Last Modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 1:49 PM
A New Llano couple filed suit against the town in federal court Wednesday, claiming the town’s ban on pit bulls and pit-bull-like breeds violates dog owners’ equal protection, property and due process rights.
Christine and Victor Nelson moved to New Llano in August, after Victor, an Army staff sergeant, was assigned to Fort Polk.
The Nelsons said they were unaware of the town’s ban, which applies to “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.”
The Nelsons own a mixed-breed dog named Mazzy, which was banned by the town after a DNA test, ordered by Mayor Freddie Boswell, showed Mazzy to be 50 percent American Staffordshire terrier.
The suit claims the town is violating residents’ constitutional rights because the ban allows officials to seize dogs without due process.
“The state of Louisiana, in dealing with dangerous dogs, provides a full panoply of due process rights including a hearing, notice of hearing, a judge, right of cross examination, the right to introduce evidence and rules of evidence,” Fred M. Kray, an attorney for the Nelsons, said in a news release.
“And that is for dogs that have bitten someone or acted aggressively. In Christina’s case, she received none of these protections, and Mazzy has been banned from the community even though Mazzy has never harmed anyone.”
The suit says the methods used by New Llano to determine a dog’s breed can’t be defended by law. Under the ordinance, some dogs can be subjected merely to a visual inspection by a town worker while others must have DNA tests, for which the town charges a $200 fee.
Attorney Stacy Palowsky wrote in the complaint that forcing a resident to pay during the first-tier of determining breed is a “pay to play” system and penalizes the resident and violates due process.
The town charges dog owners significantly more than the cost of the test, which is $60-$85. The complaint also calls into question the validity of the DNA test, saying it isn’t 100 percent accurate.
The plaintiffs, who have requested a jury trial, are seeking injunctive relief of the breed ban, along with damages for mental anguish and emotional distress, statutory damages, general damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. They are also seeking to recoup costs for boarding Mazzy from Sept. 6 to the present.
“When this began all we wanted was to have Mazzy home with us,” said Christine Nelson. “It’s unfortunate that we have ended up at this point, but we know we also want to see this changed so that no other families have to go through this type of heartache.”
Boswell did not return requests for comment.
Posted By: Holly Alonzo Woodland Wyoming On: 4/22/2014
Title: Show some love for Mazzy
I agree these bans need to be lifted everywhere. To some people, these animals are family. I have two of my own and I love them like I love my two biological born children. I do not think it is right to push Someone's opinions on to someone else as a law.