NEW ORLEANS -- Once a nursing facility, the Bethany Home on Esplanade Avenue in Mid-City has been abandoned since Katrina.
Now, neighbors are terrified over large dogs that live on the premises.
LA/SPCA officials say they arrived at the former nursing home Saturday to find at least four large dogs, including a Mastiff and German Shepard, with no clean water, living in an area with excessive feces.
Neighbors said the animals recently began breaking out of a makeshift wooden fence and an incomplete chain link fence.
“They ran me into my own yard,” said Tony Thomas. “The dogs very aggressive.”
Animal control officers put up notices to warn that the dogs would be seized if the owner didn’t contact the LA/SPCA within 24 hours.
Neighbors say the dogs were first placed in the building to keep it safe several years ago, but they haven't noticed handlers coming regularly anymore. There are signs posted around the building with a number for the Louisiana K-9 Security, Inc., but that number is disconnected.
The phone number posted on the signs matches that of another business, Crescent City K-9. The business no longer exists at the address listed in the Yellow Pages.
The LA/SPCA said the owner had not contacted them by Sunday, and four animal control officers armed with catch poles returned to the property, but decided they were out-manned. They believe at least two dogs are living inside the property, and two are living outside, but there could be more.
Animal control officials planned to return to the property Monday, possibly with NOPD as backup.
For now, SPCA officials said they have secured the fence around the property.
But officials remain concerned that it appears no one else has checked on the dogs for more than 24 hours, which is against the law.
Eyewitness pictures from a neighbor clearly show one dog looking so thin, you can see each rib bone beneath its skin. The SPCA said it doesn’t appear the dogs are severely malnourished, and that the other three dogs seem to be in decent health.
Now, neighbors are taking extra precautions in case the dogs break out again.
“If a small child walks down the street, I have kids, if my kids come out and play, you know, anything could happen to my child, so we keep our kids in the fence now, don't even let them out,” said Thomas.
Records show the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership owns the property.
It’s part of a group that has fought for years to turn the former Bethany home into an apartment building for homeless and low-income people, with opposition from the city and a neighborhood group.
We were unable to get in touch with the development company this weekend.
The SPCA says it will continue to monitor the premises to ensure the dogs have food and clean water and the gate remains secure. Animal control officer may seize the dogs Monday.
Secretary of State records show a Covington company with the name Louisiana K-9 security dissolved two years ago, though it is unclear if that's the same company that posted signs on the Bethany Home premises.