A nutria rat from Bucktown, La., was recently up to his buckteeth in publicity — so much so that he was almost relocated to the Baton Rouge Zoo.
The drama began on March 15 when the Times Picayune did a story on Neuty, as his owners Denny and Myra Lacoste call him. While nutria rats are notorious in the state for turning wetlands into open water and damaging the local ecosystem, Neuty won’t have to worry about a bounty being put on his head, as he is a “now legal” pet.
Denny was driving around one day in 2020 when he saw a mother nutria and her babies attempting to cross the road. He then witnessed a vehicle running over some of the juveniles. “I kind of felt bad. His siblings got run over, and he was kind of curled up in the street crying,” Denny said. So, he scooped up the defenseless nutria and brought him home.
It’s not an easy task caring for a baby animal. Myra had to get up several times a night to feed Neuty a kitten milk replacement. “I remember my wife saying, ‘What am I doing, getting up and feeding a rat,’” Denny said. Myra replied that the nutria was “fluffy, and sweet, and so cute that it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him.”
Keeping a nutria pet isn’t advisable. Neuty damaged the baseboards around the Lacoste’s home, ate the electrical controls under their couch and ate the wiring under Myra’s new Mercedes. At this point, I probably would’ve sent the animal back to the canal. But with Neuty it was forgive and forget.
Neuty is living the high life for a nutria rat. He likes to go on truck rides while sticking his head out of the open window like a dog; goes to work with Denny at Dennis’ Seafood; has taken over the Lacoste’s backyard saltwater pool; and sleeps at night in one of the couple’s bathrooms with his favorite items. (Luckily, he’s potty-trained.) As nutria are vegetarians, Neuty enjoys a diet of corn, sweet potatoes, kiwi, salad greens and watermelon, although, as a Cajun nutria, Neuty also dines on crawfish tails and bits of junk food his fans offer him.
Neuty is well-known around town and is the mascot of the rock radio station Bayou 95.7. There is also a Facebook and TikTok page dedicated to Neuty. However, all the press coverage alerted authorities to the fact that the Lacoste family was sheltering an
illegal pet. (Invasive species are illegal to own in Louisiana.) Denny said that when he first took in Neuty, he called the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries and they said it wasn’t illegal to take in a nutria.
A day after Neuty’s story was published, agents with the Wildlife and Fisheries showed up at the Lacoste home to take Neuty away. However, Neuty was out on the town taking a ride with the Lacoste’s son.
After a petition was filed on Change.com, Wildlife and Fisheries changed their tune and decided to issue a special permit allowing Neuty to stay with his adopted family. “20,000 signatures nationwide. Our friends in Alaska called. He’s in a paper up there,” Denny told KPLC.
Jack Montoucet, secretary for the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries, said, “I think this is a good conclusion for all sides.” Neuty will be required to have regular checkups at the vet and be caged when at work with Denny. Patrons also will no longer be allowed to touch Neuty.
Most people who have wild animals as pets live in the country. One of my relatives picked up a small alligator off the side of the road, put it in the bed of his truck, where it stayed until his mom told him to go put it back. While Neuty’s story has a happy ending, a word to the wise — if you have a wild animal as a pet, keep it a secret.
Man In Need Asks For Socks
A person is either a foot person or not a foot person. There are very few people who fall in the middle of this index. One Lake Charles man definitely falls in the former category if current events are anything to go by.
At the beginning of March, two female juveniles were at the Oberlin city park when a man (later determined to be Daniel James LeBleu) “circled the park for over 30 minutes,” according to KPLC. Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert III detailed the incident. “The juveniles left the park and left town in their vehicle. When the juveniles came back to town, the individual was parked nearby their residence and then began following them once again. The juveniles pulled into a local business in Oberlin where the suspect entered the next driveway, exited his vehicle and approached the juveniles at which point he advised them he was doing a church scavenger hunt and needed their socks. The juveniles gave the suspect their socks and in turn, he gave them a gift card that was supposed to have $50 on it.”
