By T. Scott Boatright
Just in time for Christmas, it appears — just maybe — that a little holiday peace might have been reached between 4 Paws Rescue and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury.
On Oct. 12, the LPPJ voted to defund 4 Paws, which had requested $24,000 for the 2022 fiscal year — the same amount the rescue operation received for 2021.
Sue Martin, director of 4 Paws, then asked to be put on the agenda for the LPPJ’s Nov. 16 meeting, but that request was turned down.
During that Nov. 16 meeting, Martin signed up for public comment, which is limited to three minutes or less according to LPPJ regulations, which she said prevented her from trying to plead 4 Paw’s case in proper fashion.
But when that meeting ended, a small crowd of 4 Paws supporters soon formed by the exit door, where some were deciding whether to stay or leave. Police Juror Skip Russell invited a small group of 4 Paws supporters to “talk, and listen, and visit,” resulting in an informal meeting with Police Jurors sitting at their usual respective seats as workers continued packing up the room at the Lincoln Parish Events Center.
That talk led to further negotiations and an agreement last week for the LPPJ to pay $100 for every dog the Lincoln Parish Animal Control program brings to 4 Paws. That’s the same rate that the LPPJ made in November with another animal rescue group — Simply Southern based in Lincoln Parish.
“We have informal agreements — because we haven’t signed anything with anyone — in place with both organizations,” said LPPJ administrator Doug Postel. “It will be the determination of (Lincoln Parish Sheriff Office Animal Control officer Rob Sasser) as to where he takes the dogs. That’s up to him and the sheriff’s office.”
The decision made by the LPPJ in October not to continue funding 4 Paws was said to be based at least in part on reports from Sasser that 4 Paws at times refused to receive dogs, or made it difficult to do so. Thus he reported taking them to the Ouachita Parish Animal, which charges a per dog fee and also euthanizes animals based on space and overcrowding.
Martin said that no dogs have been brought to 4Paws since March, but that earlier this week she did have what she called a good meeting with Lincoln Parish Sheriff Stephen Williams.
“My shelter manager LeAnn Young and I met with him (Tuesday),” Martin said. “My focus now is going to be making the community aware that it’s the responsibility of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury to build a shelter or help maintain one. It’s kind of a ‘Catch 22’ situation, but I truly hope community members talk to their police jurors so that we can all try to work together for the good of both the citizens of Lincoln Parish as well as the dogs we have here — all the animals we have here.”
Martin said that Nov. 16 LPPJ and her recent meeting with Williams are the reasons she still has hope the situation can be worked out despite admitting that she doubts any dogs will be brought to 4 Paws in the near future.
“Stephen is a good man. He’s just kind of stuck in the middle of all of this,” Martin said. “Animal control and sheltering should be jobs of the police jury, not the Sheriff’s Office. Right now we’re just going to wait and see what happens. And hope. But we’re not going to stop. I think that Nov. 16 meeting was the start — the push — of something that’s only going to get bigger until it’s properly acted on.
“(4 Paws) held our Santa in the Dog Park event last weekend and we handed out ACH (Automated Clearing House) letters to those that attended. We didn’t say anything ugly, just that we have been recently defunded and we’re trying to recoup those funds by asking people to do an automatic draft from their bank account each month. If 100 people gave $10 a month, that would be $1,000. And we’re already up to that. But we need to get to $2,000 a month. But the community has shown much support for us. We’ll just have to see how it all works out.”
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