Animal control measure held to study cost

Animal control, an unresolved issue debated in Livingston Parish for almost two decades, has been dropped from Thursday night’s Parish Council agenda.

This time, the delay is only temporary, Parish President Layton Ricks said Tuesday.

Ricks said he removed the item from the agenda until a determination can be made on how much tax revenue would be needed to support the program. The 3 mills that has been discussed may be more than is necessary to run a good program, Ricks said.

Councilman Jim Norred, who suggested putting a property tax proposal before voters, said that before the council takes action, he would like to see the plan for the program and a proposed budget.

Norred said he believes the council is in favor of an animal control program, but it doesn’t want to just provide “a bucket of money” for creation of an unspecified program.

If the administration provides the council with suitable information quickly enough, a proposed millage could be put on a parishwide ballot in either the April 6 or May 4 municipal elections, Norred said.

Marshall Harris, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, said he doesn’t believe the parish would approve putting a tax proposition to support animal control on the ballot until it sees a breakdown on how much the program would cost.

“We need to match the expenditures to the millage,” Harris said.

Proposing a property tax millage and letting people vote on it is a good way to handle a problem that people in the parish have complained about for years, he said.

“This is a way to put it out there and see if people are interested in having an animal shelter,” Harris said.

Harris, Norred and Ricks agreed something needs to be done about animal control in the parish.

Harris said the stray animal problem is as big now as it ever has been.

Ricks has said the issue it is one of his priorities, and shortly after becoming parish president, he created a committee to come up with a proposed program for animal control and welfare.

The committee has been looking at the cost of staff and buildings, he said.

The committee appears to be inclined to create shelters at several locations in the parish rather than having a single, central facility, Ricks said.

“I tend to agree with them,” because community-based shelters would result in more volunteers and in easier pet adoptions, Ricks said.

“It would be great to have a lot of shelters, but I don’t think financially we will be able to do that,” Harris said. “When you have multiple shelters, you have multiple expenses.”

The parish has one small shelter that mainly handles vicious dogs, but has no comprehensive animal control program.

The cities of Denham Springs and Walker maintain shelters to handle stray animals from within their city limits.