Animal Control funding recommended in Ascension

The Ascension Parish Animal Control Center appears on track to survive for at least another year.

The Ascension Parish Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on Monday voted unanimously to recommend the full council continue funding of the parish’s animal center, despite a projected deficit of more than $175,000.

The committee was presented two options by the parish government’s administration — to continue funding the animal control center’s full operations, or to employ just two animal control officers to enforce the parish’s vicious animals’ ordinance. The second option would have saved the parish approximately $164,000, but committee members decided not to recommend cutting services.

“Option 1 is the way to go because the shelter’s functions are essential to a community,” Council Chairman Chris Loar said.

The shelter will work with a projected budget of $398,500 with $75,000 coming from various shelter revenues and nearly $150,000 coming from servicing the parish’s municipalities and neighboring St. James Parish.

The parish will charge $175 to accept animals from the cities of Gonzales and Donaldsonville and the town of Sorrento, as well as an additional $50 to pick up animals in Gonzales and Sorrento. The parish will charge $225 for animals surrendered from St. James Parish government.

The parish’s animal control officers will not pick up animals in Donaldsonville or St. James Parish, officials have said.

With projected revenue of $147,025 from the municipalities and St. James Parish and the $75,000 in other shelter revenues, the animal control center has a projected deficit for the 2013-14 fiscal year of $176,475. In past years, the council has made up the shortfall from its general fund budget.

Loar said the parish has continued to budget conservatively, but the animal control center is one of several needed services that lacks a dedicated funding stream. The parish spends about $3.5 million from its general fund budget to provide animal control, mosquito control and recreational services, he said.

Despite the unanimous recommendation to continue full shelter operations, one council member called for an investigation into whether services can be provided more efficiently.

Councilman Daniel “Doc” Saterlee recommended the council investigate animal cruelty allegations at the shelter and examine ways to increase adoption rates and efficiency.

“What’s wrong with just looking into this and see if we can do better?” Saterlee asked.

The motion died without a second after opposition from council and administration officials.

“All I can say is we run a straight ship,” said Mike LeBlanc, supervisor of the Animal Control Center. “Allegations can be made. I don’t know how to address that.”

“I think we have a great animal shelter,” Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said. “We have great people who go beyond the call of duty.”

Councilman Kent Schexnaydre, the chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, said he has visited the shelter “dozens and dozens of times,” and he believes cruelty allegations have no merit.

“I will put our animal shelter up against anyone,” Schexnaydre said. “I’m very proud of what we have.”

Schexnaydre and Saterlee said they would personally look into any allegations to determine if they have merit and report back to the council.