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Caddo Parish faces harsh criticism over animal welfare - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Caddo Parish faces harsh criticism over animal welfare

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SHREVEPORT La. -

Dozens of animal lovers, shelter volunteers and humane organizations voiced years of grievances to the Caddo Commission during the Oct. 14 work session. They did so in hopes of finding solutions. The commission responded by creating the new Animal Service Committee. 

It will be made up of parish commissioners and representatives from non-profit groups. Their goal will be to find a way to better Caddo Animal Control. Ashley Delrie, founder of Companions of Caddo Parish Animal Shelter founder, has pushed for a reduction in euthanasia by promoting modern practices of animal adoption. Delrie believes the recent adoption controversy surrounding the malnourished dog Braveheart, which the shelter seized from rescuers in order to press charges on the owners, opened the door for reforms.  

"With the Braveheart situation, I think it really served as a catalyst in terms of bringing the animal welfare topic to the forefront of the commissioners' minds," Delrie said.

She believes the shelter needs programs that create foster families to house animals and those that attract more volunteers to donate time. Delrie also says the shelter needs to hold more adoption events. 

"We need volunteer outreach programs to volunteer and take these animals to other community events to get adopted," Delrie said. "We need partnerships with the business community. We should be doing adoption event during the week at businesses that support animal welfare. All these programs just don't exist at our shelter."

Delrie says getting more animals adopted will decrease the shelter's kill rate. It's estimated that 80 percent of animals that enter the shelter are put down. In 2012, 8,000 cats and dogs were euthanized. She and other animal lovers feel the high numbers prove the shelter's staff and policies aren't focused on benefiting the animals and isolate the department by not promoting partnerships with humane groups. Delrie claims Everett Harris, the shelter's director, is difficult to work with, and she doesn't hold the belief alone.

"Why is he not being held accountable for developing programs that are that standard across the nation, across our state," Delrie said. "It's horrifying! It's horrifying!"

Delrie also claims Harris and his staff don't create a comfortable atmosphere  for volunteers at the shelter.

"He was combative. He was argumentative," Delrie said, referring to a past meeting with Everett. "He was not open to working with the community. We have a leadership crisis at our shelter. We need new leadership."

Dr. Woody Wilson, the parish administrator, couldn't disagree more.

"It shouldn't be about a person," Wilson said. "If you want to make a process change, lets talk about how we can improve the overall service that we do, because we realize, even if you're at the top, that there is always room to do better."

Wilson and some commissioners say Harris and his staff have improved the animal shelter several levels above its poor position in the past. He believes Harris, who has been director for five years, is over qualified for his job. Wilson points to his position on animal organization boards and training, as well as a military and finance background.

"All of our shelter people are very highly trained," Wilson said. "All of the animal folks, the ASOs and shelter management, go through training. They go through courses. They are state certified."

As for Delrie's want for volunteer and adoption programs, Wilson says the shelter's adoption coordinator works daily to find animals new homes.

"We go to a list of places. We go to Petco. We do the state fair every year, and the commission funds that effort," Wilson said. "We have people from the VA coming over. We have folks from Centenary coming over to work with us to adopt animals out. So, that's not entirely true. That's one person's assessment."

The new committee, chaired by Jerald Bowman, has yet to set the date for its first meeting. The committee's job will be to sift through animal related laws and policies to get rid of the outdated ones and modify or create new ones.

 

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