Livingston Parish residents may fund parish wide animal control

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A parish wide animal control in Livingston Parish has been talked about for years, 15 years according to one councilman, but still there is nothing. Right now, strays are roaming several neighborhoods. Vicious animals are picked up by the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office. Through an agreement with the Town of Livingston, the parish uses land and a building there to house some animals. Parish leaders say they recently got a letter from the town saying if they can't find a recurring source of revenue, to fund their shelter, the Mayor of Livingston end that agreement.

The parish president says right now, they use money from adjudicated properties and Bingo to fund their shelter. But those funds are dwindling and will only last through the end of 2014.

Getting a parish wide animal control center may come down to having property owners fund it.

Chance Parent is a parish councilman and the finance chairman. He says there's no money in the budget for the parish council to pay upwards of $600,000 annually to operate the shelter.

"Come up with a user fee. Every property owner in the parish pays, whether Homestead exempt or not," Parents said.

That would equal about $10-15 annually to fund the parish animal control.

In order to do that, state lawmakers would need to amend a current state law, to require residents in Livingston Parish to pay an annual fee for animal control. Right now, the law says user fees can only be collected on sewer or fire protection districts.

Parent says he's met with state lawmakers who represent the parish.

Following a change at the legislature, residents would then need to vote on whether they want to pay the fee or not. That vote could likely come by fall of 2014. Parent says if it is approved, by January 2015 they would be able to move forward with a permanent animal control.

While leaders agree they need a funding source, there is also some disagreement about the policy and procedures of the animal control.

When Layton Ricks took office, he formed a committee to develop operating guidelines for a parish animal control.

Earlier this year, the council also approved its own animal control committee.

"What this commission should have been doing, in my opinion, is finding the funding so it (animal control) could get operational," Ricks said.

However, Parent says the council appointed group was also looking into certain policies, like how long as dog should be kept. He says that would play a part in determining budget.

Three members on the parish council appointed animal committee quit. Terri Dunlap, with the Livingston SPCA, says she gave up her position because she was told nothing they worked on would be implemented. For example, she says she told the administration they could not operate as a shelter, rescuing animals and cut down on the stray population. Dunlap says being an animal control means putting animals down, not holding animals for over a year. Which she says was happening.

"They were keeping animals 9, 10, 11 months. We can't do that. Can't ask taxpayers to fund something where we're housing animals indefinitely," said Councilman Chance Parent.

Parent says right now the parish is headed in the direction of operating a no-kill shelter and they cannot afford to. He believes they need to operate as an animal control. Otherwise, he says, seeing stray dogs roam neighborhoods in Livingston Parish will continue to be the norm.