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Northwest Louisiana communities among those without shelters; The HSLA wants to change that | News

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — The Humane Society of Louisiana will ask lawmakers during the upcoming legislature to allocate funds to build new shelters and renovate existing shelters.

According to HSLA, more than 30 of the state’s 64 municipalities lack community-wide facilities, leaving residents without basic animal control services and contributing to stray animals indiscriminately breeding and living on the streets and byways, trying to survive.

“The majority of our rural communities, including Avoyelles, Bienville, Evangeline, Catahoula, E. Feliciana, Franklin, Livingston, St. Helena, St. James, Caldwell, Red River, Union, and more than a dozen other communities, have no means, adopting or harboring stray animals,” said HSLA Director Jeff Dorson.

The group has worked to improve state animal shelter infrastructure for more than 35 years and has documented the need for more funding to support public animal shelters. A report published by the State Audit Office comes to a similar conclusion.

Its 58-page report, published and distributed in 2021, describes the need for the state to become more active at the local level and allocate more resources. A copy of the report can be read here: The State of Louisiana’s Role in Animal Welfare and Control Activities.

“Animal control is an essential service, much like police and fire protection. So imagine if half our state didn’t even provide basic services. This means there is no agency to call when an animal is in need, lost, found or injured. We just have to do better,” Dorson said.

Rural administrators say there is no money to build or maintain shelters, so HSLA has met with state officials to establish a shelter construction and repair fund. The idea is not new. New York lawmakers have distributed millions of dollars each year to public and private animal shelters through their Companion Animal Capital Projects Fund for the past several years. This year it was announced that more than $7 million will be distributed to eligible shelters to renovate and improve existing shelters.

The Humane Society is asking Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state legislature to allocate $3 million to Louisiana’s newly created program to be administered by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Advisory Task Force. Task Force members inspect public housing at least annually and encourage them to adhere to best practices and accepted industry standards – both structural and operational. The $3 million could be distributed to eligible communities and communities as grants of up to $100,000.

“The need to build new shelters and upgrade existing shelters is urgent and long overdue,” Dorson said. “However, we are grateful that the LDAF and the Office of the Governor readily agree with this assessment and recognize the need to fund this new program. Our job will be to ensure that these funds are incorporated into a supplemental budget bill and remain in place throughout the legislature until signed into law by the governor.”

This year’s legislative period begins on 10 June.