Two sites considered for new Animal Shelter with 2023 groundbreaking

Shelter Planners of America has provided a Needs Assessment Study to assist Ascension Parish in determining the optimal site and design for a new Animal Shelter.  Due to numerous considerations, two potential sites are being considered, both east of the City of Gonzales within the right triangle formed by Airline Hwy and LA 30.  Groundbreaking is anticipated in 2023 as President Clint Cointment’s administration will present options to the Parish Council in February.

Shelter Planners favors proposed Site #1 (see above) because ” it has more visibility by the highway, better access, has less flooding concerns, and has more useable space.”  Visibility in a high traffic area is cited as the most important factor in increasing pet adoptions.  As to design, the factors to be considered in building a modern animal shelter are too many to enumerate here.

Two options were presented.

  • Option No. 1 is a 21,628 sq ft facility (16,732 enclosed) at a cost range from $6.5-9.2 million.
  • Option No. 2 (“Bare Bones”) envisions 17,195 sq ft (13,534 enclosed) with a $4.1-7.3 million range.

2020 statistics are included in Shelter Planners’ assessment.  Of the 1,070 dogs and 1,742 cats dispositioned at the shelter in 2020 the breakdown is as follows:

  • Adoption: approximately 2,354, or approximately, 81.6% are adopted or transferred (1,582 were transferred). The number of adoptions is good compared to many modern shelters that have adoption rates of 70 – 80%.
  • Returned to Owner: approximately 184, or approximately 6.4%, are returned to their owners. The number of returns to owners is below average when compared to many modern shelters that have return to owner rates between 10-20%.
  • Euthanized: approximately 189, or about 6.6%, were euthanized which is below the range of many modern shelters that have rates of 10–20%. There is a strong push nationally to move to a 90% live release rate.
  • Died in Shelter: approximately 157, or about 5.4%, die in the shelter. This number is higher than normal however, this number also includes animals that were DOA, stolen, and escaped.

As to current operating costs:

The Parish currently has an annual operating cost of $899,500, which includes $350,000 that is paid to CARA’s house. Cara’s House currently has an operating cost of $696,020.58. The total operating cost for both the Parish and CARA’s house is $1,245,520.

Ascension pays for it from funding generated by a one-mill property tax, collected since 2019.  On December 8, 2018 16.4% of Ascension Parish’s voters turned out to answer the question:

Shall the Parish of Ascension, State of Louisiana (the “Parish”) levy and collect a tax of one (1) mill on all property subject to taxation in the Parish (an estimated $1,300,000.00 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) (the “Tax”), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2019 and ending with the year 2028, for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining and operating an animal shelter for the Parish, including necessary equipment and facilities therefor?

Collecting in excess of the lowball estimate (one-mill generated $1,558,000 in 2021 according to Ascension’s 2022 Draft Budget Book), money will still be tight.

2022 Draft Budget Book

The tax proposition’s language recognizes the need to fund “maintaining and operating and animal shelter” in the interim, until a new facility is up and running.  That cost is included in the current budget; $912,500 with the largest single appropriation to CARA ($350,000).  The non-profit has operated the existing shelter pursuant to a contract with Ascension Parish dating back to November 2015.

$336,00 is budgeted for employee salaries and related expenses (insurance and retirement accounts).  In addition to CARA’s staff, Ascension has Animal Control employees on the payroll.


Shelter Planners’ listed 17 current Staff Members:

  • Executive Director (1)
  • Assistant Director (1)
  • Intake Coordinator (1)
  • Supervisor (1)
  • Animal Care Specialist-Full Time (6)
  • Animal Care Specialist-Part Time (3)
  • Director of Animal Control (1)
  • Animal Control Officer (2)
  • Administrative Specialist III (1)

President Clint Cointment’s administration offered the following statement:

The administration has been working with the Animal Control Department, Animal Services Board and Shelter Planners of America to come up with a need’s assessment and cost estimates for a new shelter. The Animal Services Board will be presenting their recommendation, with the Shelter Planners of America, to the Council tentatively in February, 2022.
Currently the administration is on schedule to go out for an RFQ for engineering/architectural services once a plan has been approved by the council. We anticipate breaking ground in 2023 and our administration is currently negotiating a property donation for the shelter. The administration is also looking for grant funding options to help supplement that portion the tax necessary to fund the shelter, and also considering cost saving measures such as the land donation. We look forward to the Animal Services Board presenting the options to the Council, hearing their feedback and moving forward to get this project underway.