Funding increase for shelter scrutinized

Several East Baton Rouge Parish council members expressed concerns Wednesday about a provision in the proposed 2013 budget that would increase by $113,800 funding for the Companion Animal Alliance, the nonprofit group that runs the city’s animal control shelter.

During a meeting conducted to discuss with council members Mayor-President Kip Holden’s proposed 2013 budget, Councilmen Ulysses “Bones” Addison, Trae Welch and Ronnie Edwards quizzed Parish Finance Director Marsha Hanlon about the rationale behind the increase.

The three council members said they were concerned after recent reports of problems at the CAA-run animal shelter from some CAA employees and from the public. The problems included reports of animal cruelty and mismanagement and spurred an investigation by the parish’s Animal Control and Rescue Center.

Animal Control and Rescue Center is a city-parish agency that used to handle enforcement and shelter operations. Fourteen months ago, the nonprofit CAA took over the sheltering, adoptions and euthanasia of animals so the shelter could eventually become a no-kill facility.

Addison said recent reports of problems at the shelter were troubling.

“We need to put something in place there because some of the things that are coming out of that place are just almost horrendous for us to see,” Addison said, referring to recent reports of animal cruelty. “To see some of the inhumane treatment that is coming out of that arena is something that we should not be seeing.”

Edwards criticized increasing funding for the animal shelter over other needs.

“We need to put priorities on the table that reflect the needs of the city-parish,” Edwards said.

Welch said that if the CAA couldn’t operate the shelter with what the city-parish provided in funds, then perhaps the city-parish should resume control of the operations.

“The reports that I have seen and the concerns that have come out in the media, I am having a hard time with this,” Welch said.

Hanlon said the shelter needs the funds.

“We (the city-parish) struggled with operation of the shelter, the organization has struggled with the operation of the shelter, so we felt some additional dollars were needed to bring that up to an acceptable level,” Hanlon said. “Whoever is dealing with that sheltering function is going to need some additional support.”

Wednesday’s meeting was a chance for members of the administration to meet with council members to explain the rationale behind spending choices in the proposed budget.

Several more meetings are scheduled before the full Metro Council votes on the budget Dec. 11.