A look inside CAA: taking care of Baton Rouge's most vulnerable animals

A look inside CAA: taking care of Baton Rouge's most vulnerable animals
Photo provided by staff.
All About Animals
Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 9:07am

The Companion Animal Alliance runs the animal shelter for East Baton Rouge Parish. The controversial group has made big changes to how things are run at the shelter. Their goal is to help save as many animals as they can.

2013 was a year of change for the Companion Animal Alliance. The group got a new director, and since then made new partnerships.

"We've signed a memorandum with LSU to donate land to build a new shelter. We also signed an agreement with target zero institute. What they do is they come in and they bring in experts that give us best practices," Beth Brewster, Director of the Companion Animal Alliance, said. “So, we have been able to implement those. All of the animals are in computerized now. We are cleaning them everything is best standards for the industry. Just implementing those and having the experts come in and tells us how we can improve things has made a huge difference.”

Brewster said a new shelter on LSU’s campus is still a few years away. But until then, She said CAA has already taken steps to help save more animals.

“We now do daily rounds for animals every day. What we do is we go around with a team: someone from medical some one from administration and someone from adoptions. We go to each animal’s cage and go why are you here? Where are you going? What can we do for you today? We are temperament testing them. We are behavior testing them. We are seeing if they get a long with other animals. We are seeing if they get along with cats. We’re seeing if they need a health check. If they need to be spayed and neutered and fast tracked out to rescue groups.”

The shelter has faced quite a bit of controversy in its early years including multiple investigations into the shelter. The group also went through multiple directors since it opened more than two and a half years ago.

Brewster has been running the show for more than a year, and she said things are improving.

“We are at a point now where we are doing better internally than we’ve ever done. But, financially we cannot survive without help from the community without people helping us get to that target zero,” Brewster explained.

They're also working with local rescue groups to get animals out of the shelter and in to permanent homes faster.

One of those group is Project Purr Baton Rouge. They rescue cats and kittens out of the shelter.

“It's night and day compared to 2010 before CAA took over. There is just no comparison,” Peggy Polk, executive director of Project Purr BR, said. “It's getting better.”

Executive director Peggy Polk said she's seen big changes at the shelter since CAA took over for the city-parish in August 2011.

“What's gotten better from the standpoint of the rescue is that they are taking more measures to insure the health of the pets while they are there. So, that we are not getting quite such sick pets and they are not dying in our hands that's the difference,” Polk explained.

The shelter still faces several challenges. In 2013 CAA took in around 8,000 animals. Nearly 4,000 animals were euthanized for a variety of reasons. According to statistics given to FOX44 by CAA they had an average save rate for the year of just under 50 percent.

Fox44 asked Brewster is the goal of the shelter still to become a no kill shelter?

Brewster stated, “Absolutely. Our job there is not a person that works here that is not here to save lives. That's really what. That's our mission, and that will always be our mission.”

Polk explained what a no kill means: "No kill means that in a community's public shelter no healthy treatable or [able to be rehabilitated] companion animal is killed due to lack of space."

Reaching CAA's goal won't be easy.

“We are an open admission shelter and the only one for the parish, and so we have no control over how many animals we get in on a daily basis. Some days we might get in low numbers are 15 to 20. High numbers 30 to 40 to 50. That's the challenge the challenge is the constant influx of new animals,” Brewster said.

The other challenge is money.

“The government the parish pays for about 3/4ths of our income and the rest we have to fund raise,” Brewster said.

So what will it take to reach target zero?

Brewster said,” It takes a community. We are not going to do it alone. It takes rescue groups pulling from us first. It takes people adopting from us first. It takes money. It's very expensive. Our last two years we have doubled what our budget is for medicine trying to treat every animal that comes into the shelter if they need it medically. It's very expensive to do. It takes people coming out and volunteering, and it takes support. It takes being visible open anyone can come to the shelter anytime and see what we do on a day-to-day basis.”

Polk agrees,” Until we have a really strong community that really cares about our companion animals and gets in there and gets involved it's going to be a challenge.”

Brewster said CAA won't give up trying to help save Baton Rouge's most vulnerable animals.

“We are putting best practices into place and the numbers will follow,” She said.

Later Brewster said, “When you start working the processes and putting the processes in place you will win in the end. It will bring the numbers down.”

If you would like to help CAA or adopt an animal click here.

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