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/ Staff Writer Houma Courier

The Lafourche Parish Council approved a measure to tighten ownership restrictions for dangerous and vicious dogs in its Tuesday meeting.

As with a similar law passed by the Terrebonne Parish Council this summer, the ordinance is not breed specific.

Under the new ordinance, owners of dogs declared dangerous or vicious are required to hold liability insurance, pay breeding fees and have their animals micro-chipped.

The ordinance will help to increase accountability for owners of these dangerous animals, said Councilman John Arnold, the bill's sponsor.

This ordinance is an amended version of one voted down by the council in May.

Arnold said the first measure was voted down because the majority of the council didn't agree with a $25 ownership licensing fee.

The only fee included in the new ordinance is the $200 license for breeding dangerous or vicious animals. Arnold said the fee is designed to regulate 'backyard breeding.'

'There's nobody regulating who's selling these animals, how they're selling them, who they're selling them to. And a lot of these animals are inbred animals that are going into homes,' Arnold said.

Mandatory microchips for animals deemed dangerous will be installed at the owner's expense.

Microchips allow for immediate registration and identification of dangerous animals, Arnold said.

The implants are installed under the skin between the animal's shoulder blades. Each will cost roughly $60.

The ordinance also broadens the definition of dangerous dogs to 'any animal which when unprovoked has killed, seriously bitten or otherwise caused severe injury to any human or animal on or off the property of the animal.'

For Arnold, the major point of the ordinance is that owners of vicious animals are required to carry liability insurance.

'Since the last time I introduced a similar ordinance a few months ago, there have been several attacks by vicious animals. And the owners of some of those animals did not have insurance,' Arnold said.

Owners of vicious animals are required to maintain liability insurance of at least $500,000.

A vicious dog, according to the existing parish ordinance, is any that 'has without provocation inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property; has killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner's property; or has previously been found to be a 'dangerous animal.' '

There was some concern among the council that enforcement of the new ordinance will be difficult.

'The only problem I have is it's just like controlling guns. Who's going to enforce it?' Councilman Joseph Fertitta said.

Fertitta said he liked the ordinance in theory, but he doesn't think it will change negligent behavior.

Councilman Lindel Toups agreed.

'The responsible people are going to take care of their dogs,' Toups said.

Enforcement on past animal ordinances was lax, Toups said. He said his granddaughter was attacked by a German shepherd, and the owner refused to take action.

He joked that he rectified the situation by poisoning the animal.

In spite of enforcement concerns, Councilman Phillip Gouaux said the ordinance would draw needed attention to the issue of dog attacks in Lafourche.

'This is going to enlighten a lot of people and open eyes of a lot of people that have animals,' Gouaux said.

Though he conceded that the parish would not be able to actively enforce the requirements of ownership, Gouaux said it provides recourse if an attack happens.

'If you have a vicious dog, it attacks somebody, and the law gets involved and you don't meet the requirements, you're going to suffer the consequences,' Gouaux said. 'That's the motivation I see behind it.'

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