June 18, 2012
POSITION: Director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control and Rescue Center.
Hilton Cole has been working for city-parish animal control for more than 30 years. A year ago, the private, nonprofit group Companion Animal Alliance took over the city-parish shelter and adoption duties. Cole and his staff are still in charge of animal-control enforcement.
What is the difference between your job and the job of the director of Companion Animal Alliance?
The difference is that I direct and oversee law and ordinance enforcement involving public health and safety matters regarding both humans and their relationships with domestic, exotic, wildlife and livestock animals. This would include administering the anti-rabies vaccination program, investigating dog fighting, cruelty, dangerous animal, stray animal, owned animal, nuisance animal, injured animal and rescue animal cases. The contract for the CAA and its director is to shelter, adopt, foster and euthanize animals brought into the shelter.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The most challenging part is dealing with residents who abuse animals and then seeing the toll that the cruelty, dog fighting and other purposeful or irresponsible acts take on the innocent animal. The suffering of animals at the hands of people who knowingly cause pain and suffering is a reflection on individual and society issues as a whole, and it can and does lead to other violent crimes against humans. Equally disconcerting is the relentless euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals, both locally and nationally, caused by irresponsible pet ownership and not spaying or neutering their pets.
How has the transition of sheltering operations from city-parish control to private hands gone?
The transition has been challenging for the CAA at times. The reality of working at an open-intake municipal animal shelter with 75 percent heart-worm-positive dogs, a large percentage of pit bulls, a large amount of feral cat and stray dog populations, and an outdated building, while at the same time espousing a ‘No Kill’ agenda led to great expectations from residents. Leadership, financial, physical plant and internal issues have arisen, but I am hopeful that these matters will be resolved over time and with the good stewardship that we believe the new director and board possesses.
Do you think the shelter can become a ‘No Kill’ shelter — a shelter with only a 10 percent euthanasia rate or less?
A 10 percent animal euthanasia rate here, from this shelter at least, would not be a reasonable objective. If it were to be possible, the resources necessary would be inordinate and draining on the limited monies generally available. This is caused by the constant influx of animals on a daily basis, our extended Southern breeding season, the disposable society we represent and the types and condition of the animals we see daily.
The good news is CAA inherited a program that had reduced total euthanasia rates from around 80 percent to 65 percent. CAA gets assistance from various local advocates and groups. CAA has further capitalized on this initiative, enhanced its many networks and continues to increase the adoption numbers, while reducing overall euthanasia rates.
Advocate staff writer Steven Ward