GONZALES — The nonprofit group managing Ascension Parish’s animal shelter is earning praise for its work, but parish officials say they aren’t prepared to provide additional money the group says it needs to do its job effectively.
Five months into their $200,000-per-year agreement to run the parish shelter, Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension, the nonprofit behind the shelter known as Cara’s House, was seeking another $45,995 per year for additional staff to eliminate the need to rely on volunteer labor.
The shelter has four full-time employees and four part-time employees at a cost of around $145,000 per year.
The group also wanted $39,800 to add 20 permanent dog kennels, epoxy chronically wet concrete floors and do other repairs to the rusting parish facility. CARA officials said the improvements would help sanitary conditions and cut down on labor needs. But after diving deep into the finances of the shelter and the now separate parish animal control operation, an Ascension Parish Council panel on Tuesday declined to push the request for additional funds to the full council.
While Strategic Planning Committee Chairman Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee was hoping for a recommendation, a majority of his committee felt otherwise.
They said they wanted to wait for a few more months of expense data, see the nonprofit consider new fundraising ideas, look at higher adoption fees and possible savings from the parish-funded animal control operation before looking at the idea of additional money.
The shelter and parish animal control, which still handles and euthanizes dangerous animals, are budgeted at a combined $503,500 before fee revenues defray some of those costs.
“I think personally with the amount of data we have and, you guys, have been operating for three months, I’m not sure that I could recommend increased funding at this time. I think that it would be something we should consider when we do the budget for next year for 2017,” Councilman Bill Dawson said.
CARA took over the parish shelter in early November after the then-parish operation came under fierce criticism from some council members and from animal welfare activists, including CARA members.
Virginia Kelly Smith, president of CARA, touched on the need for additional money last month before the full council but went more deeply into it Tuesday in the special setting with the council committee as she argued CARA has greatly expanded hours, added services and improved conditions.
A report to the council shows the shelter drastically reduced the rate of euthanasia in the first quarter of 2016 and would remain financially solvent into December.
Between January and March, the shelter saved 86 percent of the 146 cats it received and 92 percent of the 233 dogs, CARA’s figures say. Smith has said parish statistics showed the shelter had been euthanizing 85 percent of the cats and 60 percent of the dogs.
But Smith warned that intake numbers were on the uptick this month as the “breeding season” for dogs and cats kicks into full gear.
Shelter manager Cindy Luquette told Satterlee that the shelter received 64 animals just on Monday and Tuesday. In January, the shelter received 85 dogs and cats in all, CARA figures say.
Smith, who said CARA would consider the council members’ suggestions, warned that without added space and help, the shelter probably would have to turn to more euthanization, though it is trying to maintain its animal “save” rate.
“We’re working very hard to be able to do that, but, at a certain point, it’s not safe or sanitary or in the best interests of the animals, you know, to stack them up in there. You just reach a maximum capacity, and you can’t hold any more,” she said.
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