The Webster Parish Police Jury is exploring options on how to handle threatening or vicious dogs in the parish’s neighborhoods.
During a committee meeting Tuesday, Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson explained two options the jury can take to handle vicious animal complaints.
“You have two paths you can go,” Jackson said. “There is a criminal path with a citation to the owner based on parish ordinance, and there is a state vicious animals ordinance. They really are not the best way to handle a situation like this.”
He says the best way to handle a vicious dog is to have an administrative hearing at a police jury meeting, take evidence, declare the animal vicious and then file a civil suit.
“The court then hears the evidence and can declare the animal vicious to the point where the animal can be put down,” he said. “That’s assuming it’s not a stray animal without an owner. If it’s a stray animal it’s a whole different story.”
Jackson says it’s a case-by-case basis in that every situation is different.
“If a five-year-old is riding his bike and turns around in your driveway, technically he’s trespassing,” he said. “But that does not excuse an owner for a pit bull to attack that child when he enters the driveway. You have to look at each case by itself.”
In June, District 3 Juror Daniel Thomas brought up the issue following an attack on an elderly woman by a pit bull. Thomas says the dog has since been put down; however, he is concerned about another pit bull in his neighborhood and wants to make sure the parish has due process by which a victim can utilize to stop another attack.
“We’ve got two more pit bulls out there that are roaming the area,” he said. “They haven’t attacked anyone yet, but they are out on the road that everybody normally walks, and they are on public property.”
Another issue is the parish and the state does not have leash laws on the books, Jackson said.
“In most municipalities, they will have leash laws,” he said.
Secretary Treasurer Ronda Carnahan says one issue with picking up dogs is not having a facility in which to take them.
“I don’t want to bother somebody with a squirrel dog, or a hunting dog doing something,” Thomas said. “That’s different. I want to make sure we have teeth with threatening dogs. If the dog is OK, that’s fine, but the first time somebody feels threatened, I feel like it needs to end right then. Somehow we need to put some teeth into it.”
The jury has asked Jackson to bring the state law to the August committee meeting for further discussion on how the parish can strengthen its own ordinance.