Humane Society of Louisiana: More Public Animal Shelters are Needed

Livingston and Avoyelles Parishes, La.—This summer has seen an influx of stray cats and dogs in South Louisiana being abandoned and surrendered to animal shelters. All day every day, Humane Society of Louisiana (HSLA) receives calls from pet owners looking to rehome their cats or dogs, or from people who have found abandoned pets by their homes, convenience stores, or churches. Pet owners are citing a number of reasons for releasing their pets from the increased cost of dog food and veterinary care to new no-pet policies instituted by their landlords.

 

“To adequately respond to this crisis, we must involve our elected officials,” HSLA Director Jeff Dorson said. “Local governments must construct more public shelters, hire personnel and provide animal control services. Often, we hear the excuse that they don’t have the money, which may be true, but rarely do they develop any strategy or plan. They give up before even trying.”

 

Avoyelles Parish residents report seeing stray cats and dogs on almost every street corner, yet the parish has no services to pick up or house animals. Parish officials cite lack of funding as the reason why. Recently, two yellow Lab mix dogs, one of which is pregnant, showed up at a resident’s door. With no one to call to pick up the two dogs, the resident reached out to HSLA, who were luckily able to find a rescue to take them. This leaves it up to rescue groups and individuals to raise money themselves to spay/neuter, vaccinate and rehome these dogs and cats.

 

“Parishes that do not pick up stray animals are forced to rely on private individuals and rescue groups to help provide these services. Or, as is often the case in the rural areas of our state, no one responds, and the animals continue to suffer,” Dorson said.

 

Livingston Parish is another parish that has an incredibly high number of stray cats and dogs but no animal shelter, except for the city of Denham Springs. However, Webster Parish provides animal control services on a modest budget, which Dorson believes could be done in every parish.

 

In May of 2021, the Louisiana State Legislative Auditors published a 58 page report (chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://app.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/0/7807E37FE4407C46862586CC005666CC/$FILE/0002371FB.pdf) and a two-page summary (chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://app.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/0/7807E37FE4407C46862586CC005666CC/$FILE/summary0002371FB.pdf) that detail the urgent need for local governments to provide more shelters, services, and take a more active role in combating pet overpopulation. Livingston Parish is mentioned on page 14. The report lists Livingston Parish as having a very low Per Capita Spending (PCS). According to the Auditor’s report, Livingston only spent $99,000 on animal control expenses, which equals to .7 per person. The most recent budget for 2021 was $300,000. However, the Humane Society is asking the Livingston Parish council to increase the budget to $400,000. The additional funds would allow the shelter administration to hire another full- or part-time employee, purchase additional supplies, and provide veterinary care for injured or mistreated dogs. The shelter does not house cats or other animals.

 

In February 2021, Webster Parish Police Jury and Sheriff’s Office joined forces to help with the stray cat and dog population. Deputies were initially the ones to get calls about stray animals, which tied them up and kept them from calls regarding domestic disputes or speeders. The Webster Parish Police Jury agreed to expend $4,000 a month to the Sheriff’s Office and $2,000 to the Webster Humane Association for their spay/neuter program. A deputy stepped up to take a job with animal control and helped rescue 1,200 animals in the parish in one year. Though there is no actual shelter, the deputy works with rescue groups to rehome animals. The Webster Parish Journal covers the new program: https://websterparishjournal.com/2022/02/22/parishs-new-animal-control-division-proving-successful/.

 

“Let’s use Webster Parish as a way to educate the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury on the need to fund animal control services,” Dorson said. “Please contact each police juror and ask that they form an animal control study committee whose members will examine ways to fund and implement basic services within the next 12 months. Together, we can make Louisiana a kinder, more compassionate place for all animals.”

 

Visit https://www.avoypj.org to contact the Avoyelles Parish police jurors.