With Help From the ASPCA, Merryville, Louisiana, Repeals the Breed-Specific Provisions in Its Dangerous Dog Ordinance
In early December 2022, the town of Merryville, Louisiana, announced to its residents that the pit bull ban included in its dangerous dog ordinance would be strictly enforced. Given just 48 hours to get rid of their beloved pets, many residents of the town spoke out against this abrupt enforcement, gaining media attention as well as the attention of the ASPCA.
In early 2023, the ASPCA sent a letter to the Merryville Town Council [PDF], providing evidence that existing data does not support a focus on “pit bull” breeds and noting that as currently drafted, the ordinance may fail to provide the constitutional due process to which residents are entitled. As explained in the ASPCA’s position statement on breed-specific legislation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends against breed-specific laws in its study of fatal dog attacks because data collection related to bites by breed is fraught with potential sources of error. The letter ended with an offer of assistance, stating that if the town was interested in revising its ordinance in light of these issues, the ASPCA would be happy to help.
The Mayor of Merryville, Sheila Smith, quickly responded to request the ASPCA’s guidance. To her credit, she heard her residents’ protestations against the breed ban loud and clear and wanted to find a responsible solution for her constituency. The ASPCA provided additional guidance as requested, and after several consultations, the Town of Merryville voted to remove their breed ban in February 2023. This change was an enormous step in the right direction and an important victory in the ASPCA’s work against breed-specific bans.
Reflecting on the positive outcome in Merryville, ASPCA Civil Litigation Counsel Paul Bauer stated, “I am proud to have been able to help the residents of Merryville to achieve a positive change in their dangerous dog ordinance and am grateful to Mayor Smith for her earnest desire to work collaboratively and find the best solution for her constituents and their dogs. Hopefully this will inspire other localities facing similar circumstances to reach out to the ASPCA for assistance.”