Area tries to stamp out strays

Published 11:36 pm Monday, August 20, 2007

VIDALIA — Police jury and community members decided to attack the parish’s feral animal problem with a letter writing campaign to their legislators.

In a special-called meeting Monday, the jury met with Sheriff Randy Maxwell, representatives of the Concordia Animal Welfare Shelter, Ferriday Chamber of Commerce President Liz Brooking and several citizens to discuss the stray animal problem.

Though they were invited, representatives from the municipalities within the parish did not attend the meeting.

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CAWS Director Lisa Smith said no matter what decision the parish comes to, if the existing leash law is not enforced the problem will continue.

“As long as animals are running loose and making babies, you’re just going to be spinning your wheels,” Smith said.

Simply enforcing existing laws will help seriously curb pet overpopulation, Smith said.

State law requires law enforcement officers to pick up any stray animal, Smith said.

The sheriff’s office can write citations for people who allow their animals to run loose, but the office doesn’t have the equipment to pick up stray animals, Maxwell said.

“We’ve been fortunate in the complaints we’ve had because the owners have been able to control their animals,” Maxwell said.

Key to having an animal control program is funding, Maxwell said.

The parish cannot afford to fund the entire program, Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said.

“It is the obligation of the towns to deal with their problem,” Ferrington said.

One of several ideas discussed at the meeting was piggybacking a feral animal program on homeland security funds.

Ferrington said he has spoken with homeland security representatives and they told him they have tried to get something going but do not have funding yet.

Juror Whest Shirley said it would not be a prudent decision to rely on federal funds.

“We don’t know when they’re going to pull out and leave us with the burden,” he said.

Relying on federal money would not be a long-term scheme, Brooking said.

“It would be a quick fix for right now,” she said. “All we do right now is talk, and that would be better than just talking.”

The group finally decided to write letters to their legislators and other politicians to ask for funding.

The parish gave CAWS some initial start-up money but has not helped with funding since then, juror Cathy Darden said.

CAWS — a non-profit organization — receives approximately three nuisance animal calls a day, and operates its humane society on a shoestring budget of $2,500 a month, Smith said.

“The animal control facility has 14 kennels that can hold three animals each,” she said. “That needs a staff.”

Darden said the parish could surely get some funding from the legislature.

“I can’t ask these people to work for free,” she said. “If the legislature can put Global Positioning Systems on golf carts in south Louisiana, they can give us some funding for this.”

The rest of funding for the shelter should come from the parish and towns that utilize it, Darden said.

Juror Carey Cook said the towns did not get behind CAWS when it first opened, and should be contacted about the letter writing campaign so they too can participate in it.

Both Shirley and Juror Randy Temple said they don’t receive any animal complaints.

“The problem in the parish is not as bad as in the towns, but we are willing to do our part,” Ferrington said.