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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hedge-Morrell To Propose New Dog Laws

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 5:31 PM

With the recent spate of dog attacks, Council District D representative Cynthia Hedge-Morrell says the incoming city council needs to pass laws to combat the problem. She plans on introducing a spaying and neutering ordinance later this year, and she will also propose a law requiring owners of certain dangerous breeds, including pit bulls, to cage the dogs in kennels.

“You can’t just keep sticking your head in the sand, and saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to offend this person,’ or ‘I’m going to offend that person.’”

It’s not the first time Hedge-Morrell has tackled the issue.

After a pit bull attack in 2008, Hedge-Morrell explored proposing an ordinance outlawing the breed in Orleans Parish. She says, however, the city’s law department told her the proposed legislation could be legally challenged in court, so the council rep collaborated with Louisiana SPCA director Ana Zorrilla on a different approach. Because unneutered, non-spayed, or “intact” dogs, are 2.6 times more likely to attack than neutered animals, Hedge-Morrell’s ordinance would have required owners to have their dogs fixed, or buy a breeder’s permit.

Hedge-Morrell introduced the legislation to the council in September 2009, and she says she had the necessary four votes to pass the legislation.

“Until the American Kennel Club came after me,” Hedge-Morrell says.

Hedge-Morrell says after the AKC, breeders and other associations began a letter-writing campaign protesting the legislation, she withdrew the ordinance for consideration because there wasn’t enough council support to pass it. Hedge-Morrell still thinks it was a good bill because the fees and fines generated by the ordinance would have gone to the LASPCA to assist with animal control: overpopulation, random breeding and violent attacks. She says the city does not currently require breeders to hold permits.

“So if you’re a professional breeder we don’t tax you,” Hedge-Morrell says. “If you’re a backyard breeder, we don’t tax you.”

Without a dedicated funding stream for animal control — under budgetary constraints, the city couldn’t pay the LASPCA for services in the last two months of 2009 — Hedge-Morrell says unwanted and intact dogs will continue to roam the streets and attacks will continue.

Ken Foster, local author (Dogs Who I Have Met: And the People They Found) who started the Sula Foundation, dedicated to the support of responsible pit bull ownership, says dog attacks happen because of abusive and neglectful owners, not because of the dog’s breed. He says the media unfairly hypes pit bulls as vicious animals, and that other dogs can also attack.

“If someone’s bitten by a pit bull, it’s reported by 500 media outlets,” Foster says. “But if somebody is bitten really bad by a black lab or a golden retriever, it’ll be reported maybe in the local paper and that’s all.”

Foster says he would like more low cost spaying and neutering options available to dog owners, but he’s unsure a spaying and neutering law would be effective.

“We just had two months in which the city refused to pay for animal control, so there was no animal control,” Foster says. “Now we’re trying to put in a mandatory spaying and neutering law that will be enforced, how?”

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