Gonzales to consider reopening animal shelter

The Gonzales City Council plans to explore the possibility of reopening a city-owned animal shelter.

Several council members expressed their concerns with the enforcement of city ordinances and level of services being provided to residents by the Ascension Parish government, which handles the city’s animal control enforcement as well.

“We can’t rely on the parish to keep our problem under control,” said Councilman Tim Vessel, a former city animal control officer.

The city shuttered its animal shelter in 2003, citing the age of the building and cost to operate the program, after the parish opened its own shelter. The parish had charged the city approximately $20,000 annually as a service charge.

However, the parish also has found operating an animal shelter to be costly and is looking for ways to decrease costs and increase revenues. The $400,000 shelter operated last year on a $177,000 deficit, and the parish council considered shuttering the entire operation before opting to fund it and keep the shelter open for at least one more year.

Along with that decision, parish officials agreed to change the rate schedule with municipalities and neighboring St. James Parish, which also is served by the Ascension animal shelter. The parish will charge the city $175 for each animal delivered to the shelter and $225 for each animal picked up by parish officers.

Clay Stafford, Gonzales’ city clerk and finance director, said the city typically delivers about 20 dogs that are deemed either vicious or abandoned to the shelter. That would cost the city $42,000 over the course of an entire year — more than twice the amount that is currently budgeted.

That’s one of the reasons why Vessel said the city should build its own shelter and hire a full-time animal control officer and “take care of our own problems.”

Still, even with the increase in fees that will be paid to the parish, it’s unknown whether it’s economically feasible for the parish to get back into the animal control business.

Councilman Terance Irvin said he would like the council to find out if it would be affordable to open a shelter again.

“It’s easy to contract that out and just say turn it over to the parish, but my concern is the services,” Irvin said.

Stafford said he wasn’t sure how much it would cost the city in the long run, while two councilmen expressed their concerns about such a move.

“It’s very costly to run,” Councilman Kenny Matassa said.

“We shouldn’t get in the animal control business, I don’t think,” Councilman Kirk Boudreaux said.