Group aims to eliminate euthanizing animals in BR
The Companion Animal Alliance, which has struggled since 2011 to achieve a no-kill animal shelter in Baton Rouge, redoubled its efforts Thursday when it announced a partnership with a Florida nonprofit group whose only goal is to reduce the euthanasia rates of healthy animals to zero.
The partnership means Target Zero Institute, of Jacksonville, Fla., will provide training, consulting and technical assistance to animal advocates and local leaders for the next three years, said Nicole Brose, TZI spokeswoman.
While TZI does not provide direct funding, it estimates its value to the city-parish is $400,000.
TZI’s team of experts will help the city-parish find grant opportunities, write local ordinances, maximize the current resources available in the parish by using best practices and educate the public.
Companion Animal Alliance board President Christel Slaughter said the partnership is putting the organization back on track to fulfill its original mission.
Within months of CAA taking over the East Baton Rouge Parish animal shelter in 2011, its goal of a no-kill shelter was overwhelmed by a firestorm of controversies, including a rotating door of agency directors, and accusations of overcrowding and mismanagement.
“This is so significant,” Slaughter said of the new partnership. “In some ways we’ve been at this a long time, and in some ways we haven’t, but to be able to have all these organizations come together … and push it forward, that’s what it takes to make this work.”
TZI will offer support to various animal advocate groups, including Baton Rouge Spay Neuter, Spay Baton Rouge, Cat Haven, CAA, Project Purr and Yelp!.
The parish animal shelter, under CAA’s leadership, euthanizes 44 percent of animals that come into the shelter, according to Beth Brewster, CAA director.
Brose said Monday she believes Baton Rouge can reduce its euthanasia rate of shelter animals to 10 percent within the three-year period.
Ultimately, the hope is that Baton Rouge will share the best practices it develops through TZI with neighboring cities, and the impacts will trickle through the region, Brose said.
Some changes are already in the works. Slaughter said her group is preparing a draft of an ordinance for the Metro Council’s consideration that would deal with feral, or “community cats.”
She said the idea is to reduce cat euthanasia by spaying and neutering stray cats, cutting a small notch in their ears to identify that they’ve had the surgeries, then release them.
“Then (Animal Control) will have permission from the council not to pick up the notch-eared cats, because you’ll know it’s already been spayed and neutered,” Slaughter said.
She said the concept of “catch-spay-release” is one that’s worked in other cities to reduce euthanasia and also reduced the stray cat population by ensuring animals were neutered or spayed.
Ordinance changes are subject to approval by the Metro Council, and at least one council member said he’s not comfortable with the idea of releasing feral cats.
“The reason we get these phone calls are because cats are scratching up cars, or people are afraid of them,” Councilman Buddy Amoroso said. “They’re a public nuisance, and to return them to that community is not doing a public service.”
Brose said one of the most important aspects to lowering the euthanasia rate is encouraging and educating pet owners to spay and neuter their animals.
The procedures also need to be accessible to low-income pet owners who may be deterred by the cost.
Baton Rouge already has many resources in place that can help with spay and neutering animals, Brose said.
The trick will be getting everyone on the same page and getting the word out to the public about what’s available.
For example, Spay Baton Rouge offers free and low-cost spaying and neutering for pets based on the pets’ owners income levels.
Sandra DiTusa, founder of the clinic, said they’ve done more than 11,000 such surgeries in seven years.
Though TZI was officially formed a year ago, its founders transformed Jacksonville, Fla., shelters from a 77 percent kill rate to a 12 percent kill rate, Brose said.
TZI is also working with Waco, Texas, and Indianapolis, Ind. Brose said Waco has already started seeing steep declines in euthanasia.
“Target Zero’s approach is unique,” Slaughter said. “They have a more realistic approach so it gets you to the same place we wanted to be, but faster.”