginning. [4]

“Our group plans to invest some of our time and resources in developing some basic programs or practices in St. James, Avoyelles, and Livingston Parishes since we receive a high number of calls regarding stray and neglected animals from these areas,” Dorson said.

The Michels are active members of the St. James Parish 411 group that helps to reunite lost pets with their homes while rescuing strays and offering support to the community. [5]

More than two dozen people, including multiple elected officials, have recently met to discuss plans and options to get the shelter going. They’ve seen how Brownie has turned from a shy and terrified animal to one with a sweet personality and playful demeanor. [6]

How You Can Help Brownie or Get More Involved

The good news is that over time, it appears Brownie will be ready for a new home. She continues to come out of her shell, being content with regular meals and having a new playmate.

However, even with all the TLC’s she’s been getting, the veterinarian treating her has had to address an issue with parasites recently. Anyone wanting to contribute to her ongoing recovery can do so at this link: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/humanela.

For those living in Louisiana who’d like to help, animal friendly license plates are available featuring cartoon dog and cat, which gives $50 to the Pet Overpopulation Advisory Council. About 1,250 have been sold since 2007.

You can also email the Humane Society at info@humanela.org if you’re interested in adopting Brownie or another pet today.



[1] https://www.weeklycitizen.com/story/news/2023/09/26/brownies-rescue-in-st-james-pairshows-positive-impact-of-animal-services-humane-society-of-louisiana/70973542007/

[2] https://humanela.org/programs/saving-lives/transpuptation/

[3] https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/opinion/mark_ballard/mark-ballard-stray-dogs-and-cats-overwhelm-louisianas-anemic-effort-to-deal-with-them/article_036d589e-0f4f-11ed-93c3-5b0dec24c356.html#:~:text=Roughly%20100%2C000%20abandoned%20dogs%20and,the%20Humane%20Society%20of%20Louisiana.

[4] https://www.lobservateur.com/2021/10/07/activists-hope-to-form-local-humane-organization-in-st-james-parish-citizens-concerned-about-pet-overpopulation-stray-animals/

[5] https://www.facebook.com/groups/881797482221665/

[6] https://www.lobservateur.com/2023/09/25/st-james-homeless-canine-becomes-mascot-for-new-project-groups-push-for-a-public-shelter-and-formation-of-new-humane-society/?fbclid=IwAR0RDwl8cybNWorWWoOZdUvRs6zlb9aq3qxl-nM9knZaFNVR0Vyb1lRNIKU