The St. Mary’s Parish Council has recently voted unanimously to ban pit bulls within unincorporated areas of the parish.
As reported in Franklin’s Daily Iberian, the ordinancemakes it illegal to:
own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport or sell any pit bull…in the designated areas of St. Mary Parish. It also provides restrictions and stipulations to any owner currently owning the breed as of the bill’s starting date of July 1.
According to District 6 Councilman Logan Fromenthal, the goal of the ban is to prevent dangerous pit bull accidents that can result in death or loss of limbs. The passage was not without controversy, however. Intense debate ensued prior to passage of the ordinance as well as at a public hearing on January 13th. Residents questioned the harsh restrictions of the ordinance in particular. The ordinance was amended to address some of the public’s concerns. For example, the annual requirement for people who own pit bulls to obtain a license was changed to a one time $50 licensing fee and the sign requirement for those with a pit bull was changed from “Beware Dangerous Dog” to “Beware of Dog.”
Restrictions in the ordinance apply to people who currently own pit bulls and are grandfathered in to the regulations. Additional restrictions for current owners include:
- Pit bulls must be micro-chipped and have a license tag on their collar.
- Pit bulls must be kept in a secure pen with a concrete floor at least 2 1/2 inches thick and a fence at least 6 feet high.
- Any owner who violates the ordinance is fined no less than $500 for a first offense and $300-500 for a second offense. After a third offense a $500 fee is charged and the pit bull is impounded.
St. Mary’s parish is not the only part of Louisiana that is serious about the dangers of dog bites. Controversial ordinances aside, someone injured by an animal anywhere in the state can bring an action against the owner of the animal that has hurt them under Art. 2321 of Louisiana’s Civil Code.
Under the statute, “the owner of an animal is answerable for the damage caused by the animal,” if it is shown that he knew or should have known that the behavior of the animal would cause damage and failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent that damage. If the owner of a dog could have prevented injury to another person and the dog was not provoked, the owner will be held strictly liable for damages such as the cost of medical expenses or compensation for pain and suffering.
A finding of strict liability is very important because it allows an injured party to bypass the duty and breach elements of a traditional negligence claim. As an example, if the owner of a dog violates Art. 2321 and another person is injured, the owner is liable without the injured person having to separately prove that she was owed a duty by the owner and the duty was breached.
If you were injured by an animal bite there could be a variety of vehicles under which you may be able to recover damages. Whether it be through an action brought under a local ordinance like this pit bill restriction or under state law, an excellent attorney is key to a successful liability claim.