OUR VIEW: Let’s talk about parental judgment

Decisions can prelude fatal, horrifying events, and Houma came to intimately know “horror” last month, but not all bad decisions are illegal.

Abandoning an infant and a toddler at home is a bad decision and an illegal act. When the adult-free home burns down because of a freak event and the children die, that decision becomes the act of manslaughter.

Quartering a 130-pound pit bull in a small apartment complex unit with a 4-year-old child is not a good decision. But in Terrebonne Parish if the dog has not been deemed vicious or dangerous, it is not itself an illegal act. Thus, the decision to house two pit bulls in one apartment unit does not inherently contain criminal liability should one dog kill a child.

That Mia DeRouen wasn’t able to celebrate her birthday with friends and family last Saturday or this Saturday – she would have made 5 today – is a tragedy.

Houma police officers fired a dozen bullets before Niko – described by the police chief as a “monster” – was killed. When Mia’s mother Megan Touchet attempted to intervene and save her daughter from Niko, the dog attacked her. Megan passed Mia through the window of a bedroom in the apartment while the dog stayed barricaded on the other side. Unfortunately, Mia did not survive.

Her precious, innocent life is another one lost, and in this sense, it is no less horrifying than what happened on Hobson Street earlier in March. Hearts in Houma remain heavy, and Mia’s survivors deserve our support.

But it’s also time to discuss judgment.

Children are incapable of protecting themselves, incapable of making decisions for themselves that may ultimately separate a long life and an early death. They rely on their parents to sustain them – with food, shelter, clothing and judgment. For parents, this goes beyond responsibility. It is imperative.

Animals, like humans, are often products of their environment. Many pit bulls live their entire lives without attacking or otherwise exhibiting a violent disposition toward a person. They can, many owners claim, be great pets.

But there can be no guarantee that the status quo will remain the same. A subtle shift in the dog’s environment – say a neighboring dog going into heat – can trigger a sharp change in behavior unbeknown to its owners. To raise a pet in a nonviolent, friendly environment is not to exact control on its behavior.

Anyone who considers corralling a pit bull, a Rottweiler or any large dog of a reputed aggressive breed in a tight space with children present needs to recognize one fact and one opinion: Not everything can be controlled by his or her will. Take all precautions to protect your children.