ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - It takes a chunk of change to run the Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension (CARA) House animal shelter... $350,000 from the parish’s general fund to be exact, but they need a little more. That’s why they’re asking the community to dig deep.
Vice president of CARA’s House, Jolie Culpepper, says they’ve been running the shelter since 2015. Recently, CARA’s House board members went before the Ascension Parish Council to request an increase. It was approved, but with stipulations that the shelter must get permanent funding. Culpepper says for the last year and a half, they’ve been working to get a tax on the ballot that will grant them permanent funding, a dedicated tax for animal services in Ascension Parish.
On December 8, voters will have a chance to decide whether they want to want to help improve those services with a 1 mill property tax.
“If this tax were to pass, I think it’s expected to generate some $1.3 million per year,” explained Martin McConnell, public information officer for Ascension Parish. “Then it’s the intention of parish government to get into discussions with CARA about having them take over all of the animal control for Ascension Parish.”
Currently, the parish handles animal control. “But all they deal with are nuisance animals. They’ll pick up dogs and cats when someone calls in a complaint on them,” McConnell said.
CARA’s House takes care of everything else, but this tax could combine both services. The tax would bring in $1.3 million to fund and hopefully improve all animal services in the parish, including building a new facility.
Right now, CARA’s House operates in a 25-year-old building that doesn’t fully pass state inspections. “We pass on every other mark for state inspections, but the building itself fails inspection every year, so we desperately need a new facility,” Culpepper said. “Originally, the facility was built to house 58 dogs and 22 cats only.”
That’s a stark difference from where they are now, with roughly 123 dogs and 145 cats. The pet population is growing faster than the budget. “Per day, each employee is responsible for taking care of 20 to 30 animals per person, per day. That’s a lot of animals,” Culpepper said.
Culpepper says this money will also allow them to hire more animal control officers. One of the biggest complaints in the parish, she says, is having too many animals at large. “We have too many bite cases, animals that are running loose. With more animal control officers, we’ll be able to reduce the stray population.”
Even if you’re not an animal lover, some might view this tax as a benefit. “Without proper animal services in Ascension Parish, we’ll be overrun by nuisance animals. Animals running at large is a danger to the parish,” she said.
If the tax passes, all revenue will be dedicated to animal control. McConnell says roughly $667,000 will be reallocated into the parish budget. Culpepper says the funds will also help pay for a low-cost spay/neuter clinic and vaccination clinic for the parish.
If passed, the tax won’t go into effect until 2020 and the board of directors for CARA’s House and the Ascension Parish Council will create an appropriations board to distribute money appropriately.