Last Modified: Sunday, November 24, 2013 1:01 AM
Mazzy lives in an undisclosed home away from her family. She has been barred from ever stepping foot in her home again and must live with a host family. Her town decided in March that she is not welcome in New Llano.
Mazzy (May-zee) is the year-old dog of Christine Nelson. Because Mazzy is part American Staffordshire terrier — more commonly known as a pit bull — she can no longer live with her family. “When I got her it was on the back of a bunch of little tragedies,” Nelson said. “It helped me to focus on something different.”
The Nelsons moved to New Llano in August. Christine’s husband, Victor, who’s been in the Army for 18 years, received orders to Fort Polk as his last duty station before retirement. Christine said they were charmed by the local small towns.
New Llano is often the choice for Army families that do not live in post housing. The town is close, affordable and convenient for families and single soldiers who want a small-town feel. But a number of people have moved since the town council banned pit bulls in March.
Under the measure, passed 3-0, no pit bulls or “dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominately of the breeds of dogs known as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier” are allowed in town. Violators’ dogs will be impounded by the New Llano animal control officer.
But Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney at the Best Friends Animal Society, said the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause because it requires owners to prove their animals aren’t pit bulls rather than requiring the town to prove the dogs are pit bulls.
And, she said, the ordinance could run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which includes provisions covering animals that aid the disabled. “I really hope someone lawyers up and sues the city,” she said.
Nelson said she was unaware of the ban when she signed the yearlong lease on her house. When she went to get her water turned on, she said, she was given a letter with all the town rules. “No Pit Bulls or Pit Bull Breeds Of Any Kind Allowed!!!” was handwritten at the bottom of the page.
Nelson said the mayor told her that if she got a DNA test to determine the breed of Mazzy, as a sign of good faith, he would grandfather her dog in. When the results came back, Mazzy was determined to be a mix of American Staffordshire terrier, Boston terrier and boxer. She said the town then rescinded its deal with her.
According to the ordinance, Matthew Mulligan, who had lived in town for a year and a half before the ban passed, could have had his dog, Steeler, grandfathered in. But he said that after he tried to pay his water bill at Town Hall, he was accosted by city workers, who said his dog looked like a pit bull and was in violation of the ban.
“I told her I have the paperwork that states they are not pit bulls by the veterinarian,” Mulligan said.
He said city workers told him he had to get rid of his dog immediately. Within 48 hours, Mulligan had sold all his belongings save his bed and his television and found himself without a home.
But not everyone can afford to up and leave. Nelson said that breaking her lease would cost her $9,000, which is just simply out of reach. Instead, a friend who runs a local rescue group has taken on Mazzy. Nelson said she frequently visits Mazzy, but that goodbyes are still painful. After some playtime, she said, the Nelsons return to their New Llano house, which they will never feel fully at home in. Christine said she has stopped unpacking her things; most of the Nelsons’ belongings remain in boxes.
The pit bull ban was passed in response to a series of attacks perpetrated by the same breed of dog, Mayor Freddie Boswell said at the Nov. 19 town council meeting. He said eight attacks occurred in the two months before the ban — one involving a 2-year-old child who was maimed and is now cognitively impaired.
The American Press requested records on the attacks from the New Llano Police Department. The city instead referred the newspaper to resident Valencia Watson, whose 12-year-old son was attacked by a dog.
Watson said she and her son were doing their normal Saturday routine, getting up late and cleaning house, when he asked to take out the trash. Moments after her son went outside, she said, she heard him cry out for help. “I heard screams from him,” Watson said. “A mother knows.”
Her son’s face and leg had been bitten. Doctors said he would need surgery on his leg and plastic surgery on his face, and they were worried his vision in one eye would be lost. He was released from the hospital after three days, but he missed nearly a month of school because of the attack.
“He’s doing a lot better now,” she said.
Watson said she was unable to get a good look at the dog because she was more concerned about the health of her son. She said her neighbors told her they had not yet found the dog that attacked the boy. The town would release no other information on the dog attacks or the victims.
New Llano residents and pit bull breed supporters crowded the town council meeting Tuesday. Those who wished to speak were allotted two minutes to address officials, although only a handful were given the chance before the regular meeting began. Two people were escorted from the meeting, including Mulligan, as ordered by Boswell.
Resident Kelly Moore said she knows two families that would like to live in New Llano but do not because of the pit bull ban.
Councilwoman Carolyn Todd told the crowd that if they had shown up in similar numbers on the night the ordinance was considered, the measure likely wouldn’t have passed. “All I’m saying is if y’all have this much concern about an issue on a night that it steps on your toes, why is it so hard for y’all to come in here on the fourth Tuesday of every month and let us know?” she said.
Still, Boswell said the ordinance is not set in stone. “Maybe after we get this in we’ll see how it goes,” Boswell said. “Maybe we’ll change it. But you have to start somewhere.”
