From left: State Rep. Rickey Hardy, Judge Jerome Barbera III and double-mauler "Shank."
The Lafourche "Compromise"
Larose, LA - On October 19, a pit bull owned by Jerome and Lillian Jarreau escaped its home and attacked a woman. Police said the attack was "brief but furious," after the dog ripped into 48-year old Tecla Smith's left arm. Smith's son Juan, who witnessed the attack, said he was surprised that the pit bull did not let go after being beaten on the head with a two-by-four. Smith's injuries required immediate multiple reconstructive surgeries and more are expected in the future.
After the attack, the pit bull, named Shank, was taken to the Lafourche Animal Shelter. The Lafourche Sheriff's Office initially requested that the dog be declared "dangerous" and euthanized. In a letter to State District Judge Jerome Barbera III, sheriff's staff attorney Mike Jimenez said the dog would "pose an immediate threat" to the public if ever released. Yet just before the dangerous dog hearing, a humane group intervened and a compromise was struck sparing Shank's life.
This "compromise" proves to be disastrous.
It is important to point out that prior to the compromise, not only had the sheriff's office strongly urged Judge Barbera to put the dog down, but State Rep. Rickey Hardy weighed in on the matter as well. Hardy authored the new Louisiana state dangerous animal law (HB 155). In response to the issue of "Shank," Harding said, "Not only should the pit bull be killed, but the owners should face charges of negligent injury and go to jail." He added, "One incident is too much."
Despite the wisdom offered by Hardy, Judge Barbera agreed to spare the dog based on sparse information provided by Michael Grunblatt of the Pontchartrain Humane Society, a rescue group that does not have a facility. According to their website, "The pets are cared for in foster homes until a permanent home is found." Grunblatt agreed to care for Shank for six months while the Jarreaus worked to meet state laws for housing a "dangerous" dog.
Following the arrangement, Jimenez told reporters: "I think with this compromise, everybody will be safe and it will give the Jarreaus a chance to become responsible dog owners." We have two thoughts for Mr. Jimenez: 1.) The community was not safe due to this arrangement, and 2.) Why do Shank's owners deserve a second chance at becoming responsible? Their dog already seriously injured a woman requiring her to undergo "multiple reconstructive surgeries."
On November 6, it was reported that the Pontchartrain Humane Society would not be allowed to take custody of Shank, as the group did not meet state requirements to house a dog deemed "dangerous," namely carrying $100,000 in liability coverage. Trusting that the rescue group could meet state standards in a few weeks, Shank continued to be housed at the Lafourche Animal Shelter, where the dog launches a violent attack upon an animal control officer 6 days later.
The Second Attack
Officer Joe Lamartina survived the attack, that he described as the dog "chewing my stomach." The pit bull's broken tooth was still in Lamartina's arm when he was transported to Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. The attack occurred when one of Shank's owners, Lillian Jarreau, visited the shelter for a 20-minute "play period" with Shank outside of its kennel. Unsurprisingly, Jarreau lost control of her 95-pound pit bull terrier and Lamartina quickly intervened to try to help.
Shortly after the second attack, Shank was euthanized.
The Moral of This Story
By Sheriff's officials and Judge Barbera agreeing to a "compromise" with the Pontchartrain Humane Society, they set up the attack on Lamartina. Both entities placed their trust in a small rescue group -- who approached Sheriff's officials in the "courthouse hallway" moments before the scheduled dangerous dog hearing -- instead of honoring the advice of Rep. Hardy. Furthermore, each aspect of the compromise was predicated on the following unreasonable assumption:
Within six months time, the owners of Shank could comply with state "dangerous" dog ownership laws, which include: Carrying a half million dollar liability policy ($400,000 greater than a rescue group is required to carry); installing a secure fence; and posting Dangerous Dog signs. Given that a $100,000 policy in Ohio1 can reach $800 annually for a pit bull with a non-biting history, it's extremely unlikely the Jarreaus could afford a $500,000 policy for a pit bull with a bite history.
Jerome Jarreau could be charged with "negligent injury" based on State Rep. Rickey Hardy's new legislation. Unlike many dangerous dog laws involving criminal repercussions, Hardy's legislation is not specific to on- or off-property attacks. The state law is specific to whether or not the dog owner is "reckless" in confining or restraining the animal. So though Tecla Smith was on the dog owner's property at the time of the attack, Jerome Jarreau could still be charged.
(HB 155 § 32) "The inflicting of any injury upon the person of another by a dog or other animal when the owner of the dog or other animal is reckless and criminally negligent in confining or restraining the dog or other animal."
It's unknown if Lillian Jarreau faces charges regarding the attack on Officer Joe Lamartina. As discussed in our recent phone call with Mr. Hardy, in instances when city and county employees -- Officer Joe Lamartina of the Lafourche Animal Shelter -- are injured, taxpayers are required to pay these costs. Not only did the Lafourche Sheriff's Office and Judge Barbera make the grave error of agreeing to a "compromise" with Shank, they left taxpayers to foot the medical bill costs.
Citizens of Lafourche Parish may wish to contact the following persons:
|Judge Jerome J. Barbera III|
17th Judicial Court (Lafourche)
303 W. 3rd St., 2nd Floor
Thibodaux, LA 70301
(985) 446-0517 - main
(985) 446-6423 - fax
|Sheriff Craig Webre (Email)|
Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office
200 Canal Blvd.
Thibodaux, LA 70301
(985) 449-4420 - main
(985) 447-1854 - fax
09/22/09: I.I.I. Study Shows Dog Bite Claims Cost Nearly $390 Million Annually
06/24/09: Louisiana State Dog Attack Law (HB 155) Wins Final Legislative Approval
04/14/09: 2009 Fatality: Michael Blaise Landry, 4, Killed in Own Yard
09/10/08: 2008 Fatality: Luna McDaniel, 83-Years Old, Dies from Pit Bull Injury