Animal shelter to be built on LSU campus

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An animal shelter organization plans to break ground in September for a new facility on Louisiana State University’s campus.

Christel C. Slaughter, PhD, chair of the board of directors for Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge, said construction of the 31,000-square-foot facility should be completed between June and September 2017. The alliance will lease about 7 acres of LSU land off Gourrier Avenue, near campus athletic facilities and the School of Veterinary Medicine, she said.

A concept drawing of the new animal shelter on the Louisiana State University campus (Courtesy of Christel C. Slaughter/Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge)

Dr. Slaugher expects the alliance will continue an existing clinical rotation program with the veterinary school, and she thinks the proximity to the school will give the shelter’s veterinarians better access to emergency care help.

She also hopes the location increases volunteer work among LSU students, and physicians have asked about opportunities to help.

“There are so many people who are interested in saving the lives of companion animals,” she said.

The organization’s current shelter, Dr. Slaughter said, is in a cinder block building behind East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, about 9 miles northeast of the new location. She said the quarters are confined and noisy.

The new facility will cost about $8 million, which was raised through private donations. That figure does not include donated labor, services, and other nonmonetary gifts, Dr. Slaughter said. It will include an emergency animal evacuation center that could hold about 200 animals in a covered outdoor area during a natural disaster, and it gives the shelter organization room to isolate animals that are ill or quarantined for possible rabies infection.

While it will have about the same capacity for dogs and cats as the existing shelter, the new shelter will have more room for horses and specialized spaces for snakes and rats. It also will incorporate easier-to-clean surfaces that should aid in disease control, Dr. Slaughter said.

Dr. Wendy Wolfson, an assistant professor who runs LSU’s shelter medicine program and is a board member for the alliance, expects the new shelter will give veterinary students opportunities to be exposed to shelter medicine in a state-of-the-art facility, and all students will have volunteer opportunities.

Dr. Joel Baines, dean of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, wrote by email that he and fellow administrators had advocated for an animal shelter on LSU land for many years. The close proximity of the planned alliance shelter to the school will give students opportunities to examine animals that do not have a presumptive diagnosis, a clinical skill critical for private practice, as well as provide training for the shelter medicine program.

Dr. Baines also predicts the shelter will provide animal handling opportunities for undergraduates, who can use that experience to gauge interests and fulfill animal care components of veterinary school applications.

The LSU Agricultural Center and the alliance have a 30-year lease beginning at construction, with potential to extend the lease up to 20 years, Dr. Baines said. The rent is $12,000 annually, indexed for inflation.

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