CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Caddo Parish Commission has rejected a request from a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization to help cover some of the costs of care for animals parish animal control services aren’t equipped to handle.

Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation of Louisiana is a non-profit that rescues and rehabilitates injured and abandoned wildlife that relies mostly on donations. Veterinarian Dr. Gia Morgan works with a small group of volunteers to provide medical care for hundreds of animals each year so they can be released back into the wild.

WERLA coordinates with Caddo Parish Animal Services and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The volunteer group answers calls from the public and picks up the animals free of charge.

“They are the only rehab like this in Northwest Louisiana and do excellent work that we are unable to do,” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Manager Jeff Johnson told the Caddo Parish Commission in early April in support of the parish appropriating the money for the organization out of the parish Riverboat Fund

WERLA said it costs an average of $47 per animal to provide care. They applied for a one-time non-governmental organization grant of $6,475 from the Caddo Parish Commission. They say the amount requested was calculated based on the number of animals they have taken over the past two years that came directly from Caddo Parish Animal Services.

The Caddo Animal Services Committee approved WERLA’s NGO grant request and Dist. 4 Commissioner John-Paul Young rounded it up to an even $6,500 when he brought it before the full commission Thursday.

“The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says WERLA is a commendable program, very effective, and seems very cost-effective,” said Dist. 4 Commissioner John-Paul Young. “You can vote for it or not as you choose. I’m going to vote for it.”

Dist. 10 Commissioner Mario Chavez asked to hear from Assistant Director of Caddo Animal Services Kelvin Samuel, who also spoke in support of WERLA.

“Dr. Gia Morgan helps us a lot,” Samuel said. “I think in 2019 when we had the raccoon distemper outbreak she assisted with euthanasia of the raccoons, she actually volunteered for a rabies clinic on the 9th. She relocates possums, raccoons, skunks. I mean she does a lot. If we get duck calls or things we can’t handle, meaning fowl or falcons, she assists. So when I say she helps Caddo … she helps Caddo a lot.”

“I feel as though if she’s willing to help us and this is a small amount, then I’ll be voting in support of this as well,” Chavez said.

However, the motion failed.

The motion needed seven votes to pass and only six voted in favor, with two voting against and four commissioners absent. Dist. 11 Commissioner Ed Lazarus of District 11 and Dist. 12 Commissioner Ken Epperson of District 12 against it.

Lazarus declined to comment. Epperson said he voted no because he believes these types of parish funds need to go directly to constituents and Caddo Parish faces a population decline, and he believes funding should be focused on economic development.

Commissioner John-Paul Young said WERLA can apply again for NGO funds for 2023. He also encourages the public to continue to support WERLA with donations.

Dr. Morgan was unavailable for comment because her volunteers said she was responding to a call regarding Foxes.