It was run by two men who left the shelter unkept, didn’t administer proper care to the animals and often didn’t even show up for work. The animals were living in a tin building, surrounded by three-foot tall grass, with no air flow - leaving the animals suffering in sweltering heat.
After numerous complaints, Crowley Mayor Greg Jones addressed the situation head-on. He hired Jehnna Leleux, getting her to move from Savannah, Ga., and the results were almost instantaneous. Shortly after her arrival, The Post-Signal interviewed Leleux about the shelter’s drastic improvements. Among the improvements made during her first few months were:
- The addition of two large fans which cooled off the inside of the shelter.
- All of the animals were updated on their vaccinations and were given microchips so that they could be tracked down and identified if they were lost.
- Leleux began to vigorously try to find homes for each of her animals, teaming with Second Chance Paws for their pet adoption day in the parking lot of Tractor Supply on Oddfellows Road.
And that’s not to mention the personal care that she paid to the animals, often calling them “her children” and naming each one of the animals dropped off at her shelter.
The shelter underwent a huge turnaround, changing from a source of embarrassment for the city into a fully equipped shelter where people would stop by to adopt healthy pets.
On the morning of Aug. 24 2012, however, Leleux’s worst nightmare came true.
Dozens of the dogs she cared for were killed the previous evening after a terminated employee, Mike Edwards, was alleged to have gone on a rampage. Most of the dogs that were killed were decapitated and many others suffered gruesome deaths.
After spending a few months in jail, however, Edwards was acquitted by a grand jury due to lack of evidence.
Since then, Leleux’s life has been turned upside down. Though she has never been connected in any way to the killing of the dogs, she has been the victim of constant harassment ever since.
“I’ve had the word ‘murderer’ spray-painted on the side of my house,” said Leleux. “I’ve had a false Facebook account set up under the name ‘Crowley Animal Shelter,’ on which some terrible things were written about me and false information has been posted on the site...saying things like I don’t care for the animals and that I euthanize up to 50 animals a day, I don’t even have 50 animals here. One post even said the mayor comes here and decides which animals should be killed himself...it’s ridiculous.”
Even more intrusive, Leleux’s personal phone number and email have been posted on the site, resulting in several hate-filled phone calls and emails.
“I’ve even had people pretending to be me on the site that collect money for the city,” she said. “I’ve had to change my phone and work numbers. It’s gotten so bad that I have to get a police escort to ride with me when I go on calls. It’s almost like everything I’ve worked so hard to renovate has meant nothing.”
And then there was an article written by Rosa Mitrano of O-Ped News, which harshly criticized Leleux, referring to her as being someone who neglected her animals and euthanized several each day. The fact that Mitrano had no first-hand knowledge of the shelter didn’t stop her from doing the article, though.
“She was saying all these bad things about me in her article and I had never spoken to her once and she never once visited the shelter,” said Leleux. “When I called her about it she said ‘I can write what I want’.”
Upon visiting the shelter on Monday, it is quite obvious that nothing could be further from the truth.
Leleux names each of the dogs that are in the shelter and they obviously don’t mind the treatment that Leleux provides them.
“I accidentally let one of the dogs out when I opened the gate one day,” said Leleux’s assistant Ulysses Demouchet. “I tried to chase it but it was too fast. Then, when I came to work the next morning, he was sitting outside the gate wanting to be let back inside.”
Perhaps, however, the greatest testimonial to Leleux’s love for animals may be a small, furry mutt named Malady, who Leleux found suffering from a gunshot wound.
“When we found her she had been shot and was covered in blood,” she said. “I took her in and slowly she began to improve.”
To look at him on Monday, the dog showed no signs of having been shot and was jumping around and barking just like all the others at the shelter.
Leleux has her share of supporters, too, mostly those who have actually visited the shelter.
Among them are The Acadiana Humane Society, the Crowley City Council, Second Chance Paws and head of the LSU veterinary department, who said that “he saw nothing wrong with the shelter whatsoever.”
“The animals over there are actually fat,” said Mayor Jones, who was visibly angry about the treatment Leleux had been receiving. “People sometimes have a tendency to jump all over the bad side of things without looking at the facts. I am very proud of the work that Jehnna has done at our shelter.”