Canine construction: Parish, animal group work on shelter

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 26, 2016

This week, representatives from the Magnolia Chapter of the Humane Society of Louisiana met with Washington Parish Public Works Director Leo Lucchesi at the former Seven Acres Substance Abuse Center, to begin turning that facility into an animal shelter.

Considerable  interior renovations still need to be completed.

interior renovations still need to be completed.

Rebekka Stafford, a volunteer with the Magnolia Chapter, and Kay Grantham, the group’s secretary treasurer, had sketched plans for the 3,750 square-foot building.

The shelter will replace the Bogalusa city shelter and it will be available for the whole parish. It will be located on Yacc Road, in Franklinton.

It is not clear when work will begin, but it should be within a matter of months. Lucchesi said once he is clear on what renovations the animal care group needs, he will begin modifying the space.

“I would say by the fall we should have a pretty good looking building in there,” he said.

Besides a treatment center, the large orange building has also been home to a Habitat For Humanity dorm, although the building has been empty for a while and will require more than a fresh coat of paint. Lucchesi said the building requires concrete work, electrical work, HVAC work, chain link fencing and a new septic system.

The parish has secured some state grants for the project, and Luccesi said he is hopeful some civic-minded citizens can pitch in and volunteer their time and talents.

“Maybe we’ll get donations of the new doors from the local hardware stores,” he said. “Maybe we can get some donated plumbing supplies and get some donated labor from local plumbers.”

Lucchesi added that state law mandates that the parish provide a shelter, so the construction isn’t a luxury for the community but a necessity. He is also asking anyone who would like to volunteer to contact his office.

Grantham said she’s glad the project is underway.

“It’s probably been 15 years the parish has had plans to build a shelter,” she said.

The shelter will house stray dogs picked up in the parish because, Grantham said, stray cats are better left alone after they’ve been spayed or neutered.

“What we’ve learned in meeting with the experts in the field of animal sheltering is, cats, the No. 1 thing that makes cats sick or stressed is … the shelter environment. The shelter environment is not ideal for cats,” she said. “Community cats are fine where they are, they just need to be spayed or neutered and then left alone.”

She added that litters of kittens and other adoptable cats will be fostered out and kept in private homes, to prevent them from being stressed in the shelter.

At present, Bogalusa has a small compound for stray dogs, but it is not very large. Grantham said her organization fosters dozens of animals, besides those kept at the Bogalusa facility.

“We started with four people and nothing and now we have about 40 foster homes,” she said, explaining that her chapter started in 2008. In addition to fostering dogs and finding them homes across the United States, the group also runs a low-cost spay and neuter program.

These services are expected to continue at the new facility.