Concerns about animal shelter discussed in Livingston

Livingston Parish Council members raised concerns Thursday about rising costs at the parish’s animal shelter, despite the shelter lacking a wide funding base or recurring source of revenue.

Livingston Parish does not have a true parishwide animal-control center or a source of money dedicated to it.

The Livingston Parish Animal Shelter, in the town of Livingston, only accepts dogs because of a lack of resources.

Budget documents show the shelter has spent about $187,000 so far this year and is projecting to need to spend about another $67,000.

The shelter’s incoming funds only total about $54,000.

The shelter has only about $219,000 left in its reserve supply, which parish Finance Director Jennifer Meyers said could run out in 2014.

Councilman Chance Parent, one of the lead advocates of parishwide animal-control implementation, and other council members probed Meyers and Sam Digirolamo, director of the parish’s Planning and Public Works Department, which oversees the shelter, about the rising expenses.

Parent, who suggested the shelter may have to close if it runs out of funds, asked Digirolamo why the expenses have skyrocketed so much.

Digirolamo said the shelter used to be a bit unknown but has gained more publicity in recent years after its facilities expanded. He said the shelter turns down calls everyday about taking in new animals.

The shelter, which holds about 100 dogs at capacity, only takes in strays from the town of Livingston because of a deal the parties arranged when the town donated the land to build the shelter. It also accepts dogs the Sheriff’s Office has deemed vicious or dogs related to animal cruelty cases.

Digirolamo acknowledged the rising costs but said he would like to see the council and Parish President Layton Ricks work together to find a solution to the issue.

“It’s grown so drastically, but we do the best we can,” he said. “We’re going to spend what we’ve got, and that’s it.”

Councilwoman Cindy Wale asked whether the shelter needed to put a moratorium on accepting new animals or close temporarily until recurring revenue is found.

Digirolamo responded, “We need one (a shelter), Cindy, but we need to have revenue to run it.”

The council in 2012 discussed the idea of a 3-mill property tax to pay for animal control but never took action on the measure.

Parent has suggested implementing a parishwide user fee dedicated to animal control, which would require a change in state law.

The parish has formed an animal control advisory committee to look into possible revenue sources, as well as policies and procedures, for the animal shelter.

Committee chairman Norman Clark said the group will begin looking at a budget Monday and has finalized a formal list of policies and procedures for the shelter.

Clark said the committee has also examined ways to save the parish money, such as letting LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine pay the parish to use the shelter as a classroom for its students.