Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Chance for Caddo Animal Shelter: Let the Citizens Have a Voice

Marley is a typical example of what happens to dogs at Caddo Parish Animal Services.

A dog is brought in as a stray, or is owner-surrendered.  The dog might be perfectly healthy, as Marley is.  On intake, Marley is heart worm negative.  Thin, but otherwise fairly healthy and so considered "adoptable."

Adoptable dogs are put inside in plexiglass and cinderblock kennels with concrete floors.  The walls are painted in glaring neon colors.  The sound of barking dogs echo through the facility.  Over time a dog gets "kennel crazy" - sort of like cabin fever in humans.  A dearth of human interaction, constant noise, complete over stimulation.  It gets to you.

When this happens, the dog might become "aggressive" or just stir crazy and so is then moved to the "rescue only"  side of the shelter which is outside in the elements; there are usually several dogs in a kennel and they often have to fight for food.  Dogs like Marley will lose even more weight and eventually become unhealthy.

Our local rescues can only pull so many dogs.  Their funds are limited and donations get maxed out quickly.  Vet bills add up.

So dogs like Marley enter that downward spiral toward euthanasia.

Then we end up with high kill rates.

When Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn proposed an amendment to the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter in the October 2 work session that would help change the situation at CPAS, most of the commissioners were in favor and recognize that CPAS is "failing miserably," as Commissioner Mario Chavez said in his remarks.

Three of our commissioners, however, don't see a problem, and as I noted earlier in the week, interim Commissioner Louis Johnson thinks we have administrators in place "who are doing a great job."  That may be true in some departments but certainly not with regard to the animal shelter.

Caddo Parish Animal services euthanizes at least half as many dogs as they take in and the percentage is far higher with cats.

CPAS stats: September 2017

Of course part of that is due to the citizenry who refuses to spay/neuter their animals.  But there have been far too many grievous problems and examples of bad policy, procedure, and mismanagement at our shelter that could be improved upon.  Why does this cycle continue?

Commissioner Linn's proposal to change the charter to allow for an outside auditor is a step in the right direction, however some in our community see this as simply "a political ploy" and said "Commissioners like Matthew Linn have no credibility."  (That was a comment on Facebook when I shared my last blog post.  I don't want to call out the commenter by name).

This is disheartening.  Commissioner Linn is trying to do the right thing, trying to implement known best practices in government, and this is something that should have been done long ago.  In fact, had an auditor been involved back when administrators offered CPERS to the commissioners perhaps that tangled mess could have been avoided.

This is mixing apples and oranges.

This is now.

NOW is the time to fix this shelter and turn it into something we can be proud of.

What we need to focus on is not egos but on the animals like Marley who are at this moment suffering because there is nobody in charge to fix this problem and literally no other hope on the horizon for them outside of this proposed amendment.

We all need to unite in this issue.  We need to quit mixing issues and blaming people for past transgressions that have nothing whatsoever to do with this issue.

We have three commissioners who opposed the proposal: Doug Dominick, Louis Johnson, and John Atkins, and they oppose it for different reasons.

Mr. Dominick opposes primarily the cost to the voters.  By that theory the Caddo Commission should never place any more issues on the ballot.

Mr. Johnson, who is up for re-election October 14, believes things are great the way they are.

Mr. Atkins favors a new committee.

As I recall, the Commission rejected the recommendation of their last formed committee so I don't see the purpose of this.

As Mr. Linn pleaded in the October 2 sessionn, "Give transparency a chance."

I would add, let's give animals like Marley a chance, and the hundreds of other animals who will face stress, hunger, exposure to disease, and euthanization before this is resolved.

Call or email your commissioner and ask them to support this proposal; and remember, all Mr. Linn is asking the Commissioners to do is to bring this issue before the voters.  Ultimately, we get to decide whether or not to change the Home Rule Charter.  Why can't we have a voice?

Doug Dominick: District 1
Lyndon B. Johnson: District 2
Steven Jackson: District 3
Matthew Linn: District 4
Jerald Bowman: District 5
Lynn Cawthorne: District 6
Stormy Gage-Watts: District 7
Mike Middleton: District 8
John Atkins: District 9
Mario Chavez: District 10
Jim Smith: District 11
Louis Johnson: District 12

Further Reading:
SIGIS: Caddo Commissioner: Give Transparency a Chance
The Shreveport Times: Caddo Commission Mulls Over Adding Independent Auditor
The Shreveport Times:  Out of Control Animal Shelter
Association of Local Government Auditors
SIGIS:  Problems at Caddo Animal Shelter Continue


K E said...

Thanks, again, Pat Phillips Austin Becker. Am working on a couple of FB ads to reiterate that EVERY Commissioner MUST vote YES to outside audit, as there exists NO sound reasoning not to. Wll try to target to district voters in zip codes with non-supporting representation.

If those Commissioners presently expressing non-support would REALIZE the amount of wasted money they have poured into that failing facility, that accomplished NOTHING but to buy Caddo Administrator Woody Wilson more time before the entire Commission is faced with much bigger legal battles, then they might be savvy enough to know that contracting THESE services to private or non-profit animal welfare org IS THE BEST answer AND WILL SAVE not only their stupid expenditures on measures that bog down and don’t work, but will save Parish money on operations and staffing costs.

MOST of all, it will save the tens of thousands of lives of animals who, with competent maintenance, nutrition, and care will now be able to live by adoption, foster, rescue and transport to areas where spay/neuter laws are working as they should.

I’m betting that our voters will help to change the naysaying Commissioners minds. The Commissioners who care little about those lives might focus on the dollar savings,and spay/neuter and abuse/neglect legislation, and public education efforts regarding responsible, humane pet ownership this Parish has failed to enact or engage.

Those measures, too, would, by proof of the widespread success most everywhere but here, help everyone’s pocketbook, too; AND create an environment where civilized people who run companies that care about humanity might be persuaded to bring dollars here. Good luck otherwise.

Who, with any conscience, would want to move to a place where dog fighting is still a practice which citizens, by their choice of Commissioners, do nothing to stop — — to a place where abuse and neglect, chaining of animals is ignored – to a place where every month there are reports of the horrific condition of animals that are so unfortunate as to find themselves in our killing, disease-spreading, neglectful, incompetent un-shelter?

Yes, the time is NOW. Call YOUR Commissioner TODAY, please. Tell them to vote for the "outside audit" with the threat of you not supporting them next election time if they do not vote "YES". It is THAT important.

K E said...
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