Lebleu was arrested on March 7 on charges of stalking. I argue he should also be charged with robbery as the gift card was empty. Lebleu must’ve been pretty desperate for some dirty socks to spend so much time lurking. And those poor girls, I’m sure, were so terrified that they gave away their socks without question. I hope they weren’t cashmere.
What gets me is the best excuse LeBleu could come up with is that he needed the socks for a church scavenger hunt. If there is a church that hides dirty socks for attendees to find, I’ve never heard of it. It would more likely be a nonreligious organization called The Church of Kink. Meanwhile, we are left to wonder how much LeBleu’s OnlyFans bill is each month.
Governor Seeks To Increase Minimum Wage For Seventh Year
Gov. John Bel Edwards has made it his mission from the time he took office to raise Louisiana’s minimum wage, which currently sits at the measly federal rate of $7.25 an hour. If someone in Louisiana is putting in 40 hours a week at minimum wage, before taxes are taken out, they are making a total of $290 a week. What kind of sick joke is that?
If this infuriates you, you have the Louisiana Legislature to blame. Edwards has proposed a minimum wage increase every year, but the Legislature killed the bill every time. (Two-thirds of lawmakers have to agree to a constitutional amendment for the minimum wage to change.) The bill never gets to the point where the people of Louisiana can vote on it.
In 2017, there was a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $8.50 over a period of two years. In 2018, a proposal brought the amount down to $8. In 2019, a $9 minimum wage was proposed. In 2020, $10 was suggested. In 2021, after a number of states agreed to increase their minimum wage to $15, Louisiana decided to try for $15. It failed. Last year, a bill proposed to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour in the year 2023 and $12 in 2024 and beyond. The bill was dead on arrival.
This year, Edwards is back to urging the Legislature to pass a minimum wage increase. “I have proposed raising the state minimum wage from its dismal $7.25/hour every year that I’ve been governor. It was an unacceptable minimum wage when I took office in 2016, and it’s downright immoral now in 2023 as we deal with inflation,” Edwards recently said.
If the current bill passes through the Legislature, it would pave the way for the public to vote on a $10 minimum wage. I wouldn’t hold my breath on it passing though. If anyone is wondering why Louisiana remains one of the poorest states in the nation, this is a great starting point. Politicians don’t know what’s it’s like to live in the lower or even lower middle class, and frankly, it doesn’t seem as if they care all that much. Think about that the next time a politician asks for your vote.
Louisiana OMV Under Fire For What It Does Best
I’ve never met anyone who likes visiting the OMV. It’s as if the place has the plague. It’s to be avoided at all costs. And that’s why I renewed my driver’s license last year at the Express OMV on the corner of Ryan Street and Prien Lake Road, even if it did cost me more. The employees were friendly and it’s the fastest I’ve ever gotten anything done at an OMV location.
Previous experiences included long wait times, grumpy employees and, I kid you not, a lady telling me she wouldn’t want to see my “pretty face” end up on the road. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences.
That’s why it is with some satisfaction that I report officials with the Louisiana OMV were recently questioned by lawmakers over their horrible customer service. The key issue seems to be over the fact that the main OMV locations require patrons to make appointments. Walk-ins are no longer the norm. The public seems to have missed the memo, though. OMVs have had to turn people away because of their lack of appointments. There also seems to be issues with the phone system. It’s hard to get a live representative. The Louisiana OMV is down 60 employees from full capacity. Reports that workers who answer the phone are rude to patrons is another sticking point.
According to Nola.com, Karen St. Germain, commissioner of Motor Vehicles, and Staci Hoyt, deputy commissioner, said the problems are not only due to the employee shortage but also to “a computer system that has needed improvements for two decades.” Hoyt emphasized that any workers who say they are having a bad day will be encouraged to take leave. “We don’t want (them) on that phone with our customers.”
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