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Neglect case puts need for shelter at fore

The long-awaited question of when Washington Parish was going to construct an animal shelter resurfaced recently after approximately 40 animals were found abandoned.

When the neglect was discovered. the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant for Tolethia Joy Spell Jackson for aggravated cruelty to animals after the discovery. Jackson was previously convicted of cruelty to farm animals.

Authorities discovered eight rabbits, seven dogs, five cats, two guinea pigs and a duck abandoned without food or water. Officials estimated another 20 cats were left in the woods around the property.

“We’re getting closer all the time to an animal shelter. It’s definitely a lot closer than it was,” Parish President Richard Thomas said. “Definitely, animal cruelty has been a problem for a long, long time. We haven’t had as many problems as people might think. An animal shelter is mandated by the state, so that’s what we’re working on.”

The proposed 2,600-square foot facility is to be located on parish property in Sheridan. The building is on the grounds of a Department of Public Works facility on Yacc Road at the intersection of Louisiana Highway 10, between Bogalusa and Franklinton.

A parish shelter has been on the table for more than nine years.

“Money is the largest obstacle,” Thomas said. “Fortunately we have $120,000 from the State Legislature, but that wouldn’t build a good facility.”

The parish has another $70,000 to go toward the facility from the Louisiana Government Assistance Program, or LGAP. Funds from that program are earmarked to hire contract labor. The parish will solicit bids to construct a new waste water system, build fencing and gates to control the animal population and update the plumbing, electrical, HVAC and venting systems. Another $80,000 is available for purchase of materials.

Construction work is to include establishing a ventilated general kennel area with 3-foot-by-6-foot concrete runs, sloped drains and piping leading to a waste water system, climate-controlled intake and examination rooms with services required for temporary housing of stray and/or abandoned small animals, work room with food storage and preparation areas, bathing and grooming areas and a janitor’s station.

Construction materials purchased for the facility are currently being stored at the proposed facility on Yacc Road.

“Our mission is much broader than building a block and mortar building,” Washington Parish Director of Public Works Director Leo Lucchesi said. “An animal control and care program needs to be written and established. Additional funding will be necessary to establish a sustainable sheltering facility. That has been the hang up. It really has.”