GONZALES — The dogs and cats of Cara's House, the Ascension Parish animal shelter, will be in their home away from home a little longer than expected, but adoptions and other normal procedures remain underway, a top shelter official said Friday.

Parish and shelter officials and volunteers evacuated dozens of stray animals normally housed in the shelter along Airline Highway near Sorrento on Aug. 23 when then-Tropical Storms Marco and Laura were taking a bead on the Gulf of Mexico.

But, nearly three weeks later, a covered, open-air barn in the rear of the parish government-owned Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near Gonzales remains their home. 

Kassie Vaughn, the shelter director, said that with the number of disturbances in or headed to the Gulf, shelter officials have decided to keep animals at Lamar-Dixon for the time being. Moving the animals back and forth from their regular shelter can be costly and timing consuming. 

"We're just kind of hanging out until the Gulf settles out a little bit," Vaughn said.

Lamar-Dixon is a 265-acre multi-use complex that regularly becomes a hub of activity by state and other forces after a major storm hits the state. The facility has often served as a temporary home for shelter animals during floods and past hurricanes, perhaps mostly famously after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

On a warm late Friday morning, Vaughn and Jenna Yarbrough, the kennel supervisor, were drawing blood to test a cat for feline AIDS and feline leukemia as many fans whirred to keep animals cool in their stalls.

Elsewhere, volunteers walked the stalls to care for the various animals as dogs barked and more fans spun.

Vaughn said the shelter has about 60 cats and 20 dogs, which is low for this time of year. Typically, the shelter would have 150 cats and 75 to 90 dogs.

Shelter officials also have been able to transport 220 animals in advance of the storms to other homes and shelters out of state.

Vaughn speculated that fewer people may be picking strays in Ascension because many are helping with recovery in Lake Charles from Hurricane Laura.   

For those interested in visiting the shelter or adopting, Vaughn said a staffer is answering the phone at the Sorrento shelter Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at (225) 675-0400. 

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

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