On Assignment | Pen Pals at Dixon | 225 Magazine

In addition to the cover story and the feature on Laura Hinze, Adrian Hirsch and I traveled out to Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, La., to spend some time with Dr. Wendy Wolfson, her LSU vet students and inmates who were working to take care of and keep animals healthy at the Dixon Animal Shelter.

Any and all strays picked up by animal control in Washington Parish are brought to Dixon, which serves as the parish’s animal shelter. The prison also has an evacuation shelter that will be used  for animal owners to drop their animals off before the storm and pick up once the storm has passed.

The man behind this, Secretary of Corrections James M. “Jimmy” LeBlanc, was the warden of DCI during Hurricane Katrina and recognized the state needed this kind of shelter when he and colleague were in New Orleans after the storm, establishing a temporary jail and evacuating prisoners. The men saw a small dog swimming along side of the road and picked him up, appropriately naming the dog “Evac.” Since then, Secretary LeBlanc has been a proponent of creating this shelter at Dixon, which opened officially last year after being built by inmates.

The time we spent at Dixon was eye-opening, and it was incredible watching the care and tenderness the inmates displayed with the dogs as they were bringing them in and out of the examination room for Dr. Wendy and her students.

James Ziegler, center, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, La., watches as LSU vet students Claire Scott, from left, and Blair Benoit work on a dog while visiting DCI on July 28, 2011. Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc led the initiative to get the animal shelter on the DCI grounds, starting the Pen Pals program where inmates take care of the animals. (Erin Parker)

James Ziegler, center, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, La., watches as LSU vet students Claire Scott, from left, and Blair Benoit work on a dog while visiting DCI on July 28, 2011. Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc led the initiative to get the animal shelter on the DCI grounds, starting the Pen Pals program where inmates take care of the animals. (Photo by Erin Parker / 225 Magazine)

To read Adrian’s story on the Pen Pals program at Dixon Correctional Institute, click here.

To learn more about the shelter at Dixon, click here.

And to look at the adoptable animals from the shelter, click here.

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