Thursday, June 28, 2007

BSL comes to Baton Rouge

Because there so few problems for them to work on, the Baton Rouge city council is now working on some breed specific legislation which will do nothing to keep people safe, and everything to mislead the public about "dangerous" dogs. I'm all for enforcing existing laws pertaining to all dogs. This rarely happens. But with elections coming up, its always nice to be able to claim you have saved lives with a new piece of legislation. Here's the story:

By SCOTT DYER
Advocate staff writer
Published: Jun 28, 2007 - Page: 1B

Despite concerns from the parish attorney, Metro Councilman Mike Walker is moving ahead with tough new regulations aimed exclusively at pit bulls. Parish Attorney Wade Shows repeatedly has warned against regulations that treat pit bull owners differently from other dog owners, claiming there's a good chance the rules could be found unconstitutional.

"Last time I checked, the parish attorney works for the council, and he has to be prepared to defend whatever we pass in court," Walker said. "He needs to be ready to go to court if somebody wants to sue us over this, and he needs to defend it strongly," Walker added. Shows said Wednesday he still has concerns about the breed-specific regulations Walker is pushing.

"My legal opinion is that it is problematic, but the person who makes the final decision about whether it is problematic is a judge," Shows said. As parish attorney, Shows said his job is to give advice and make recommendations so the regulations would withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Shows said a draft ordinance released Wednesday is his office's best effort to recommend breed-specific regulations that might stand up in court. His office is warning against an outright ban of pit bulls. The proposed ordinance, drafted by Assistant Parish Attorney Nikki Essix, would require owners of pit bulls to get special licenses and abide by regulations that would not apply to other dog owners.

Pit bulls would have to be registered within 180 days after the ordinance were passed, and owners would be required to have microchips installed in the dogs to identify them. Breeding of pit bulls would be prohibited in residential neighborhoods. If kept outside, pit bulls would have to be confined in a crate or in a pen or kennel within a locked, fenced yard. A home or business with a pit bull would have to post a sign saying "Pit Bull on Premises."

Pit bulls would be prohibited from entering schools, day-care centers or nursing homes. Essix drafted the regulations at the suggestion of a committee consisting of Walker, his legislative assistant Zona Pickens, city-parish Animal Control Director Hilton Cole, Sherwood Citizens Association President Jackie Gray and civic activist Gary Patureau, who witnessed a pit bull attack on a young boy this spring.

Walker said the tough regulations likely would prompt fierce opposition from pit bull owners. "I don't know what we're realistically going to be able to pass, but I am going for what's in writing (in the draft), and the council can make any changes that it deems necessary," Walker said. Walker introduced the proposed regulations Wednesday, which are set to go before the council's Executive and Finance Committee on July 18.

WHO TO CONTACT:
Hilton Cole, animal control: hcole@brgov.com
Mike Walker: council-dist8@brgov.com
Joe Greco, Mayor Pro-Tempore, council-dist4@brgov.com
The rest of the council has addresses running for council-dist1 through council-dist12.

Nikki Essix, the ill informed lawyer who drafted the plan, can be reached at nikki@scbllp.com.

Wade Shows, the only person who seems to know what he's talking about, can use some support at pa@brgov.com

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