A recent dog bite has led to discussion of how the Webster Parish Police Jury can toughen its stance regarding vicious animals.
Webster Parish Sheriff’s Capt. Barry James says they received a call around 6:40 p.m., Sunday, June 5, regarding a dog bite. The woman was walking her dog and was transported to the emergency room at Springhill Medical Center for injuries. At this time, the severity of her injuries is unknown and the disposition of the dog also could not be confirmed.
Juror Daniel Thomas, District 3, raised the topic in Tuesday’s committee meeting saying he was not only worried about the 79-year-old victim, but about what can be done to stop such an occurrence again.
“I witnessed this and it’s really heart-shaking,” Thomas said. “We have a dog problem in my district, and I have called the sheriff’s office and filled out complaints, especially on this one gentleman, and I knew it was going to happen.”
He explained to jurors what happened, and he says when he pulled up where the incident occurred, he could see the victim on the ground and a pit bull barking in her face.
“I get up there and the pit bull grabbed her right below her hip, and her whole leg was just solid blood,” he said. “We need something on these dogs. This is ugly; I know we have a leash law, and I know people love their dogs, and they think they’re not mean. This was vicious. This is getting worse, and it’s not getting any better.”
Thomas wants to see the current law strengthened to stop these types of attacks. He says he wants to see the dogs leashed or penned up.
Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson says there are two civil remedies to the issue.
“You can implement a vicious animals ordinance,” he said. “You may already have one on the books; you identify the animal and bring a vicious animal petition, and a court will judge the information you have. Through that process, they can put the animals down, and typically what happens through that process is suddenly the owners get religion, decide to fence the animals or relocate the animals, which is what you want.”
He said the second remedy is through the leash law, which can be done by street, neighborhood or by area.
“You can identify breeds as vicious and mandate fencing and/or leashes,” he said. “Of course, you’re going to fill the room up with the dog lovers, and that’s just the way it will be. You can identify a breed as vicious and then mandate certain requirements.”
Police jury officials say they don’t have animal control other than the use of the two veterinarians as shelters.
“If we can make it a criminal action, we can gain some traction,” Thomas said. “Right now, we don’t have any traction.”
If they decide to criminalize and identify certain breeds as vicious dogs, then the most that can be done is fine the dog owner $500 and/or up to six months in jail on a misdemeanor offense, Jackson said.
At the next meeting, the police jury will ask a vicious breed expert to come in and talk to them about the issue further.