The effects of the ordinance have been felt in other parts of Vernon Parish. Amanda Scerbo runs Voices for Fur Babies, a rescue group based in Hornbeck. Because of the ban, she said, as many as a hundred dogs have been euthanized and that her group and the Vernon Parish shelter are overwhelmed with the number of dogs they have.
“I’m actually flabbergasted that Boswell believes that the laws do not affect people outside of New Llano,” Scerbo said, referring to the council’s refusal to let nonresidents speak at the meeting.
Scerbo has started a petition at Change.org to ask the council to hold a hearing on the ordinance and consider other solutions.
As for the Nelsons, they said they would happily stay in New Llano if the ban were lifted.
Posted By: W. Petkovich On: 2/20/2014
Title: Pitt bull attacked our retired Military Working Dog
That's right... I was walking our adopted Military Working Dog yesterday in the Leesville/New Llano area. My dog was LEASHED and I was walking down my street when a pitt bull runs around a partial wooden fence, crosses over the road to us and ATTACKS MY DOG for NO reason. Our adopted MWD is VERY friendly with other dogs and although in the military was trained to attack adult humans on command he was not trained to attack other DOGS. He loves meeting new dogs and always wants to play.
The attack happened so fast and luckily I was carrying a big walking stick I had to beat the Pitt bull repeatedly to get him off our dog. I was screaming the entire time and the owner's wife could NOT get the FRIGGIN pitt bull off our dog. My dog did NOTHING... NOTHING! to provoke this attack and I sure as Hell did not either. I have never had any dog try to remotely attack me while walking any of my dogs (We also own a Chihuahua and a Great Pyrenees that we adopted 4 years ago.). Our adopted MWD is very, VERY well-trained and has had small dogs trail after us on walks barking and has totally ignored him. Had our dog been smaller he would have been killed. The vet today as well as Animal Control told me that we were very lucky. Our dog got a bad puncture wound, bruising all around his flanks and shoulders and was in shock last night. The owner told me "Oh, our dog is friendly she's never attacked anyone..." I said, "YOUR dog attacked a retired, military working dog, that has served our country, that was being walked LEASHED..and it was an unprovoked attack." The vet, Animal Control and many others said it's a wonder the pitt didn't turn on me. I am honest to God, shocked at the attack and cried like a baby when we got into our house.... I feel like horrible for letting this wonderful dog be attacked like this. I am also frustrated and discouraged. The owner of the pitt told the sheriff's deputy he would pay for our dog's vet bill and I know he was fined because the pitt bull was not confined (Louisiana has a Leash Law) AND he admitted to the deputy TWICE that the dog is NOT up to date on any of his shots. GREAT. Oh, and yes, this family owns two pitt bulls.
Posted By: Mike Sanders On: 2/6/2014
Title: Mini Bull Terrier has to be removed from home
My wife and i are business owners in the Village of New Llano and we have been bringing Khaos our mini bull terrier to our business for the past 6 months with no problems. Two days ago a police officer shows up and says theres a problem with your dog, i ask whats the problem sir he informs me that a desk clerk at new llano town hall thinks that your dog is a pit bull. I laugh a little and the officer says " I own 2 pitbulls and i know that your dog is not a pitbull but they asked for me to investigate it. I told officer you are correct khaos is not a pit bull and i have the papers i can show you to prove this, i give the officer a copy of khaos's certificate from the ACA showing that he is a "BULL TERRIER" and the officer takes a couple photos after he is done petting khaos and leaves. About 2 hours later he comes back to my business and says you have 24 hrs to remove the dog from the city limits or it will be impounded and you will be fined also when you remove the dog you have to report an address and phone number of the location of the dog, no citations issued he leaves. The next day i go to new llano town hall and present in person my pets certificate from the ACA and all the vet paper work from one of our local vets that incuded the type of breed as bull terrier and all his vaccination records along with his rabies paperwork and the desk clerk says your dog is on the ban list. so i ask how they determine of which breed the dog is and she shows me that they get on GOOGLE.COM and use the search engine and type American Pitbull Terrior and if it shows a picture of your dog then its banned! I then start laughing and say are you serious i am showing you the official paperwork for this dog and yet you choose a google image instead. She then says if you want to protest the dogs breed then you have to pay $200.00 for a blood test to be performed , i say back im showing you the paperwork proving what the dog is and you want me to pay for a blood test because you dont know your breeds of dogs not happening your town can pay for the test if you want it done my dog will not leave my property then i was escorted out .So later two different officers show up and say " Mr._ I am here to issue a citation for failure to comply with a city ordinance". I then say to the officer what ordinance am i not complying with and he says that i have an illegal dog in the city limits, so i ask how do you know that niether of you have seen my dog so how can you issue a citation if you dont know if my dog is even present. He then ask can we search the building and of course i say not without a warrant so he issues me a citation and says if you dont sign it youi will be arrested. So i had my wife to make a phone call to the chief of police of new llano and he informned us that he never sent the officers to my place of buisness that the mayor ordered the officers to come there, and informed me that indeed if i refused to sign the ticket i would be arrested so i did. after the officers left, i went to new llano town hall and got the most recent copie of the ordinance that still does not state my breed of dog in it. Anyone that could help with advice or a known Attourney that would love to have this case please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you B and M
Posted By: J. Chambers On: 11/30/2013
Title: Pit Bulls
All of my grandchildren have been raised with pit bulls in the house and they(grandchildren) are all alive and well.
