OUR VIEW: Hasty laws not smart prevention of incident

Politicians say many things when they want support for a pet cause. Lafourche Councilman John Arnold is no different.

Arnold wants to tighten the parish’s restrictions on dangerous animals, but it’s not immediately clear how he aims to do it. On one hand, he said he wants to grant subjectivity for a yet-to-be hired animal control officer to determine whether an animal is dangerous or vicious. On the other, he proposed a law with real, written words that – while still proposing tighter animal laws – contradict his statements.

So he promises amendments, but eight days before his ordinance is to be voted upon – unfavorably, according to many of his fellow councilmembers – he was unable to specify the language of such changes.

It’s a tangled bird’s nest of uncertainty. We’re left to merely hope his amendments are made clear to his colleagues and the public, who can speak in favor or against them at the May 13 meeting, to digest.

But this is mostly about what Arnold said to drum support for his, well, general idea, which is to expand the definition of dangerous animals and place greater restrictions on their owners.

He said his law, had it been in place in Terrebonne Parish, would have saved the life of 4-year-old Mia Derouen, who was killed by her family’s dog in their apartment unit in March. We don’t know if Arnold actually believes this.

We’re sure, however, nothing in his proposal as initially written would have changed the tragic circumstances surrounding Mia’s death. And we believe Arnold saying it would have made a difference indicates the councilman either has a God complex or has no shame in saying something he thinks will better his position.

Then again, the councilman suggested he doesn’t really care what’s in the ordinance, as long as it targets dangerous animals and it passes.

“This is just a step in the right direction,” he said. “We just need to get our foot in the door and get started on this, because we can amend it later.”

In summation: Arnold, in part motivated by his own emotional response to a tragic accident, has reflexively crafted an ordinance and is pushing it quickly to the council floor even if it misrepresents what he wants. He wants the law to pass, so he wants you to empathize with Mia, too, so he mentions his law could have saved her life. Then he says it doesn’t matter what’s in the law because it can be rewritten later.

Ultimately, using the death of a child as a piece on a chess board is a moral question. We cringe, but it’s his prerogative.

But while we believe tragedy can and should prompt discussion, debate and maybe policy changes, it’s not the groundwork for ham-fisted legislation for the sake of legislation. Highlight the problem and how you will fix it. Throwing ideas at a wall and codifying them, well, that’s poor governance.