Officials take steps to fight back against dog fighting

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Recent incidents involving dogs have parish officials talking tough about cracking down on dog fighting, and taking steps to back it up.

The Concordia Parish Police Jury has invited officials from the parish&8217;s five municipalities to meet Thursday to discuss the ways and means of setting up an animal control operation in the parish.

The two major areas of such an operation are an officer and a place to put seized animals.

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Lisa Smith, director of the non-profit Concordia Parish Animal Welfare Shelter, has the first part all taken care of.

Lyn Lattimer is certified as a Louisiana animal control officer, and Smith said she would gladly nominate her for the job.

Smith has volunteered to house animal control at her Ferriday shelter but would need the parish to build and fund it.

The recent arrest of alleged fighting dog trainer Clinton Bart Schneider highlights the need for an animal control headquarters, Smith said.

Four dogs were seized from the home of Schneider and Amber Wallace, who were both out on bond while awaiting trial on drug and dog fighting charges.

&8220;They called me, but I&8217;m full and told them I couldn&8217;t take them unless I had to,&8221; she said.

&8220;These are animals that you can&8217;t house in a conventional manner.&8221;

The Vidalia Police Department took two of the dogs and the sheriff&8217;s office took the other two. VPD has an animal control officer and a pen for seized animals, but the lack of space in the rest of the parish is a problem.

&8220;Logistically, it&8217;s difficult when you have nowhere to take them,&8221; Smith said.

It&8217;s not just a good idea; it&8217;s the law.

Louisiana Revised Statute 3:2774 states &8220;each parish shall provide suitable shelters or facilities for dogs seized.&8221;

Parishes and municipalities are also required, in RS 3:2391, to appoint or commission an animal control officer at the nomination of a cruelty prevention society like CAWS.

They&8217;re not required to pay, the officer, however, and the cost of the whole business is one of the things Smith is being asked to present at the meeting.

While Smith has long championed the cause for an animal control officer in the parish, she&8217;s hardly the only one concerned about dog fighting.

Sheriff Randy Maxwell said his department is very sensitive to the issue and commended the effort Smith and CAWS has made.

And while he wasn&8217;t sure the police jury had the money to get a full dog fighting task force funded &8212; as some have called for &8212; he said an animal control officer would be a help to the community.

&8220;CAWS does a heck of a job,&8221; he said. &8220;They are very dedicated people and do a lot to stop inhumane treatment to animals.&8221;

Maxwell pointed to the success Vidalia police have had with their animal control officer as a possible model for the parish.

Vidalia Police Chief Billy Hammers said having an animal control officer in his department has gone a long way toward helping cut down on dog fighting in the city limits.

&8220;We&8217;d have dogs everywhere if we didn&8217;t have an officer on it,&8221; he said. &8220;If I was asked my opinion, I&8217;d say they should get one if it&8217;s possible.&8221;

If the parish leaders do decide to make it happen, Hammers said his department would be there to help. &8220;We&8217;ll work with them any way we can,&8221; he said.