Banned animal rescue group lambasts Ascension Parish animal shelter conditions, demands access reinstatement _lowres

Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- Ascension Parish Animal Shelter

Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension has been granted full access once again to the Ascension Parish Animal Shelter after a Thursday morning meeting between the organization and parish officials.

The rescue group, which finds foster and adoptive homes for cats and dogs, had been banned from the shelter since May 18 when parish officials deemed posts on a CARA officer’s Facebook page as threatening.

After agreeing on Thursday to let the group back into the shelter, parish officials asked members of the volunteer organization to make recommendations about how the shelter can be improved, said O’Neil Parenton, parish attorney.

“We allowed them access, and we asked them to make a proposal, and we’ll go from there,” Parenton said. “We’re trying to reach an agreement and move forward.”

The meeting between parish officials and the group went well, CARA attorney Virginia Smith said Thursday afternoon.

Volunteers will now be able to resume pulling pit bulls out of the shelter to go to foster or adoptive homes. The organization also will be allowed to remove large dogs from their kennels to take pictures of them for the Friends of the Ascension Parish Shelter Facebook page, an online effort to find homes for the animals at the shelter.

Both efforts had been affected by recent policies at the shelter in Sorrento, the group had said.

“Some volunteers went today and took pictures” of the animals for the Facebook page, Smith said Thursday afternoon.

CARA and the parish will be working together on shelter procedures, Smith said.

“They’ve asked us to come back to them with some things we’d like to see happen at the shelter,” she said.

CARA will make a proposal at a future meeting with parish officials, she said.

On Tuesday night, CARA held a public forum where volunteers spoke of specific instances of poor treatment of animals at the shelter. CARA members said they were seeking reinstatement at the shelter and also hoped to see the shelter utilize humane euthanasia techniques, such as sedation and a quiet room for the procedures and training for those who perform them.

The volunteer animal rescue group on Tuesday said it would also like to see the appointment of a volunteer oversight committee to conduct random inspections of the facility to check on animal comfort, cleanliness and precautions taken against outbreaks of canine parvovirus, a highly contagious, life-threatening viral disease, including the use of chlorine when cleaning, and basic medical care for injured animals.

Smith said Thursday that CARA was deferring a public records request it made to the parish in recent weeks seeking documents related to shelter operations.

Before the public records request was deferred, the parish filed suit May 21 in 23rd Judicial District Court to have a judge determine how much the parish could charge CARA for the cost of parish employees’ time in meeting the request.

Ascension Parish Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee called for an independent probe of the shelter after the controversy erupted between the parish and the organization.

“I’m glad they decided for the animals,” Satterlee said Thursday, adding he was happy for the volunteers. “Let’s let them back in.”

Satterlee said it was too early to say whether he would continue to seek an independent probe of the shelter.

“The dust is just starting to settle. I have to see how everything turns out,” he said.

“I’m pleased that they’re talking again and very encouraged that they can sit down and maybe work it out,” Satterlee said.