Jordan Gribble / Houma Courier
Whether the fatal dog attack on 4-year-old Mia DoRouen of Houma on March 25 will have any effect on Terrebonne Parish's dog ordinance is uncertain, officials said.
“We reviewed our ordinance after the attack, and I think our law is in very good shape right now. It's one of the best in the state,” Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet said. “Our ordinance was well debated, and we're not going to have a breed-specific ordinance. I've got my finger on the pulse of this parish, and it doesn't want a breed-specific ban.”
Some Parish Council members disagree, saying they think the ordinance needs to be reviewed and possibly changed, but only after the investigation of this incident is closed.
“It's easy to say after a tragic event such as this one that we want to change everything. But we have to do it in a prudent manner that's fair to everyone,” Councilman Danny Babin said. “A human life is much more important to me than that of an animal. Do we need to address the issue again? Yes. Should we wait until we have all the facts of this investigation? Yes.”
The ordinance was enacted in 2011 and outlines criteria to label certain dogs as dangerous or vicious but does not single out any one breed. The dog that attacked last week may be any one of a number of breeds, such as an American bully or a pit bull and Mastiff mix, police said.
Under the law, a dog is labeled as dangerous if it bites or severely injuries anyone, kills any other animal or engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action.
A dog labeled as dangerous is considered vicious under the law if unprovoked when it aggressively attacks a person and either kills or causes serious injury. Dogs deemed vicious are killed under the law.
Parishes and cities across the state have enacted measures to restrict or ban pit bulls and other particular breeds. Morgan City and Mamou are among the six cities in the state that ban the breed outright. Eighteen other cities and four parishes have restricted ownership of the breed and officially labeled it as dangerous or vicious.
“I was part of that original discussion. At the time we were having problems with mailmen being attacked, and then a boy had his face mauled,” Council Chairwoman Arlanda Williams said. “We thought about passing breed-specific laws, but we had a lot of people contact us and bring us information that made us decide against it.”
She now has second thoughts.
“It's sad that a child had to die for us to have to realize that we need to put stricter laws in place. But I personally think that this is something we need to look at again,” she said.
Some residents said they disagree with a pit bull ban.
“I'd move,” said Karmen Blanchard, 29, of Houma. “I'd definitely have to move if they banned pit bulls because I'm not willing to give up my dog because someone else didn't raise theirs right and it attacked someone.”
Some said the breed has been unfairly discriminated against and the blame for attacks lies with the dog owner, not the dog.
“I don't think that it's the breed as much as it is about responsible pet ownership,” said Nicki Breaux, 32, Houma, chairwoman of the Pit Stop Rescue group. “Given the right circumstances any dog can be aggressive, and I don't think that a breed ban gets down to the problem itself, which is the people who own these dogs. Every owner should regardless of the breed properly educate themselves on pet ownership and properly socialize and train their dog, especially when there are kids in the home.”
One Houma woman said she understands both sides of the issue, having had to have her pit bull killed after it bit her 3-year-old daughter's hand. The family now has a new 1-year-old pit bull named Rosco that she said is part of her family.
“After we put our dog to sleep, we said that maybe we wouldn't get another pit bull. But then we tried other dogs that didn't work out. We got Rosco, and he's both of my kids' best friends,” Heather Naquin, 25, said. “Rosco is smart, very loyal and easy to train. It's a hard issue because I can understand where other people are coming from when they say that they're dangerous. But if you give them the chance they really are awesome dogs.”