BALDWIN, La. — A town ordinance against the ownership or possession of "dangerous or vicious" animals within town limits is now being reinforced by police in Baldwin. The ordinance refers directly to "American Pit Bull Terriers" and other dogs or animals that may be aggressive when unprovoked.
It's not something that locals are taking lightly.
"It's just crazy, like how can you give up something you raise?" said Semiko Bridget, a lifelong pit bull owner in Baldwin. "I mean I don't even look at them as dogs, I look at them as humans."
The ordinance hit the books in 1987 and was amended most recently in 2007. Officials say it's coming to light now after some residents reported a scare with a pit bull over the weekend.
"I didn't even know this ordinance existed," said Chief of Police Anthony "Gip" Gibson, who began his first term as chief in January. "But I'm here to uphold the law in Baldwin, whether you like it, don't like it, you want to be a citizen of Baldwin, you're welcome to stay here, but if you want to come here and do dirty you better go somewhere else. You wanna play, you must pay."
If you don't get rid of your dog after a warning, you'll pay a $500 fine, be subject to up to a month of jail time, or both, according to the ordinance. Still, many on social media are expressing their thoughts and concerns, wondering where these dogs are to go.
"The big problem is social media blowing up all over and people who don't even live here, most of the people complaining, the complainants, aren't even from the town of Baldwin, they don't even live here," said Mayor Clarence Vappie, also elected for his first term in January of this year.
KATC asked the chief, mayor, and Alderwoman Margaret C. Colar, but none could provide an answer. When asked about recent statistics or any increases in pit bull scares or attacks in the town, none knew of any.
"We don't have all these shootings and murders other places do here in Baldwin, it hasn't hit our town, this is what we're dealing with," said Gibson. "It's on the books, I have to enforce it and some pit bulls are not vicious, so that's where we're going with that, but we've got to respect our elder people who work every day of their life and they come to me with a complaint, we've got to investigate it," he continued. "But say that pit bull got loose and bit an 87-year-old man? Then y'all would be coming here talking to me about why we don't obey that ordinance."
Regardless, for Bridget, who currently owns two 1-year-old pit bulls named Onyx and Ivy, her pups aren't something she's willing to part with.
"They're trying to say my dogs are vicious, they're not," she told KATC. "It's according to how you raise a dog. Anything you train to fight, that's what they do, fight. When you raise something with love, that's what they do, love, and I don't think it's fair when you have to displace animals out of loving homes, put them with unfamiliar faces, maybe put them down."
In response to any criticism, Colar, a self-proclaimed dog lover, said the following:
"It's not like someone is knocking at their doors saying, 'You got to get rid of your pit bulls,' I mean, it wasn't a problem," said Colar. "So a lot of people's making these issues like 'We not gonna get rid of our dogs,' or 'What are we supposed to do with it?', it's not a problem if you have a problem come to the town. Nothing wrong with corrective criticism, it can be corrected, but you need to come out and bring your concern to the town."
According to town officials, the town council holds its meetings on the second Thursday of each month. That means the next one will be on May 11. According to the mayor, those wishing to discuss the ordinance must submit a written statement ahead of the meeting explaining that they would like to do so.
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