Beginning Wednesday, St. Landry Township government officials will begin touring rural townships to explain a revised communitywide animal control ordinance that proposes tighter regulation of commercial breeding operations.
The ordinance, which has been reviewed by ward councilors and made available to the public on the ward government’s website, could be considered for introduction next month, according to ward president Jessie Bellard.
However, members of the borough council have not discussed aspects of the ordinance during committee or regular meetings since Bellard and the borough attorneys began drafting the 37-page ordinance earlier this year.
According to the municipality’s website, the ordinance is still being revised and was drafted by a committee that included input from animal rights activists.
The ordinance also addresses animal lesions, confiscation of small animals, rabies control, animal husbandry, animal abuse and neglect, dangerous and vicious animals, and the handling of complaints.
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Bellard said citizens interested in the proposed regulation should also access the city government’s website to review details of the current animal control regulation. A preview of both the existing and proposed regulations should be done before the public hearings, Bellard added.
“Over the next two weeks we will be going to Sunset, Krotz Springs, Eunice and Palmetto and hearing from everyone at these public meetings. The ordinance took two years and now we want to enact something,” Bellard said while discussing the ordinance before a small audience at the Delta Grand in Opelousas last week.
Two years ago, with the support of the St. Landry County District Attorney’s Office, another county-wide animal control ordinance was presented to the borough council, but no action was taken on the document.
“The whole purpose of regulating who breeds animals is for[local government]to write something that allows us to get onto the puppy mills‘ property to make sure the animals there are being properly cared for,” Bellard said during One interview. “At the moment we are not authorized to do this unless there is a complaint or the person occupying the property allows us to conduct an inspection.”
Bellard said breeders have recently moved dogs to other locations to avoid inspection in some cases.
The new regulation requires animal breeders or dealers to obtain an annual operating permit from the local government, which allows animal control officials to conduct a physical inspection of the facility.
Once a breeding facility has been approved by municipal authorities, animal control officials will have better inspection capabilities to conduct regular visits without notice, Bellard said.
“If those who breed dogs or small animals are doing things right, there is no problem. If they have animals they don’t care for, that’s a problem,” Bellard said. “Licensing the breeders creates a paper trail that allows animal control officers to better inspect their farms and those responsible for enforcing the regulation to do their job better.”
The proposed regulation limits breeders to 50 dogs at one location.
In 2021, Anita Kay Belaire, who ran a small dog kennel between Grand Coteau and Opelousas, according to court documents, was arrested by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Department and charged with 174 counts of animal cruelty.
According to court documents, Belaire was giving away 135 dogs at the time of her arrest.
She pleaded guilty to 4 counts of simple animal cruelty and was sentenced to 6 months in parish jail followed by a year of probation. She also had to take a responsible pet ownership course.
The ordinance seemed poised to be introduced a few months ago, but Bellard told the local council he wanted to postpone any formal discussion so that another section on bee colonies could be added to what was already in the original draft document.
“We’ve had some complaints lately about bees becoming nuisances that swarm and pose a problem for individuals and households,” Bellard said.
A section of the regulation indicates that bee colonies can be destroyed if the colonies are considered dangerous to the public.
Jeanie Casanova, who attended the Opelousas meeting, said she would like to see a section that includes a provision for the castration and castration of animals.
Courvelle and Bellard have attempted to run the community animal shelter outside of Opelousas as a no-kill facility, only euthanizing animals deemed too sick or dangerous.
Casanova and Carrie Baird, also speaking at the Opelousas meeting, said cat and dog populations have been rising steadily across the community because owners are not spaying or spaying their pets.
“We have to stop the births. It’s a problem that’s so easy to fix,” Casanova said.
WANT TO GO?
Here is a list and times of the public hearings scheduled over the next two weeks:
Krotz Sources: Wednesday, 6 p.m. at the Gary Soileau Community Center at 216 Park St.
Eunice: Thursday, 6 p.m. at City Hall 300 S. Park St.
Sunset: Tuesday, Sunset Community Center 108 Leo Richard Lane
Palmetto: Thursday, August 18, 224 E. Railroad Ave. Palmetto Town Hall.