Immediate action is needed by animal owners and animal-related businesses in St. Landry Parish to oppose an overreaching proposed animal ordinance. Among other problematic provisions, the proposed ordinance would:
- Trample the privacy rights of animal owners and animal-related businesses.
- Define any owner of two intact animals of the same species as a “breeder” and define any person who sells, donates, or exchanges a single animal as a “dealer/dealer breeder.” “Breeders” and “dealer/dealer breeders” would be required to obtain permits at a cost of up to $5,000 a year.
- Establish certain overreaching definitions and requirements regarding animal care.
- Enact a problematic definition of and requirements for “potentially dangerous animals.”
- Grant extraordinary powers to animal control personnel and to an appointed (not elected) five-person animal control advisory board.
Concerned animal owners are urged to immediately contact St. Landry Parish Council members to state their opposition to the proposed ordinance. Please scroll down for council member contact information and to view additional concerns and talking points.
The animal ordinance will be introduced at the St. Landry Parish Council Meeting on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, Old City Market, 131 W. Bellevue Street, Opelousas, LA. The meeting begins at 4:45, and the animal ordinance is scheduled for after 6:00 p.m. Residents who wish to comment on the proposed ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting should fill out a speaker card upon arrival. View meeting agenda.
According to parish staff, if the proposed ordinance advances on June 16, a public hearing with be scheduled for July 21.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Immediately contact council members to state concerns with the proposed animal ordinance.
Contact information, St. Landry Parish Council:
Mr. Jessie Bellard, Parish President, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-351-1482
Mr. Jerry Red, Jr., email@example.com, 337-692-2307
Ms. Nancy Carriere, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-351-6082
Mr. Easton Shelvin, email@example.com, 337-331-5226
Mrs. Mildred Theirry, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-945-7893
Mr. Harold Taylor, Council Chairman, email@example.com, 337-945-3661
Mr. Gil Savoy, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-447-0708
Mr. Alvin Stelly, Email in care of email@example.com, 337-347-0191
Mrs. Vivian Olivier, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-371-0090
Mr. Wayne Ardoin, email@example.com, 337-331-3800
Mr. Dexter Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-331-3142
Mr. Timmy Lejeune, email@example.com, 337-207-1314
Mr. Jimmie Edwards, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-658-4968
Mr. Coby Clavier, email@example.com, 337-331-2810
For additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-816-3720.
ADDITIONAL CONCERNS AND TALKING POINTS:
No rights of privacy for animal owners and “animal establishments”
The proposed ordinance would define an “animal establishment” as “a facility which is operated as a pet shop, feed store, department store selling animals, commercial kennel, K-9 training or guard dog rental service, breeder or dealer facility, grooming shop, stable or riding facility, auction, roadside or petting zoo or exhibition, or circus or rodeo, or other facility training animals for any purpose. This would include all breeders and every person who sells an animal in the parish. Animal shelters under public jurisdiction, humane organizations or veterinary hospitals are not included in this definition.”
Several sections of the ordinance authorize warrantless entry onto an animal owner’s private property and onto animal facilities. These include:
- Any police or law enforcement officer, post-certified animal control officer, or the animal control director/supervisor would be authorized, but not limited, to inspect “animal establishments” (see definition above) and granted the right to inspect any premises or operations which are or may be regulated by this chapter.
- The animal control director or other “duly designated representative of the parish” would be authorized to enter any establishment holding a permit, “where animals are maintained,” for investigation or inspection as to whether or not the owner/operator is in compliance with the applicable permit.
- The animal control director or any “designee” would be authorized to enter any premises upon “exigent circumstances.” There are no requirements or restrictions regarding who might be a “designee.”
Owners of intact animals would be regulated as “commercial businesses or establishments” and required to obtain “breeder” permits costing up to $5,000 a year
A “breeder” would be defined as a person who breeds or raises specific animals of any breed or breed(s) on his/her premises. The proposal specifies that any person found to have more than two (2) unaltered animals of the same species on their premises would be presumed to be a breeder.
Additionally, it would be declared an irrebuttable presumption (meaning a mandatory rule of law that cannot be proved otherwise) that any person found to have more than three unaltered animals of the same species is a breeder. The only exemption to this declaration would be for owners of unaltered male hunting dogs, provided there are no unaltered females on the premises.
A “dealer/dealer breeder” would be defined as any person who sells, donates or exchanges animals or
offers to sell, donate or exchange animals to another dealer, pet shop, research facility, corporation or individual. Humane organizations are excluded from this definition, while breeders selling to the public would be included.
An annual “breeder” or “breeder/dealer” permit would be issued by “animal control” subject to rules and regulations set by a three-person quorum of the appointed five-member animal control board. Annual fees would range from $250 for 1-5 animals up to $5,000 for more than 25 animals.
Requirements for breeder or breeder/dealer permits would include:
- The applicant’s Class A or Class B animal dealer’s license number issued by the United States Department of Agriculture or the reason the applicant is not required to hold either license. USDA does not issue documentation of why an animal owner or breeder is not required to hold a USDA license.
- The applicant’s sales tax identification number or reason the applicant is not required to have a sales tax identification number.
