Animal shelter may move to LSU campus

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Kittens are kept in their own room at the Companion Animal Alliance in Baton Rouge.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Kittens are kept in their own room at the Companion Animal Alliance in Baton Rouge.

The East Baton Rouge parish animal shelter could find a new home on LSU’s campus across from the School of Veterinary Medicine within the next few years.

The 33-year-old rundown compound is hidden away on Progress Road located just north of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and west of the Metro Airport in Scotlandville.

The Companion Animal Alliance, a nonprofit group that took control of the public animal shelter in 2011, is making plans to build a state-of-the-art facility in a new location to connect more people to adoptable animals.

The LSU Board of Supervisors Friday approved a nonbinding agreement between the CAA and LSU reserving 3.7 acres of land on Skip Bertman Drive for future construction of an animal shelter.

Christel Slaughter, CAA board president, said the agency would benefit greatly from both a better location and a new building. People interested in adopting a pet or volunteering at the animal shelter will be more likely to do so if the location is inviting and visible, she said.

“This changes our image,” she said. “We’re no longer a cinder block building out by the prison. We’re a state of the art facility on LSU’s campus.”

Aside from the donation of the land by LSU, the financial burden rests on the CAA — which plans to kick off a capital campaign soon to raise the money for the facility.

Slaughter said a funding goal hasn’t been set yet, but added that animal shelters being built around the country cost anywhere from $6 million to $12 million.

Slaughter said she thinks the capital campaign to raise the building money could happen quickly, and the facility could be ready to move into within two years.

The LSU Vet School eventually expects to expand its programming to include student interaction at the animal shelter.

At Friday’s LSU board meeting, Peter Haynes, dean of LSU’s Vet School, said the animal shelter will be a significant resource for students.

“There is huge learning value for our professional students relative to their experiences with primary care,” Haynes said. “This is a great opportunity for data collection and a great opportunity for service learning.”

A financial analysis of a service partnership has not yet been conducted, but documents provided to the Board of Supervisors say “it is not anticipated that the Vet School will sustain any significant costs.”

The CAA entered into an agreement with the city-parish in 2011 to take control of the parish’s open access animal shelter over concerns that the animal euthanasia rate was too high.

The nonprofit is working toward becoming a No-Kill shelter, which by definition means they would not euthanize more than 10 percent of healthy, adoptable animals that come into the shelter. Through the end of May, the agency’s animal save rate is 56 percent.

Since taking over, CAA officials have set a goal of moving into new facility and have had to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve deficiencies in the current building like broken air conditioning units and broken cages.

Animal Control Director Hilton Cole, who oversaw the shelter when it was under city-parish jurisdiction and who still oversees animal control enforcement, was previously eyeing a donated property on Old Hammond Highway and Millerville Road that would have cost $2 million to renovate.

Slaughter said property is still available, as well as some other donated city-parish buildings, but she said the agency will reap the most benefits by being on LSU’s campus.

The building will ultimately belong to LSU, but Slaughter said the university would lease it to the CAA for a $1 per year.

A preliminary site map shows a two-story building with 30,000 square feet of space and an outdoor fenced-in area to walk dogs that abuts River Road. The map includes another 13,000 square feet of space for future expansion and area for animal holding and an emergency evacuation building for the animals.

Advocate staff writer Koran Addo contributed to this report.