Westwego, Louisiana to Consider Further Breed-Specific Restrictions

From the Times-Picayune:

Westwego officials want to make it more difficult for city residents to own pit bulls. After a near-fatal attack last month, city officials are amending the city’s pit bull ordinance, proposing that the dogs’ owners be at least 21 years old and have at least $100,000 in liability insurance under their homeowner or rental policies, according to a draft version of the city’s new ordinance.

“Those responsible pit bull owners will not have a problem with this, I’m sure, recognizing we do not want to take their dog away,” Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said Wednesday, a day after City Attorney Joel Levy submitted a first draft of the proposed ordinance.

…Under the proposal, owners must have microchips installed in the animals to track them if they escape. Breeding pit bulls will be banned, and the dogs must be spayed or neutered, Shaddinger said. If not confined to backyards, the dogs must be muzzled and must be walked on leashes no longer than 4 feet, he said.

Licensing fees haven’t been set, but the punishment for violating the ordinance could include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500, Shaddinger said.

Responsible “pit bull” owners do have a problem with this.   Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is unconstitutional, it unfairly scrutinizes law-abiding “pit bull” owners because of what a very few so-called “pit bull” owners do, and it erroneously defines “pit bull” as if it were an actual breed.   That and should “pit bull” owners in Westwego be assured that Westwego won’t eventually take their dogs away since this will be the second addition to an already existing breed-specific ordinance?   If Bluefield, W.V. is any indication, breed-specific ordinances often escalate to out-and-out bans, so if I were in Westwego, I wouldn’t be consoled by the fact that the Mayor says he doesn’t want to take my dog away.   Yeah, maybe not this time, but since Westwego is currently considering an escalation in their already not working BSL, how can Westwego citizens really trust that city officials don’t want to take their “pit bulls” away?  

The article went on to note that,

Westwego’s elected officials clamored for more restrictions after Linda Henry, 54, was attacked by three of her four pit bulls inside her Avenue A home on March 14. She lost an eye and an ear, and the back of her scalp was torn off during the attack. The dogs chewed her arms so badly that doctors had to amputate them, officials said.

All four dogs were shot by Westwego police officers as they rescued Henry from the attack. She remains hospitalized. Henry’s roommate has said he raised the dogs and bred them. One of the pit bulls had just had a litter; the puppies were taken by the SPCA, Shaddinger said.

This situation would likely have been no different had it been another breed of comparable size if someone had gotten between the unaltered dogs and their newly-born litter.   Yet Westwego thinks they will stop such a random and isolated event from happening again by proposing a “pit bull” sterilization ordinance?   What happens when an unaltered Labrador who has just had a litter attacks someone like this?   Will Labradors be banned too, or will that just be seen as an isolated incident and not the dog’s fault because the owner should have known better than to get between an unaltered dog and a newborn litter?

And Westwego already has a pre-existing “pit bull” ordinance that clearly isn’t working, so why not remove the breed-specific aspect of the ordinance, and just propose escalating fees and penalties for owners of all dog breeds?   A well-written dangerous dog (owner) law goes far in deterrence.   As Westwego has already proven, breed-specific laws are ineffective.

Please contact the Westwego City Council here and politely inform them that BSL is unconstitutional, ineffective, and unenforceable (though they may already know these things).


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