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Reining Cats and Dogs 

click to enlarge Animal control workers capture a stray dog and put it in a truck for transport to the SPCA.
  • Animal control workers capture a stray dog and put it in a truck for transport to the SPCA.

  Last week, the Louisiana Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) decided not to submit its proposal for the city's $1.7 million animal control contract for 2011, ending its 60-year partnership with the city of New Orleans.

  "After consideration, the board decided it would be a disservice to the citizens and animals of Orleans Parish," says SPCA communications director Katherine LeBlanc, who adds that the $1.7 million is not sufficient to provide for the city's animals in need. The city, however, has indicated it can create an alternative, she says: "We can't do it for $1.7 million, but the city is confident they have a viable solution, and we are confident in the city's ability to provide for the citizens and animals of our community."

  The SPCA has worked to improve the lives of animals and eliminate animal homelessness, neglect and abuse in New Orleans and surrounding areas since 1888. Though it's ending its animal control contract with New Orleans, the organization will continue other services, including outreach programs and mobile clinics, though it isn't sure what its budget will be for 2011.

  "Our central mission is advancing the welfare of the animals in this region," SPCA board president Sally Knight said in a Dec. 15 statement. "While we have a great sense of accomplishment and pride in the services we have provided the city over the past 60 years, we could not responsibly continue to perform animal control at the proposed (funding) amount."

  On Dec. 1, Ana Zorrilla, president and CEO of the SPCA, announced, "We were pleased to see that the New Orleans City Council recognized the need for more funding for animal control services. While it is not the entire amount we proposed, we are committed to providing animal control to the city of New Orleans and we will be working with the city to determine what services we can provide for $1.7 million."

  Zorrilla appeared before New Orleans City Council during an Oct. 29 budget hearing and warned of the potential hazards to humans and animals without sufficient animal control. Deputy Mayor Ann Duplessis told the council that agencies across the board are being forced to cut, and the SPCA should be expected to do the same. Council members approved the budget Dec. 1, adding an additional $200,000 to bring the total SPCA budget to $1.7 million for 2011, below the requested $2.5 million.

  The SPCA was scheduled to submit a budget proposal to Mayor Mitch Landrieu by Friday, Dec. 17. Board members met Dec. 15 to assemble the proposal within the $1.7 million budget, but instead decided to end its animal control contract with the city. Landrieu press secretary Ryan Berni says the mayor's office was unaware of the SPCA's plans to withdraw. "We remain confident that we will be able to execute a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with another animal control provider in the region to secure these critical services for our residents," Berni wrote in an email from the Landrieu administration. "We are committed to providing good animal control services at a price the city can afford."

  The SPCA needs an operating budget of $4.5 million for a full year's worth of services, including animal control (which accounts for $3 million of the budget), Zorrilla says. In past years, the SPCA has been forced to cut services before the end of the year, and the NOPD had to take over emergency animal control services to fill the gap.

  The money for SPCA services ran out Oct. 1, 2010, based on a contract arranged during former Mayor Ray Nagin's administration. A similar contract a year earlier ended Nov. 30, 2009, and the SPCA's services didn't resume until the following year. The current contract expires Dec. 31, 2010.

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