Homeless cats and dogs may be able to move into a new no-kill shelter on LSU’s campus next year.
The Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge, which runs the city-parish shelter, announced Monday that a campaign has raised $10 million to build a new facility with more amenities and easy access to students at the veterinary school.
The nonprofit group still needs to collect about $2 million more but hopes by August to begin construction, which will take about a year, said Henson Moore, campaign co-chairman and former congressman.
CAA leaders are eager to move out of the stark shelter near the airport. It opened in the 1970s when the community had a different philosophy on stray animals, Moore said. Dogs would be kept a few days, and if no one claimed them, they’d be euthanized.
The shelter is still operating in those facilities — Moore described the existing operating room as “pathetic,” initially designed to perform cursory initial exams and put animals down.
Within that shelter, staff members have a hard time isolating sick and contagious dogs, said Christel Slaughter, CAA board chairwoman.
When a shelter has few options to nurse sick or injured animals back to health, they aren’t able to save as many, she said. The new site will address those concerns with features such as an operating room that can be used to teach future veterinarians.
“We’ll be at a no-kill (shelter) for Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” once the new facility is built, Moore said.
Last year, the shelter took in 8,134 animals, mostly dogs, according to the CAA website. At present, the shelter has about a 70 percent save rate, according to literature distributed by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which is involved with the building project.
When the CAA took over the shelter five years ago, the save rate was only about 20 percent.
In addition to improved facilities, CAA leaders hope the site will be attractive to LSU veterinary students. It will be built close to one of the agriculture school sites near the corner of Gourrier Avenue and River Road, close to the vet school.
Joel Baines, dean of veterinary medicine, said his school would send students in their final year to help out. It’s a good learning opportunity for them, because animals come in without any kind of diagnosis and students must perform “proper and thorough examinations” to determine what’s wrong with any that are sick, he said.
“That’s a rare and important skill,” the doctor said.
Currently, two veterinary students and a veterinary tech student from Baton Rouge Community College help out at the shelter, but CAA leaders said they’ll find work for as many future professionals as they can get.
In addition to improving conditions for animals and workers, the new shelter will include amenities for members of the community, Slaughter said. Designs include private rooms where prospective owners can play with animals they are thinking about adopting.
Slaughter also wants to offer classes at the new facility. Some pet owners surrender animals because they are unruly and difficult to handle. She would like to offer obedience classes and specifically mentioned teaching owners how to handle large dogs.
“Baton Rouge needs a new animal shelter,” campaign co-chairman Charlie Lamar said. “There’s only so much they can do (at their present site).”
Information about the proposed shelter and donations is available at caabr.org.
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