Inside Report for Nov. 28, 2012

Money an issue in local animal control

The relationship between former and current volunteers and workers at the parish animal shelter has been stormy in recent months.

Animal advocates have taken sides on whether the Companion Animal Alliance, a nonprofit that intends to turn the open access shelter into a no-kill shelter, is helping or hurting animals.

One thing both sides agree on is that the shelter needs more money.

The national average of spending for animal shelters is $8 per capita annually, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

The East Baton Rouge city-parish spends $1.52 per capita per year for sheltering alone, according to a report submitted by the CAA to the Metro Council in November.

“While increases have been made to the animal control side of the City’s budget over the past several years, no increases have been made to the shelter portion,” the report reads. “With more animal control officers and trucks to round up stray and neglected animals, the shelter’s population has been steadily increasing, while the budget to care for the animals has stayed the same.”

The report also notes that other communities, including Caddo Parish and Calcasieu Parish, are leading the way with animal services.

Caddo Parish annually spends $7.67 per capita on animal services, Calcasieu spends $11.53 per capita on animal services, and East Baton Rouge Parish spends $5.06 per capita for animal services, which includes both animal control and the shelter, the report says.

“Increasing Baton Rouge to merely catch Caddo Parish would mean adding $1,152,153” per year, the report says.

Mayor-President Kip Holden’s administration was seemingly sympathetic to the issue, as he proposed increasing the agency’s budget by $113,800 in 2013. The entire budget is subject to approval by the Metro Council on Dec. 11.

This year the agency received $459,970.

For its part, the CAA has raised $650,000 in private donor funds to complement the city-parish contribution.

But CAA officials say the donations are not reliable, and are still not enough money to make necessary improvements.

One important improvement CAA officials have on their wish list is a new animal shelter.

When the CAA first talked about taking over shelter operations more than 15 months ago, a new shelter was high on its priority list, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation promised to help raise the necessary funds.

But it appears that goal may be on hold.

John Davies, BRAF president, said BRAF provided funds for an architect to design a facility that would meet the shelter needs. The renderings yielded an estimate of $10 million to $14 million for the new shelter.

Animal Control Director Hilton Cole, who used to oversee the shelter when it was under city-parish jurisdiction and who still oversees animal control enforcement, said he had been eyeing a donated property on Old Hammond Highway and Millerville Road that would have cost $2 million to renovate.

But Davies said BRAF and CAA did not feel the property was suitable for a shelter.

CAA Board President Christel Slaughter told the Metro Council earlier this month that fundraising for the new shelter was put on hold because all funds being raised had to be used for the shelter’s operating budget.

The current shelter facility is on Progress Road in north Baton Rouge and is a decades-old facility that had air conditioning unit deficiencies and broken cages.

The CAA has had to spend thousands of dollars dollars in the past year to bring the facility up to a more-serviceable level.

Rebekah Allen covers city-parish government for The Advocate. She can be reached at rallen@theadvocate.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekahallen.