Humane Society of Louisiana takes custody of 13 dogs

Published 3:10 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Washington Parish couple charged with cruelty to animals

FRANKLINTON, La. – On September 29, Washington Parish residents contacted the Humane Society of Louisiana (“HSLA”) and reported observing multiple dogs housed in small kennels near an abandoned trailer, located at 27724 Unicorn Hills Street, in Franklinton. They also reported hearing and seeing additional dogs inside the trailer.  Humane Society officials contacted the Washington Parish Sheriff’s office, and they dispatched an officer to the scene.

The deputy and HSLA officials discovered multiple large dogs in extremely small, filthy kennels that would barely allow them to stand up or turn around. The dogs reeked of urine and feces. They found 11 more dogs in various stages of neglect inside the trailer. Some small dogs were caged in small kennels while others were allowed to roam. The trailer was in disarray and covered with litter and discarded items. Several of the dogs appeared to be severely underweight and none had sufficient food or water present.

The deputy directed the Humane Society to remove the dogs and left to locate and apprehend the owners. Within a few hours, the suspects were located, arrested, and charged with multiple counts of cruelty to animals. Matthew Tarver, 43, and his partner, Debra Norris Laborde, age 51, were booked into the parish jail. Bond was set at $3500 each. Tarver was released after paying his bond while Laborde remains in jail as of 10/2/23.

All of the dogs seemed extremely happy and relieved to have been rescued and are enjoying regular and nutritious meals. All will be vetted within the next few days, and the Humane Society expects that caring for them and treating their medical issues, will cost several thousand dollars. The group has raised funds on its Facebook page and set up a GoFundMe page as well, which can be found HERE. All contributions are tax-deductible, and the group welcomes additional donations to cover their anticipated expenses.

While the Humane Society is grateful for the opportunity to help, the group says that impounding and treating criminally abused animals and picking up stray animals are duties that should be performed by a government agency and not a charity. Washington Parish operates a modest shelter in the town of Franklinton that employs two people, but it does not pay for personnel to pick up strays or respond to nuisance complaints or criminal allegations. No one has been assigned those duties, and neither the parish administration, council, nor state lawmakers have made any attempts to address the issues.

“This is terrible oversight on the part of every public official. They don’t seem to think that dealing with the pet overpopulation issue, which is only getting worse, is worth their time in addressing it, which is a great disservice to residents. Even though our state had several billion-dollar surpluses for the past two years and some could have been used for shelter operations or animal control-related services, no one from Washington Parish, to our knowledge, attempted to obtain any funds for this purpose. Besides asking the state for funds, the parish could also raise funds through the collection of pet registration fees or by applying for state or federal grants. Regrettably, it does not appear that anyone has taken action for the past several years on this issue,”  says Jeff Dorson, HSLA Director.

The group plans to use this case to illustrate the need to fund animal control services.

“It is an essential service, much like police and fire departments, and we are going to encourage residents to contact their elected officials to find a way to fund these important services. It is not the duty of charities, rescue groups, or outside organizations to provide these services. It is a function of local government,” adds Dorson.

The Humane Society hopes to form a Washington parish coalition called Louisiana Citizens for Animal Control (LCAC) and will encourage elected officials to join, attend meetings, and develop plans and strategies to address this issue.

The group will also share with elected officials an official report on the subject of animal control and the state’s role in providing more resources. Published in May of 2021, the Louisiana Auditor’s Office detailed the deficiencies with the current programs and offered multiple solutions and suggestions, none of which the state has acted upon, according to the Humane Society.