Four months ago Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension (CARA) was barred from the parish Animal Shelter when threatening social media posts attributed to the group targeted the facility. And now CARA is set to take over daily operation of the Shelter on December 1 as the Parish Council approved a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement ceding control to the rescue group for the next decade. Ascension will put up $200,000 annually toward CARA’s originally estimated $375,000 operational cost.
“When I first met the three ladies that are here tonight; Starr, Virginia and Jami, I was expecting y’all to fly in here on a broom from everything I had heard,” Parish President Tommy Martinez introduced CARA’s representatives in his inimitable style. “But they were very professional and we worked out what I think is a good agreement for both sides.”
That agreement kicks in on December 1 and Ascension “will provide funding through an appropriation of $16,666.67” for the rest of 2015. Thereafter the Council must appropriate $200,000 annually through 2025, making quarterly payments in equal installments “no later than the last day of January, April, July and October” of each year.
CARA had determined that it would need $375,000 as negotiations commenced and it will retain adoption and rabies tag fees to make up the unappropriated $175,000. A budget exhibit attached to the draft agreement projects $140,000 annually from adoption fees, and $45,000 in rabies tag fees. CARA is granted authority to set the price for said fees.
Budget projections estimate $385,000 in revenues annually without donations, grants, and whatever monies can be generated through CARA’s ongoing fundraising efforts. Annual expenditures are estimated at $321,737.13 with $166,000 attributed to wages and ancillary employment expenses. CARA will rely on its 90 or so members to volunteer at the Sorrento facility.
“The negotiation could not have been more seamless,” said a still mildly surprised Jami Redmond, CARA’s Vice President. “Parish President Martinez went above and beyond and CARA truly appreciates his genuine desire to reach this agreement.”
CARA will not retain any of the Shelter’s current employees and Martinez assured that other positions with the parish will be found. Ascension will continue to pick up “dangerous and vicious animals” according to the parish president since it is bound to do so by ordinance. Animal Control Director Michael LeBlanc along with Animal Control personnel will continue to serve the parish, splitting time between the Shelter and Ascension Parish Jail near Donaldsonville.
Every animal will be brought to the shelter where CARA will determine which animals are suitable for adoption.
“It went very smoothly, once we all realized we wanted the same result,” CARA President Starr Breaux said of the negotiations. “CARA is encouraged because, ultimately, it won’t work without a truly cooperative endeavor.”
CARA has defined specific upgrades to bring the Shelter “up to industry standards” according to its legal counsel, Virginia Kelly. LSU’s participating veterinarian has recommended doubling the number of kennels to adequately house the number of intakes; every animal taken in will be vaccinated and de-wormed, spayed and/or neutered before leaving the facility, tested for heartworms, cats will be tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS.
“We want to help. We’re in a position to help. And we hope that you’ll accept our help,” Kelly told the Council which approved the agreement without objection.
Kelly, who cited Councilmen Daniel “Doc” Satterlee and Chris Loar for their integral efforts in seeing the agreement through, conceded that suspected euthanasia rates were inflated. CARA thought 90% of all dogs taken in were euthanized while the actual percentage is “somewhere between 40-50%.” Cats are not so fortunate, approximately 85% are euthanized but still less than CARA’s projected 90%.
“Euthanasia is, unfortunately, unavoidable, given the number of intakes and space limitations,” Virginia Kelly lamented. “And some animals are too sick, or aggressive. But, certainly, CARA will strive to achieve a ‘no-kill’ shelter.”
In other business the Council went into session in its dual capacity as Board of Review for the purpose of certifying the current property tax roll. Assessor M. J. “Mert” Smiley was present with Deputy Assessor Justin Champlin to inform the Board that no appeals had been lodged against property assessments and that was that.
And a reminder, Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival lifts off September 25-26. The irrepressible Martin McConnell was on hand to pitch “Ascension’s premiere event” and he encouraged festival goers to use one of three alternate routes to Lamar Dixon Expo Center in the hope that traffic congestion on Hwy 30 might be mitigated.
McConnell ensured the Council that, for the second year in a row, no money from Parish will be needed to operate the festival.
Visit http://www.ascensionballooning.com/ for a complete calendar of events, and all things Balloon Fest, including suggested routes to best access Lamar Dixon depending on your starting point.