DE SOTO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The police jury committee overseeing the De Soto Parish animal shelter put off a vote on officially shutting it down Tuesday amid pleas to find a way to fund it.

The parish animal shelter is at risk of closing or drastically reducing operations after voters rejected a property tax proposal in April that would have maintained funding.

The police jury’s Airport and Animal Control Committee was slated Tuesday to vote on whether to formally authorize the staff to close the facility by the end of the year. Instead, the committee put off making the decision during a meeting that was filled to capacity with citizens and animal shelter advocates who aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

“This shouldn’t be about whether or not we are going to close the shelter. It should be about what are the next steps,” said one of several parish residents who spoke during the meeting about why they feel the animal shelter is needed.

“My mission is to keep the shelter open, not only for the animal part but also for the animal control part. I see that as a real necessity here in DeSoto Parish,” said Bianca Closhen, who is spearheading the effort to save the shelter and started a petition on that has so far gathered more than 2,400 signatures after starting off with an initial goal of just 200.

“I understand that there are four of five individuals on this police jury that want to shut this down, and I would ask you to explain to these constituents why,” Kenny Roberts told the police jurors.

“We can’t afford this,” countered Dist. 4-B Juror Jeri Burrel. “That’s the first concern I got. And the second concern I got was, this is the fourth time this has been put on the ballot and the people have voted no.”

Still, many of those who showed up were vocal about their belief that closure cannot be the only option.

“We gotta do something, “said De Soto resident Justin Wynn. “We can’t take a step backwards. This is 2021 and we just can’t shut down animal controls because the money’s not there or we feel that the money is not there.”

Wynn feels they now have the support they need for the property tax proposal to be added back on the ballot for a fourth and final vote.

“I understand the police jurors’ frustration with that but at the same time we’ve never had this much support,” he said.

Closhen said the show of support for her petition and the turnout at the meeting helping to convince the committee members to hold off on a final vote gives her hope.

“Makes me really feel good. Makes me really feel confirmed that we are on the right track here.”

No new date has been set yet for when the animal shelter will be back on the agenda.