On May 14, there will be a public meeting at City Hall at 5 p.m. to discuss how the city is aiming to more closely follow to its authority regarding pit bulls.
“It’s going to be an informative meeting, letting residents know that we are going to start enforcing the ordinance,” explained Public Works director Willie McKee.
The meeting will be directed by McKee, the city’s animal control officer and the assistant police chief.
McKee said the city has seen an increase in both the number of complaints from residents about harassment from the dogs, or attacks from them.
In response, the city government is responding by looking to enforce an existing ordinance concerning “dangerous dogs,” and specifically pit bulls.
In April 2009 the mayor and aldermen approved an amendment to the city’s animal and fowl ordinance that specifically categorizes pit bulls as a “dangerous dog.”
In section 5-29, the ordinance reads that the owner of such a dog must not allow it to exit its pen unless it’s on a leash no longer than four feet, and not without a muzzle.
Additionally, the dog must be confined indoors or in an outdoor space with an encompassing fence at least eight feet high.
Owners must also post warning signs, pay for a $50 license and place a red circular tag on the dog signifying that it’s a “dangerous dog.”
Dog owners who have six of the same breed are considered by the city ordinance to be a dog breeder and are thus subject to additional regulations.
Failure for dangerous dog owners to comply with the ordinances are deemed a misdemeanor and the dog is subject to immediate seizure and impoundment.
McKee said that for a period after the ordinance was first passed, pit bull owners adhered to the regulations, but since then “they have become relaxed,” he said.
Pit bulls are popular with dog enthusiasts in Morehouse Parish, just as they have become popular in most parts of the country. Enthusiasm for them is based partly on their loyalty and partly on notoriety for being vicious and violent.
The breed has long been targeted by some owners who engage them in fighting contests.
Local governments continue to face the complexity of trying to regulate them for the safety of others and permit owners to have them as pets.
A state supreme court in Maryland ruled last month that pit bulls are “inherently dangerous.”
Now there’s debate as to what legal implications that could have in the rest of the nation. Under the ruling, not just pit bull owners, but landlords who have the dogs living on their property are now liable for their actions.
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At the Morehouse Humane Society facility, a worker who didn’t want to be identified said Friday that the shelter generally has a few pit bull breeds, though it varies.
The shelter has had, in the past few months, at least two incidents where pit bulls were stolen from its facility overnight.
The meeting’s organizers hope that concerned residents and dog owners will attend.
“We will be discussing a grace period for dog owners, to give them a chance to comply” with the regulations, McKee said.