In this photo taken last year, a Marksville Street Department employee cares for the dogs in the city's holding shelter. Mayor John Lemoine closed the dog pound a few weeks ago after an animal rights activist complained the facility did not meet state standards for an animal shelter. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

Marksville closes ‘holding shelter’ for dogs

UPDATE: City will resume shelter, collection of strays later this month

UPDATE: The following article was printed in the Nov. 8 edition of the Weekly News. Mayor John Lemoine told the newspaper earlier this week that Marksville will be reopening the holding shelter and will resume picking up strays within the next week or two. The city will be makiing some physical improvements to the shelter. He said a state Department of Agriculture official said an animal activist "overstepped his authority" by telling the city it was in violation of state laws concerning animal shelters. Lemoine said the physical improvements will include a waste trough at the rear of the cages and making sure the holding area is heated during cold weather. The city will not be required to vaccinate the dogs it picks up. Those adopting the animals will be responsible for obey laws requiring their pets to be vaccinated. A follow-up to this week's article on the Marksville dog pound will be published in an upcoming edition of the newspaper. -- Raymond L. Daye
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There’s a saying, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it all.”

That saying apparently applies to the City of Marksville’s “dog pound” program.

For almost 10 years the city has been picking up strays off the streets and holding them in hopes they will be adopted.

Recently, an animal rights activist pointed out the city was in violation of state laws because its “animal shelter” was not registered with the state and it was not providing all of the medical care shelters are supposed to give the animals housed there.

The city had five dogs at its “holding shelter” at the Street Department facility when Mayor John Lemoine made the call to -- at least temporarily -- pull the plug on the stray dog program on Oct. 24. The non-profit Dirty Dog Inc. in Lecompte agreed to take the animals and care for them until they are adopted.

Lemoine said he built the holding facility when he first took office because he felt the city needed a better way to humanely deal with its stray dog problem.

"The animals in Marksville were being picked up and brought to the veterinarian clinic and being euthanized,” Lemoine said. “It was costing the city $1,500 a month and we were just killing dogs. We decided to build a holding shelter until they could be adopted."

ANOTHER SAYING

There’s another old saying, which is actually about dogs: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

That, too, applies to this situation.

The city’s animal control program operated on a shoestring budget. One employee was hired for the shelter. The city bought a truck for the employee to use to pick up strays.

Walmart and other local businesses have donated dog food and other supplies to care for the dogs while they are held.

“If the dog was in the shelter for three or four months and was in poor health, we would euthanize those dogs,” Lemoine said. “I’d say at least 90 percent of the dogs we had in the shelter were eventually adopted or claimed by their owners.”

Then came the call claiming the city was in violation of state law concerning animal shelters.

Lemoine said he was told there were some physical maintenance issue needed at the shelter itself and that the dogs should be vaccinated at the time they are impounded. Those costs are not in the budget and there is no undedicated revenue to cover them.

“It would cost about $200 per dog for veterinary care they said we need to do to comply with state laws for shelters,” Lemoine said. “I told the animal rights guy that if he could find the money for us to pay those costs, we would do it.

“He turned that conversation around and made it sound like I was asking him for cash to put in my pocket,” he continued. “That was not the case.”

Lemoine said at this time the city “will have to do what every other municipality and the parish does -- nothing.

“You can only do what you can do with the money you have available to do it,” Lemoine said.

If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.

PEOPLE ARE LYING

While dogs are not being held in unsuitable conditions, the flip side of the coin is that they are not being held at all.

Street Superintendent Cloyd Clayton, whose department handled the pickup and shelter programs, said at this time he has been instructed not to pick up any animals “until such time as we can decide how to do what needs to be done.”

Clayton said he is upset that “people are lying about the city’s shelter, saying we don’t give the dogs food and water and that we put them down after only a few days. None of that is true.”

He said Lemoine “is a dog lover. He will not put a dog down. He has told us to be sure to take good care of the dogs in the shelter."

Lemoine said the city can’t afford the old system of taking stray dogs straight to the vet to be euthanized, and it can’t afford the costs to comply with state standards for shelters.

“We can’t do anything,” he said. “I was trying to save dogs’ lives with this shelter, and in eight years we have saved a heckuva lot of dogs’ lives,” Lemoine continued. “We sent our police officers to a special training seminar on investigating and arresting those guilty of animal abuse. We have done everything we can afford to do, but no matter what we do it isn’t good enough for some people.”

While the shelter could never handle all of the strays on the city streets, there will now be at least a few hungry stray dogs that might otherwise have had food and water had their “advocates” not intervened.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

RISKS of STRAY DOGS

Lemoine wants the city to operate a holding shelter because he believes it is good for the dogs and for the public to have them off the streets and out of people’s garbage cans.

There’s also the risk of a hungry, injured or frightened animal lashing out at a young child or early-morning jogger, which could result in tragic consequences.

This potential threat raises the prospect of “vigilante justice,” with parents, grandparents and residents taking care of the stray dog in their own way.

As one resident said, “If a mean dog comes onto my property now, he’s a dead dog. I can’t call the city to come pick him up.”

At this time, asking the citizens of Marksville to approve a tax for an animal control capture-and-shelter program is unlikely, Lemoine said. Reducing expenditures in other city services to “find” money to fund the shelter program is also impossible, he added.

Lemoine said the shelter program would need private donations of time, money and probably veterinary services to be feasible.

The fact that other communities have brought their unwanted pets and released them on the streets of Marksville solely BECAUSE the city had the Street Department dog pound shows this is not a Marksville problem. It is a parish problem.

It is quite possible that the city will not be able to solve the problem by itself -- nor should it have to.

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Marksville, LA 71351
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