SORRENTO,LA(NBC33) — Ascension Parish's Animal Control Center could end up shutting down, because parish leaders say they just don't have the money to keep it open. Animal lovers in the parish say the shelter needs to remain open.
"I'm really disappointed in that, because I think Ascension Parish has grown so much in the past few years. That we should be able to find something to keep our animal population down," Jennifer Mercado, a Gonzales resident said.
Kent Schexnaydre, Parish Councilman and head of the Council's Strategic Planning Committee, says right now it cost about $400 thousand a year to run the shelter. The operating cost end up being almost $200 thousand dollars over budget.
The committee is looking at several options including shutting down the shelter and only allowing animal control officers to handle vicious animal cases.
Jennifer Mercado, said the parish shouldn't even consider shutting down the shelter. She's brought stray animals to the shelter for the past ten years. She said her subdivision would be filled with stray cats and dogs if it wasn't for the shelter.
"I think stray animals is a huge problem, because we see a lot of stray animals dead on the side of the road," Mercado explained. "There are so many animals without collars on."
"The publics going to feel the effect of the spayed neutering program, because it reduces the number of animals on the streets.," Michael LeBlanc, director of the Ascension Parish Animal Control Center, said.
In 2012, Leblanc said animal control officers responded to 99 call a month and brought in an average of 80 animals a month to the shelter. Another 212 animals came to the shelter a month through owner surrenders and similar programs.
Animal control officers currently take care of helping catch strays, removing vicious animals, bite cases, and even helping remove a dog blocking traffic on the road.
Schexnaydre says the parish is having to look at areas to cut cost and the shelter is one of them. The committee is considering options like a new tax, but say stopping most of the funding for the shelter would be very effective.
Mercado is concerned that closing the shelter will increase the number of strays on the street.
"It's sad. It's very sad that the shelter closes, because there are a lot of animals around here that need the help," Mercado said. "We have a lot of people around here that can't help take care of their animals and they need a place to turn to. "
She'd like to see the parish spend more money on the shelter and help adopt out more animals.
In 2012 the shelter adopted out approximately 20 dogs and 7 cats a month. Other animals were reclaimed by owners and sent to rescue groups.
Leblanc says one of the big problems is pet owners not following parish ordinances. The parish requires pets to wear a collar with identification and registration. Leblanc said if more people followed the rules he could return more animals to their owners.
The strategic planning committee is hosting a public meeting Monday March 11 at 5:15 at the parish court house in Gonzales. They will discuss more options for the animal shelter and welcome public to attend.
To find out how you can adopt animals from the shelter click here .
Animals are $50 a pet and include a voucher for spay and neuter if the animal is not already fixed.