As municipalities across the country grapple with shortfalls, animal control budgets have been getting the ax. New Orleans faces a double whammy: a deficit and the maladroit budgeting of former Mayor Ray Nagin's administration, which failed to account for complete funding of the Louisiana SPCA, the nonprofit which has traditionally provided animal control for the city by contract.
This year, the money ran out at the beginning of October, meaning after-hours animal control services are now handled by the New Orleans Police Department's K-9 unit. Stray animals are not being captured or trapped, and private veterinarians will be called upon to quarantine animals that bite people. It's an unsustainable, patchwork approach, and coming up with a permanent alternative should be a priority for the New Orleans City Council over the next two weeks as the council works on the 2011 budget.
The 2010 allotment for animal control was $2.1 million, which SPCA director Ana Zorrilla says covers only nine months of the year. Animal control in New Orleans, she says, costs $3 million annually, of which the SPCA raises $500,000. Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin told the council on the first day of budget hearings that the Landrieu Administration is prepared to spend only $1.5 million on animal control in 2011, halving what the SPCA says it needs.
"We are looking at all options — bringing it in house or contracting it out to somebody else," Kopplin says. In our view, it's hard to imagine an organization that could do the job better or more cost effectively than the Louisiana SPCA. The group has handled animal control for the city since it was founded in 1888 — a 122-year public-private partnership. When its Japonica Street headquarters was wiped out in the floodwaters following Hurricane Katrina, the SPCA built a new state-of-the-art facility in Algiers in record time, and its former director, Laura Maloney, was just named chief of staff of the United States Humane Society. We'd like to know who, locally, the Landrieu Administration thinks has a better track record than that.
The mayor has a tough job, but any delay in finding a permanent solution will make things exponentially worse. As stray animals breed, this problem will just get bigger and more expensive. (Remember the population explosion among strays in the year after Hurricane Katrina?) With so many rebuilding tasks ahead, it makes little sense for the administration to create a new city agency to manage animal control. It makes even less sense to sever ties with a well-run nonprofit that has been serving New Orleans so well for more than a century.
Vote This Tuesday
Tuesday, Nov. 2, is Election Day across Louisiana and across America. In last week's issue, we made our recommendations in various important state and local elections. While we spend considerable time studying the issues and the candidates before making our endorsements, and while we hope our readers take our recommendations to heart, we want more than anything else for our readers to participate in the democratic process by voting. We therefore present our recommendations again below — and we urge everyone, whether you agree with us or not, to vote on Tuesday.
U.S. Senate — Charlie Melancon. In our view, Louisiana needs a new senator. The incumbent has distinguished himself in the wrong ways, whereas Melancon offers a chance for our state to put its best foot forward. He is a conservative Democrat who has demonstrated his commitment to put Louisiana's interests ahead of party affiliation.
Congress, 2nd District — Cedric Richmond. As a state lawmaker, Richmond has a good record for getting things done and for reaching across the aisle to work with members of the other party.
Lt. Governor — Jay Dardenne. Dardenne has a proven track record of prudent management in the Secretary of State's office, and after nearly two decades in public office he is ready for this next step.
State Constitutional Amendments:
Amendment 1 — FOR
Amendment 2 — FOR
Amendment 3 — FOR
Amendment 4 — AGAINST
Amendment 5 — FOR
Amendment 6 — FOR
Amendment 7 — FOR
Amendment 8 — FOR
Amendment 9 — FOR
Amendment 10 — AGAINST