MINDEN, La. – Recent meetings of Minden’s City Council have resulted in little more than shouting matches.
"You all look like a bunch of damn idiots,” a woman named Lisa McKinney shouted at the council at an early December meeting, following heated debates and the rejection of grant money for the city’s airport.
In early November, three council members walked out minutes after the meeting began, costing the council its quorum and forcing the meeting to adjourn. The walkout was the result of a motion to add an item to the meeting’s agenda, seeking to discuss the city’s employee manual.
On a quieter side of Minden, a city department with only one employee struggles to stay afloat on a shoestring budget.
"I’m just here taking care of these animals and doing the best I can," said Tommy Primeaux, Minden’s sole animal control officer who also runs the city’s animal shelter.
Minden Animal Control operates on a budget of $99,385 per year, which includes Primeaux’s salary and benefits.
A part-time, uniformed volunteer assists Primeaux at the shelter, which can’t afford the liability of allowing volunteers from the community at large.
"We rely on a lot of donations to keep us going," Primeaux said.
The shelter would barely function without the generosity of local nonprofits.
"It’s a very hard job, but we have to look at it as if we didn’t do it, I don’t know who would," said Stephanie Gantt, a volunteer for the Webster Humane Association.
The school teacher and mother of three spends much of her spare time rounding up loose animals and assisting with adoptions across Webster Parish.
"We do work a lot with the (Minden) shelter, trying to pull animals out because they are very limited on their supplies and any in-housing facilities that they have there," Gantt said.
Webster Humane provided food and beds for the Minden Animal Shelter, along with outdoor kennels and large fans so that dogs have a place to go when the shelter’s eight indoor kennels are being cleaned. Gantt said Webster Humane even had to donate drain covers after puppies began falling into the drains.
Webster Humane is also in charge of adoptions in Minden because the shelter can't afford its own program.
"With the Sterilization Act with the State of Louisiana, all animals have to be spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter, and fully vetted,” Primeaux said. “And since we’re not allocated all that money to all that service, we rely on rescue groups to take care of that part for us."
The shelter came close to euthanizing multiple dogs in early December because it was past capacity, until the nonprofit was able move the animals out at the 11th hour.
Primeaux said collaborating with nonprofit rescue groups has helped hundreds – if not thousands of dogs escape euthanasia. That’s something the shelter wasn’t doing before Primeaux took over in 2015.
According to Primeaux, 242 stray animals were taken in between October 2018 and October, and 122 were euthanized during that time (Primeaux said he has not euthanized an animal since). The previous year, 154 strays were taken in and 112 of them were euthanized.
Before Primeaux’s tenure at Minden Animal Control, he said the previous director was putting 200 to 300 dogs down each month.
Primeaux is now asking the city for more money to help in his efforts.
"We have to wait our turn just like everyone else," Primeaux said.
“The city relies on (the shelter) to help clean up the streets with the animals and cats and dogs that are out in the street, but then they don’t support the shelter when the shelter needs their help," Gantt said.
Mayor Terry Gardner said money is tight in Minden, and the city has been forced to cut millions of dollars across different departments.
Gardner said he’d like to take advantage of grant programs, like those that assist in training service animals, to bring more money to the shelter.
For that to happen, it would have to go through the city council.
"I'm hoping that we all come back after Christmas with a fresh approach, a good attitude," Gardner said.
Primeaux is urging members of the community to do their part to help reduce euthanasia rates by spaying or neutering and micro-chipping their pets.