The town of Westwego Louisiana can breathe a bit easier. Councilman Glen Green, who has been adamantly pushing a breed ban, has pulled the ordinance.
A friend and constituent of Councilman Green’s was severely injured after being attacked by her boyfriend’s dogs, which were identified by the couple as pit bulls. Early reports quoted Green as saying that he blamed the dogs owner, the victim’s boyfriend, saying he “did not properly take care of his animals.”
In spite of this, Green had been pushing to make Westwego’s current breed discriminatory ordinance into an all out ban.
There had been a lot of confusion about what the proposal actually entailed, with some even claiming that this proposal was not a breed discriminatory ordinance, based on massive miscommunication from some in the area. Westwego’s full ordinance can be viewed here. It is clear from reading the ordinance that this was a ban. Only dogs registered within 60 days of the ordinances passage would have been allowed to stay, and only after the owners complied with a long list of requirements including $100,000 in liability insurance, confinement requirements inside and outside the house, spay/neuter and a host of other regulations.
According to a story on NOLA.com, Green pulled the proposal indefinitely after failing to garner the support of his fellow council members.
A public hearing was held on the matter, during which clear opposition came from the newly elected council members, as well as the residents. Only one resident spoke in favor of a breed discriminatory ordinance but, according to the report, they supported the current breed discriminatory law that is on the books in Westwego. Current law requires owners of pit bulls to confine the dog in a kennel when not under the supervision of the owner or inside the house and restrict the number of targeted dogs allowed. The owner of the dogs involved in the attack was in violation of all the current restrictions in Westwego.
One Councilman pointed out that the insurance was impossible to get. Insurance coverage in Louisiana tends to be extremely discriminatory towards certain breeds of dogs, making getting coverage nearly impossible. Coverage that could have been obtained is incredibly expensive.
The most profound statement in the article was made by Fifth District Councilman Larry Warino Sr., “Legislation after the fact is sometimes not the best legislation.”
Councilman Green claims that he has received death threats over this matter. It is never right to threaten officials, no matter how much we may disagree with their opinion. Councilman Green’s heart was in the right place, feeling that he was doing something to try to protect the community and finding justice for the victim, who Green described as a close friend. The fact that he did not know the repercussions of this ordinance speaks more to a lack of knowledge on the topic than anything else. It is never to the benefit of the community to speak out of anger or emotion. One could say that this ordinance was drafted out of emotion. We can and must do better. The facts are on the side of owner focused, breed neutral laws. The case for public safety needs no threats or emotional pleas to be recognized and is better received when those things are left out of the discussion.
The injuries the victim suffered are life altering in a way many of us will never be able to comprehend. When a friend is hurt this way, we all experience anger and a sense of helplessness. Often breed discriminatory laws are proposed or enacted as a result of these feelings. Cooler heads must prevail on all sides in order for the community to benefit and become a safe and humane community for all.
Though Green is saying his proposal is pulled indefinitely, it may still become an issue in the future. When an official does not let a proposal get voted down, it usually means they intend to bring it forward in the future. Now would be the time for residents and locals to reach out to offer strong breed neutral alternative. We do hope that officials take a look at their current laws to find the weaknesses and strengthen them in a breed neutral way to make everyone safe from reckless dog owners, no matter what their dog looks like.
Thank you Ken Foster and the Sula Foundation for the ordinance and for your continued work in the area fighting for a breed neutral law.