Animal shelter panel outlines needs

Members of the Livingston Parish Animal Shelter/Control Advisory Committee say they hope to have shelter policies, procedures and a budget in place soon to address the needs of their growing population.

Chairwoman Maurice Durbin selected members to serve on a budget committee and a policies and procedures committee Tuesday.

The action comes at a time when residents continue to question the agencies’ procedures about how calls are handled and what animals can be picked up.

“If you have a stray dog running around, will they be able to pick them up?” Livingston resident Pam Gautreaux asked.

“What are you supposed to do with a nuisance dog that’s destroying your property?” she said.

Committee member Rick Ramsey urged Gautreaux and all Livingston Parish residents to petition their council members.

Without funding for the shelter, the program is a “feel good thing,” Ramsey said. “It’s a Band-Aid. We cannot accommodate the needs of the shelter without funding.”

Committee members said they hope a proposed budget, which they expect to have ready for next month’s meeting, will be accepted by the Parish Council and be used to put a funding mechanism on the November ballot. Members serving on the budget committee are Rick Ramsey, Vicki Parrish and Durbin.

Members serving on the policies and procedures committee are Terri Dunlap, Kim Felder, Theresa Roewell and Randy Stegall.

Late last year, the Parish Council briefly discussed putting on a parishwide ballot a 3-mill property tax to pay for animal control, but the council has taken no action.

With just one full-time employee and three part-time employees, the shelter currently only handles cases of vicious dogs or neglect.

When calls come into the shelter or the Sheriff’s Office about vicious, injured or abandoned dogs, shelter employees will help. The proper protocol for picking up animals is still unclear, committee members said.

“I had to call dispatch to let them know the protocol,” Parrish said.

Michael and Tammy Gardner, of Denham Springs, asked committee members how a dog, which had bitten a child in their Forest Ridge Subdivision a year ago and then bit their son on Jan. 31, could be released to his owner and remain unrestrained.

Desiree Green, of the Planning Department, said the dog, which had been at the shelter when it was picked up and held for 10 days, showed no signs that it was vicious. Green said that had shelter employees known it had already bitten a child, they might not have released the dog to its owner.

“It seems like maybe we need better communication with the Sheriff’s Office,” Parrish said.

Following the meeting, visitors toured the facility, which has 24 new kennels, three 10-by-10 cages, additional run space and a quarantine area.

But even with the improvements, Green is convinced the shelter will remain filled to capacity.

“I give it two weeks and this will be completely filled,” Green said.

The shelter is manned seven days a week. Unless the person on duty is taking a call to pick up a dog, someone is available to show dogs to people and handle adoptions during the day, Green said.

Currently, the shelter has 45 dogs and 16 puppies but receives numerous calls a day about stray animals, officials said.

Dogs at the shelter are shown on the Livingston Parish Animal Shelter’s Facebook page. Green asks that residents interested in adopting a dog, call ahead to make sure an employee is there. People can call the shelter at (225) 686-7798 for information.

The cost of vaccinations, worming and spaying or neutering, is included in the $60 fee for adoption, Green said.