DENHAM SPRINGS — For the volunteers who help run the Livingston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are no holidays.

Group President Terri Cato-Dunlap estimates that members of LSPCA handle between 900 to 1,200 calls for assistance with dogs and cats each year.

“I don’t get much sleep," she said. "I keep my phone right next to my bed just in case someone needs help with a pet. I never know what the call might be. .”

The LSPCA has no headquarters building and no facilities. Volunteers in the organization take on at-risk animals, nurse them back to health and then seek to either lend assistance to a family in need of help or get the pets adopted.

Residents can learn more about the group during a special holiday pet adoption program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 16-17 at the Pet Smart, 1653 Millerville Road, Baton Rouge.

Cato-Dunlap said the adoption event will be under a huge tent and will have a Christmas theme.

“Santa will be there and we invite guests to take their pictures with Santa," she said. "We will have gifts for dogs, some fun things to do, but above all have dogs and cats for adoption. We invite all those who are looking for a great pet to come by and visit our adoption days.”

After Sunday's adoption event, the group is hosting its first Rescue Reunion from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the PetSmart on Millerville Road under the big tent.

Cato-Dunlap said the LSPCA holds adoption days about every three months, and the December event is the most special. “It’s the holidays and people are busy with so many things that they not be thinking about adopting a pet. But for us, we see this as a good time to help families acquire pets,” she said.

“We have a great reputation for taking on high-risk animals and we do what we can for them. ...  Saving pets is what we do, and some of us spend our lives doing this. It’s demanding, but also rewarding,” Cato-Dunlap said.

The story of Buttercup

Courtney Altazin, of Watson, has experience with one of those high-risk animals. She said she is most grateful to the LSPCA for bringing joy to her family through the adoption of a pet dog that had been grossly abused.

“A friend who works with the LSPCA asked if we would help a dog, named Buttercup at the time, who was in terrible shape when rescued by the LSPCA," she said. "The dog, a mixed breed Chihuahua and Jack Russell terrier, had chemical burns on its body, had lost most of its hair, had a possible broken bone and other medical issues. The dog was rescued from a shelter in another parish and, with the help of the LSPCA and local veterinarians, was being treated for its extensive medical problems."

Altazin said she decided to take the recovering dog into her home and quickly discovered a love for the dog and decided to permanently adopt the animal.

“That poor little dog has done a complete turnaround. We renamed her Marley Jean and she is now part of our family," Altazin said. "She is a wonderful companion. She loves to be with people and after what she has been through, her new life is just amazing."

Altazin said the LSPCA is a “blessing to Livingston Parish. The volunteers with the LSPCA take dogs and cats that are caught up in terrible situations and make them whole again. They restore health to animals who have been hurt and mistreated through much of their life. The LSPCA is a beautiful thing and I constantly thank them for what they do."

Keeping pets home

Cato-Dunlap said one of the most important things LSPCA volunteers do is help area residents who are having difficulties keeping and maintaining their pets for various reasons.

“We want to help people keep their pets if at all possible, and this can be a big challenge," she said. "I had one lady call me in tears to say that she had lost her job and couldn’t afford to take her dog to the vet or get it groomed. We met with her, helped her out the best way we could and saw to it that she was able to keep her pet."

Cato-Dunlap said the LSPCA works independently of other organizations to help residents with their pets and volunteers with the group care for pets in their own homes when they must.

In an ideal situation, Cato-Dunlap said, a pet adopter could best learn about an animal by having them stay in their homes for a certain amount of time to see if the pet is welcome and will have a good home.

“Our volunteers are what makes the LSPCA work,” she said. "We should not be confused with any animal control agencies. We have no transport vehicles, no staff veterinarians, and no specialized way of dealing with cats and dogs. We are not trained to separate dogs that are fighting, and there are some situations that we just can’t handle. We do the best we can to help those who seek our care."

When an animal needs professional help from a veterinarian, the LSPCA arranges visits and works with the veterinarian to restore the animal to health.

Funding, donations important

The LSPCA depends on several sources for funding. Cato-Dunlap said grants are used to help with adoption events. The LSPCA receives some donations, earns funds from adoption fees and is assisted with the purchase of medicines, pet food and supplies through its nonprofit status. Cato-Dunlap said donations of such things as blankets, towels, baby gates, pet toys, food, materials for small fencing areas and other items relative to pets are always welcome.

The need for pet food donation became even more important recently when volunteers noticed one bag of donated bag of pet food contained parasites, forcing the group decided to destroy all the pet food stored in its climate-controlled pet food unit.

"We are already in the midst of a severe financial hardship — this really kicks us while we are down," a news release said. The group is asking for supporters to donate pet food at the PetSmart on Millerville or text (225) 788-6940 for pick-up.

The cost of assistance to a risk pets varies according to each particular case, Cato-Dunlap said, and the average cost for assisting with a dog, assuring that it has the proper treatment for ailments and inoculations is about $200.

Cato-Dunlap said the LSPCA’s Facebook page is essential to making contact with the public and estimates that about 10,000 contacts have been made through Facebook over the years. Those needing assistance with a pet also can contact the LSPCA through Cato-Dunlap at (225) 284-5738 or visit www.livingstonspca.com.

“We are doing all we can to assist the residents of this area who need help with an at risk animal," Cato-Dunlap said. "We are dedicated to this special calling, and we encourage those interested in adopting a pet to come see us at the Holiday Pet Adoption program on Dec. 16-17. This is a great time of the year to welcome a pet into your home."