After less than two months in her new post, Laura Hinze resigned Tuesday as executive director of the parish’s nonprofit animal shelter.
The Companion Animal Alliance, a nonprofit group aiming to turn Baton Rouge into a no-kill city, took over shelter operations Aug. 1 from the city-parish-run Animal Control agency.
Hinze, from Chicago, was selected during a national search by the Companion Animal Alliance.
She has endured intense public scrutiny in the past month over complaints that the shelter has become overcrowded and unsafe while under her care.
Companion Animal Alliance Chairwoman Christel Slaughter said Hinze’s resignation, submitted at 1 p.m. Tuesday, is effective immediately. She said interim management is being put into place, and another national search will be held to hire a new director.
Slaughter said Hinze’s departure was a “mutual decision” between Hinze and the board.
“We had a board meeting last night, and we, the board, felt we needed to go in a different direction,” Slaughter said.
When asked if the board asked Hinze to leave, Slaughter demurred.
“It’s very amicable and Laura is a true professional,” she said. “Everybody is happy with this solution.”
Hinze could not be reached for comment.
The Companion Animal Alliance assumed parish shelter services after a year of negotiations in order to reduce a high euthanasia rate.
Just a few weeks into the takeover, the Metro Council publicly scolded Hinze and the Companion Animal Alliance over photos taken and complaints detailing inhumane conditions and overcrowding.
An investigation by Animal Control found 752 animals at the shelter in late August.
Slaughter said Tuesday that recent counts, since the investigation, have come up with fewer than 580 animals.
The investigation attributed the overcrowding to the Companion Animal Alliance’s “zeal to minimize euthanasia upon assumption of duties on Aug. 1 to the point that some of the animals were suffering in the overcrowded pens.”
The Companion Animal Alliance is expected to update the Metro Council on its progress and long-term plans Wednesday.
Slaughter said since the investigation, several changes have been made to relieve overcrowding, such as re-evaluating euthanasia.
“But clearly we’re still not where we want to be,” she said.
In a report sent to the Metro Council, the Companion Animal Alliance said it euthanizes 14 animals a day.
It also has about six adoptions, and seven animals are either moved to a foster home or rescue organization every day.
The report said animals are no longer being held in “temporary” holding areas, such as bathrooms, which was noted in the investigation and complaints.
It also said fewer adoptable pets are being housed in the lobby.
Slaughter complimented Hinze on her work with the shelter, and acknowledged the challenges of managing the new operations for the Companion Animal Alliance.
“We know where we want to go and we know where we want to be as a board, and Laura helped us get there,” Slaughter said. “It’s a challenging situation to come in and take over a shelter that’s been run by a government agency.”
Slaughter admitted the shelter attempted to move toward being a no-kill shelter faster than resources allowed.
She said the Companion Animal Alliance will move with “due haste” to replace Hinze.
Animal Control Director Hilton Cole said he did not expect Hinze’s resignation.
Cole oversees animal enforcement in the same Progress Road building shared by the Animal Shelter.
Cole also used to oversee shelter operations before the nonprofit took over.
“I’d say it was a shock to me,” he said.