- A valid occupational license issued by St. Landry Parish Government.
- Unlimited inspections by an undefined “authorized representative of the animal control.”
Potentially problematic requirements for breeders and dealer/breeders
- Limited to no more than 50 dogs, cats, or other undefined “small animals” of any age on the premises at any time.
- All cages and enclosures must be metal or nonporous plastic. It is unclear if this would apply to dogs housed in a residence, dogs secured by a wooden privacy fence, etc.
- No animal could be in darkness during daylight hours.
- Adult animals of opposite sexes must be caged separately, with no exceptions for altered animals, animals not in season, and other common situations.
- Other requirements as established by the animal control advisory board.
- Any violation would be subject to a fine of up to $500 per violation.
Problematic requirements for all animal owners
State law defines “proper water” as “providing each animal with daily water of sufficient quality and quantity to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering by the animal.” Under the proposed ordinance, “proper water or drink” would be defined as providing water “at all times” with no exceptions for withholding water under the direction of a veterinarian or in accordance with accepted animal husbandry provisions.
An animal owner who did not provide water “at all times” would commit the crime of animal cruelty, even if the animal suffered no harm, deprivation, or discomfort. Further, under the proposed ordinance, an animal control officer would be authorized to enter the property without warrant as often as necessary to provide water “at all times,” and following 24 hours’ notice, to declare the animal abandoned and seize it and any other animal on the premises.
The person or entity authorized to determine if a nuisance complaint against an animal owner is valid is not defined in the proposed ordinance; however, fines would be assessed and confiscation of animals would be authorized based on this determination. A person assessed a fine could request a hearing before the animal advisory board, and the person requesting the hearing would bear the cost of the hearing. There is no provision for refund of hearing costs if the nuisance complaint is not upheld, and no judicial appeal process is provided.
Overreaching “potentially dangerous” dog definition and requirements
Any dog that “causes physical injury to any person, domestic animal, or livestock either on public or private property” could be declared potentially dangerous at the discretion of the animal control director. Under the proposed definition of “potentially dangerous animal,” a dog that injured a cat that strayed into the dog’s fenced backyard could be declared potentially dangerous and subject to numerous requirements for its keeping.
A hearing regarding a potentially dangerous, dangerous, or vicious animal would be conducted by the animal advisory board within 14 business days, and not by a court as provided under state law, thereby potentially extended the time period that the animal remained impounded subject to payment of its costs of care and other fees. It is unclear under the construction of the proposed ordinance if restrictions, fees, costs, and additional requirements could be imposed regardless of the outcome of the hearing. A determination by the animal control advisory board could then be appealed to a court.
A dog declared “potentially dangerous” or “dangerous” would be required to be sterilized, maintained in a “secure enclosure” a minimum of ten feet in length in which the dog can stand on its hind legs with a minimum of four inches of additional head room. When outside the secure enclosure, the dog would be required to be muzzled and on a leash of no more than four feet.
Should a dog be declared “potentially dangerous”, the animal control director, or a “designee” would be authorized all times to inspect any facilities and enclosures, and access the property where the facility or enclosure is located, with or without the permission of the property owner or occupant of the property.
Additional requirements would apply to dogs declared “dangerous.” Dogs declared vicious would be euthanized.
“Animal Control Advisory Board” granted unprecedented powers
The proposed ordinance would establish a five-person animal control advisory board empowered to hear and decide matters and/or appeals. Among other powers, a three-person quorum of the Animal Control Advisory Board could impose fees and fines, order an animal owner to reduce the number of animals kept, impose restrictions on animal owners, order the sterilization of animals, order impoundment of animals and payment of impoundment costs and other fees, and impose other “penalties, including additional fines.”
Cost of care provisions for confiscated animals do not follow state law
State law provides that a bond for costs of care of an impounded animal shall be posted with and maintained with a court. However, the proposed ordinance seeks to require posting bond directly to St. Landry Parish Animal Control. It is unclear if this provision would require posting of two bonds in order to maintain ownership of an impounded animal.
Problematic tethering requirements
Unsupervised tethering of any animal would be prohibited. Among many tethering restrictions for dogs, a collar to which a tether is attached would be required to allow two fingers space between the collar and the dog. This is potentially unsafe for small dogs and dogs with narrow heads, which could easily escape a slack collar.
Tethering of dogs would be prohibited between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and during “extreme weather conditions,” defined as “conditions in which the actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or a hurricane, tropical storm, flood, flash flood, severe thunderstorm or tornado warning or heat advisory has been issued for the jurisdiction by the National Weather Service. These restrictions would be in effect regardless if the dog was provided a safe, weatherproof shelter.
Potentially incentivizes confiscation of animals
Rather than remitting fees and fines to parish government to be appropriately allocated, except as otherwise provided by law, all fines and fees collected pursuant to the proposed ordinance would be payable directly to the St. Landry Parish Animal Control & Shelter and dedicated to the animal shelter. The establishment of costs of care bonds, numerous fees and charges, licensing fees, costs of impoundment, hearing costs, and fines payable to animal control could incentivize confiscation of animals.
Although records would be subject to audit, there are no statutory requirements set forth as to the information and reports required to be maintained by the animal control director.