Jacob Batte / Houma Courier

The Terrebonne Parish Council passed an ordinance Wednesday to increase the penalties for owners of dangerous and vicious dogs, and the Lafourche Parish Council may consider similar legislation in the wake of a Sunday pit bull attack on a Chackbay resident.

Included in Terrebonne's new ordinance are an increase in the license fee from $10 to $150 plus a $150 fine for owners of dogs deemed dangerous based on new criteria. Owners of animals deemed vicious would pay a $500 fine. And owners who fail to comply with existing standards for having a dangerous dog would incur a $500 fine.

Terrebonne Parish Animal Shelter Manager Valerie Robinson said the criteria for dangerous or vicious animals are 'not breed specific.' Instead, the label will depend on the animal's behavior.

Terrebonne's dangerous and vicious dog regulations state that a 'dangerous' dog is one that meets any of the following criteria:

-- Engages in any unprovoked behavior that requires a defensive action from a person when the owner and dog are off the owner's property.

-- Bites and severely injures anyone while unprovoked on or off the owner's property.

-- Bites and severely injures or kills any other animal while unprovoked on or off the owner's property.

-- Exhibits any other behavior that warrants the designation as determined by an administrative hearing panel.

The administrative panel consists of the parish manager, Houma Police chief and parish Risk Management Department director.

'Once a complaint is filed, an investigation is launched,' Robinson said.

Robinson said the panel will consider witness testimony and physical evidence before any rulings.

Animals under suspicion of being dangerous would be impounded pending the panel's ruling.

After an animal is determined to be dangerous, it must be spayed or neutered at the owner's expense, all fees and fines must be paid and a compliance inspection of the owner's residence by animal control officials must be conducted before it can be returned to the owner.

The ordinance also makes it illegal to chain or tether an animal to a stationary object, regardless of tether length. Animals can now only be tethered with a 'running line, pulley or trolley system.'

'This makes tethering much more humane if these rules are followed,' said Councilwoman Beryl Amedee.

Under existing laws, a vicious dog is one that attacks and severely injures or kills any person on or off the owner's property while unprovoked or that attacks a person after being previously labeled as dangerous.

An animal deemed vicious by the panel is immediately and humanely killed and its owner or owners are fined $500.

The ordinance passed with a single abstention from Councilman Russell Hornsby.

Lafourche Parish Councilman John Arnold said he will reintroduce legislation amending Lafourche's vicious animal ordinance at the council's Aug. 12 meeting following a recent Chackbay pit bull attack.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday, 41-year-old Molly Mire was bitten by a pit bull, authorities said. The dog's owner, Crystal Percle, was walking the dog and had stopped to visit with Mire when it attacked her.

Mire suffered two large gashes on her left arm and was transported to Thibodaux Regional Medical Center where she was treated for her injuries. Mire didn't wish to pursue criminal charges.

'The dog has been transported to the Lafourche Parish Animal Shelter for observation. Deputies learned Percle had not obtained proper vaccinations, and she was cited per parish ordinance,' said Lafourche Sheriff's Office spokesman Brennan Matherne.

Arnold's original measure would have required owners to pay an annual $25 fee for any vicious breed that's 3 months of age or older and pay an additional $200 for a permit if the owner wants to breed the pet.

Arnold said he's been studying laws in other parishes and didn't have details on how he will amend his proposal.

Morgan City and Mamou are among six Louisiana cities that ban pit bulls. Eighteen other cities and four parishes have restricted ownership of the breed and label it as dangerous or vicious.

Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes require a general license for animal ownership. In Terrebonne, the fee is $5 if your dog or cat is spayed or neutered. The fee is $10 otherwise. Lafourche has a $1 fee for dogs.
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