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Portrait of a cute young mixed breed puppy and kitten with black and white fur

St. Tammany Parish voters will decide Saturday whether to approve a 10-year renewal of a 1-mill property tax for the parish Department of Animal Services, which operates the parish animal shelter on La. 36.

While voters approved a 1-mill tax in 2008, the amount actually collected has been rolled back every year and is currently at .82 mills.

The full 1-mill tax would generate an estimated $2,021,348 a year to pay for maintenance, operations, equipment and capital improvements of the animal shelter.

It would cost the owner of a house valued at $200,000, with a homestead exemption, $12.50 a year.

The parish shelter is the only open-admittance shelter in St. Tammany and will not refuse any animal from the parish, parish spokesman Ronnie Simpson said. It has taken in about 4,000 animals so far this year, and animal control officers responded to 3,650 calls in 2018.

While it is not a no-kill shelter, euthanasia rates have dropped by 53 percent in the last six years, Simpson said, thanks to increased partnerships with rescue groups, efforts to publicize animals available for adoption and efforts to reunite lost pets with their owners. Last year, 400 animals were reunited with their owners, he said.

But the shelter also euthanized 1,979 animals in 2017.

Earlier this year, some animal advocates were circulating a petition on social media that suggested the parish was not planning to seek renewal of the property tax, which currently generates $1.7 million annually, the bulk of the department's $1.95 million revenue.

Parish officials talked with the St. Tammany Humane Society last spring about the possibility that the society could run the shelter if the parish didn't have the funds to do so. But Scott Bernier, CEO of the Humane Society, described that as a contingency measure.


Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.