Residents in New Llano, Louisiana are hoping to change an ordinance passed in March 2013 that bans pit bulls or “dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of dogs known as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers.”
Since the law passed, a number of residents have been forced to give up their dogs, and others who were able or could afford to do so, moved out of the town because of the ordinance and its impact on their families.
According to Mayor Freddie Boswell, the pit bull ban was passed in response to a series of attacks “perpetrated by the same breed of dog.” He stated that eight “pit bull” attacks occurred in the two months before the ban. However, when the investigating newspaper, The American Press, requested records related to the attacks from the New Llano Police Department, they were instead referred to a resident whose son was attacked by a dog. The child’s mother told reporters that she did not get a good look at the dog and the dog was never found.
The town would release no other information on the alleged dog attacks or the victims.
The issue recently gained attention after the Nelsons, a career military officer and his wife, were forced to rehome their dog, Mazzy, because she met the description of “pit bull” as defined by the ordinance. They moved to the charming town of New Llano in August after Mr. Nelson was stationed to nearby Fort Polk on his last post before retirement after 18 years in the army. They were unaware of the breed specific ordinance when they signed the year-long lease on their house.
The mayor told the Nelsons that if they had a DNA test done to determine Mazzy’s breed, as a sign of good faith, he would grandfather Mazzy in. Never mind the fact that it is the city’s responsibility to determine Mazzy’s breed, as well as pay for the DNA testing, even more troubling, when the results of the test came back indicating Mazzy was a mix of American Staffordshire terrier, Boston terrier and boxer, the town rescinded its deal with the Nelsons.
Mazzy now lives in an undisclosed area out of the city limits.
According to the ordinance, dogs that lived in New Llano prior to its passage were permitted to remain in town under a grandfather clause. Unfortunately, the city, once again exhibiting its inability to honor its obligations, has forced residents of supposedly “grandfathered” dogs to remove their dogs from the city, as well.
In November, residents crowded the town council meeting in order to address town officials on the problems with the ordinance and its effect both in and outside of New Llano. They explained that the ban was preventing families who wanted to move to New Llano from doing so. In addition, the ban has had a devastating impact in other parts of Vernon Parish. Animal welfare advocates explain that as many as one hundred dogs have been euthanized, and the shelter and surrounding rescues are overwhelmed with dogs who meet the physical description of “pit bull” and can no longer live in New Llano.
While no action was taken at the November meeting, Mayor Boswell indicated that the town council may be open to changing the ordinance.
New Llano is a small town with little to no online presence. If you are in or around Vernon Parish, please reach out to town officials and encourage them to open discussions on the ordinance that bans dogs based on their appearance rather than their behavior, tears families apart, and is forcing families to move out of (or not move into) New Llano.
For those not in the area, a petition on change.org has been started to ask the town council to hold a hearing on the ordinance and consider alternative solutions. You can show your support by signing the petition.