They are excellent watch dogs. It is in the way you raise them. You can take the tamest kitten and back it in a corner and it will come out fighting. These dogs have gotten a bad rap because some individuals TRAINED these dogs to fight. If you treat these dogs with kindness you will be rewarded with unconditional love. Are you going to tell a veteran returning with his military dog(used for many life saving purposes) that he can't bring his hero dog to live with them. I think not. These dogs are as much military as our veterans are.
Posted By: Katie Breazeale On: 11/25/2013
Title: From the Other Side
Three decades worth of statistics have proven breed bans do not work. Breed bans define you by your “race”. If your dog is a certain “race” your dog is not permissible in that area. Banning a breed does not prevent problematic dogs. Banning a breed does not stop dog-fighting rings. Banning a breed does not stop dog bite statistics.
This is offensive on two levels:
One, as Americans, we proved segregation practices to be unjustifiable in human form. How would this be completely reasonable and justifiable in innocent dogs?
Secondly, why are not the owners being held to the utmost responsibility? Why is the city not being responsible by implementing policies. With the internet and veterinary resources at our disposal, why are we still blaming a dog? Key factors such as socializing, spaying/neutering, alpha leaders and obedience take effort yet the resources are unlimited.
Implement policies such as:
“If living within city limits, dog must be: 1. Spayed/neutered 2. Microchipped 3. Microchip registered 4. Immunizations 5. Leash Law and/or in designated, private fenced-in area”
Our laws have become the poorest representation of justice and progress. Our criminalization on drug use, with millions of dollars spent on interdiction and supply eradication, have proven to not be a war worth fighting. Instead, find reparations for a drug user’s addiction with EDUCATION, TREATMENT, DISCOUNT OPTIONS and ACCOUNTABILITY. This is a parallel of our animals. Vet clinics can come together offering discounted/free “flea dips”, discounted medication, community sponsored spaying/neutering events and the city can fine the hell out of its citizens for not respecting the regulations.
My Staffordshire/Pitbull is a reflection of me, not his breed. If all pits are assumed to be dangerous to society, then mine completely SUCKS at being a pitbull.
Posted By: Keilah McDonald On: 11/24/2013
Title: Unconstitutional... Now Someone Take Action
As the mother of Amanda Scerbo, I have followed this tragedy for some time now. As stated in this article, The Americans with Disabilities Act is federal. If it can be proven that Mazzy is used to help with a disability, New Llano's tiny Corporation Limits, or whatever they are calling themselves these days, cannot trump a federal act. It only takes one person to stand up for what is right. When one can stand and make some noise, more will make noise. The louder the noise, the harder it is to be ignored. Vernon Parish has always been known for their "Good Ole Boy" style when enacting or enforcing the law. It's who you know, not what you know. I hope the people being affected by this dictator style town will take action and take a stand. Know the law, and not just New Llano. Know your state and federal laws because we have something called a Constitution that no man or town can trample on. We have a Bill of Rights, and they include a Due Process Clause. Read these and become familiar with them. The town is responsible for proving what type breed a dog is, not the individual proving what their dog is not. In any prosecution, it is their responsibility to prove the required burden of proof for the action. We still have something in this country called "presumed innocence." This does apply to situations like with Mazzy. From the research I have done, I have not found where anyone could specifically state what type dog attacked the child. This makes this three person voting council without proof for the ordinance they passed. Of course it was 3-0, that is the good ole boy system at its best. Those votes were already set before anybody could attest it. As seen at the meeting mentioned above, the town does what it wants, when it wants. Dateline did a story on The Town of New Llano in the past for doing things "their way." MAKE SOME NOISE...BE HEARD...KNOW YOUR LAWS!
Posted By: Karen Hollis On: 11/24/2013
Title: Pit bulls, a bully breed or best friend?
Pit bulls make the best pet of any animal their are. I should know, I was raised on a farm and have had them all. My husband and I have rescued 3. One from "Best Friends Animals Society" that had been sentenced to death in OK City, I am so surprised at remarks that I hear people say about this breed without doing any research. Please check out web sites like "Best Friends", "Pit Bull Rescue Central". Read books. "I'm a good dog" by Ken Foster, Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet. I have had Vets tell me they would much rather see a Pit Bull than some other breeds, I was told by a pilot in the Military that it is a fact that Pits have a pecking order to pick on smaller dogs. I asked him if they taught him that in Pilot training. I walk my dog on a leash and have been bitten by small dogs that are in yards not fenced in. I also pick up after my pit.