The dogs, cats and other wildlife captured by East Baton Rouge Parish animal control officers, or surrendered by the public, will soon head to a new shelter where they can be treated and readied for adoption.
Companion Animal Alliance, the nonprofit animal advocacy group that has run the city-parish animal shelter since 2011, is set to relocate from its current facility near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport into a new building near the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.
It's a move officials say will not only mean better animal care but also serve as a more inviting place for the public to visit when they are looking for a pet to adopt.
"We're basically in a trailer now; the current facility is very old," said Christel Slaughter, chairman of CAA's board of directors. "And now being so close to the vet school, the professors can come work with their students to do surgeries we can't afford to do now."
CAA launched a fundraising campaign in 2016 that raised more than $12 million to pay for the site, design and construction of the shelter, which is still under construction on Gourrier Avenue down the road from Alex Box Stadium.
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"There is no public money at all; we knew we weren't likely to get any," Slaughter said.
The city-parish's current shelter at 2680 Progress Road, built in the 1970s, has low ceilings and cinder block walls with kennels and cages in disrepair. This remote locale, situated away from the city center and without visible signs to identify it or its purpose, was chosen on purpose to discourage public visitation, according to CAA literature. It also has no isolation areas to quarantine sick animals.
In designing the new shelter, CAA hoped to decrease the number of animal euthanizations, increase pet adoptions, offer education to children about animal welfare, add a resource center for animal advocacy, and increase the learning opportunities for LSU students studying to become veterinarians.
Like the current shelter, the new one is built to hold more than 400 animals, Slaughter said, but it will have added amenities. These include soundproof spaces with outdoor views where the public can interact privately with animals up for adoption, more open-viewing spaces to display adoptable animals, a gift shop, surgical suites, training classrooms and quarantine areas to contain diseases.
Slaughter said the new shelter can expand its capacity during emergency situations such as hurricanes.
"We got a large (monetary) gift from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to help with evacuations during natural disasters," she said. "People don't want to leave their pets at home anymore, and if they don't have anywhere to take them, a lot of them won't evacuate."
Companion Animal Alliance is hosting a series of public events as it works to raise the remaining $750,000 needed for its $12 million capital …
Officials at the LSU vet school say they are excited about their new neighbors, seeing the new facility as not only as a teaching tool for students but also as an opportunity to increase the shelter's volunteer pool.
"Can you image all the volunteers they’ll get from campus? People who never thought about going to an animal shelter will be there," said Wendy Wolfson, who teaches shelter medicine. "It’ll help makes students more aware of the needs in the community, as far as animal shelters."
Joel Baines, dean of the veterinary school, said students were already working at the shelter at its current location, but the new location will give his students the opportunity to amp up their field training. And it will allow vet school faculty and students the chance to perform surgical procedures they couldn't before as well as gain a more practical understanding of the day-to-day operations at the shelter.
"They'll get the experience they need once they're out in the real world," Baines said. "The closer proximity will allow us to do some emergency cases that were not possible before because animals would have been too distressed during transport over here."
A ribbon cutting and official grand opening of the new shelter is set for Nov. 14.