Debate Over Pit Bulls

Reported by: Britney Glaser

The tragic pit bull attack in Longville has once again sparked the debate over the nature of these dogs and the rules in place to ensure safety in homes and neighborhoods.

It just takes one incident, like Sunday's mauling of 24-year-old Kelli Chapman, to shine the spotlight again on the highly publicized and often controversial pit bull breed.  While animal ordinances are already in place across Southwest Louisiana, some say that more needs to be done to control dogs of all breeds.

For years, pit bulls have been associated with dog-fighting rings and stamped as unpredictably aggressive by many.  Diana Morales with Calcasieu Parish Animal Control says, "They are very tenacious and they're very agile and that's one of the things that makes them dangerous when they get into that situation."

Morales has worked with Calcasieu Parish Animal Control for twenty years.  She says there has been a steady demand for dogs deemed "macho dogs" despite their reputations.  "I've seen the chow go through that phase," says Morales, "and the rottweiler and the doberman and I think the pit bull has just hung on a lot longer than any of those dogs."

While pit bulls have offered pet owners companionship and loyalty, the risks involved in owning any large-breed dog are escalated.  DeRidder veterinarian Ted Hoerner says, "The size and the nature and the strength of the animal is what the difference is. You can fend off a little chihuahua trying to attack you versus a pit bull."

Across the country, many city councils have proposed legislation banning pit bulls altogether. Since 2006, the Sulphur City Council has been working to create an ordinance that caters to all dogs - not just pit bulls.  Sulphur City Council President Nancy Tower says, "Three main reasons I believe we didn't move forward with breed-specific legislation - one of them is that it's hard to distinguish a pit bull, another one was just related to how many people already had pit bulls as family animals and then the third reason is that any dogs 40 pounds or over pose a threat."

In the five parish area of Southwest Louisiana, the dangerous dog and vicious dog ordinances are pretty similar.  If an animal bites, attacks or threatens a human without being provoked, it can be labeled "vicious" and confinement restrictions can be imposed.

While the existing ordinances have been effective in a low number of dog attacks, Sunday's fatal mauling is bringing attention to a possible need for more restrictions on potentially dangerous dogs.  Chief Deputy Robert McCullough with the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office says, "This fuels the controversy about pit bull dogs. This will probably create discussion again between lawmakers in Beauregard Parish about any ordinances."

*There's no official word yet if the Beauregard Parish Police Jury will take up the issue of more stringent animal ordinances.  In Allen Parish, the city of Kinder is still considering a total ban on pit bulls, and in Calcasieu Parish, the Sulphur City Council is now looking at limiting tethering time for dogs to lessen potential aggression.