Critics Muzzle Proposal To Limit Number Of Dogs Per Household

By Fran Spielman City Hall Reporter

Chicago, Illinois — A proposal to limit Chicagoans to five dogs-per-household would turn responsible owners into criminals and force them to choose between between “family members,” critics charged today.

Over the last 15 years, aldermen have made at least four attempts to slap a ceiling on the number of dogs to eliminate noise and stench, only to be reined in by colleagues who don’t want to find themselves in the doghouse with dog lovers.

Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) had hoped to break that losing streak by rounding up 27 co-sponsors. But, the avalanche of opposition at today’s License Committee hearing made it clear that he, too, would get the leash.

“I have had six dogs in my house. I have had four dogs in my house. They sleep in my bed. I hate to say it — they are my children,” said retired teacher Charles Ginsberg.

“This ordinance would criminalize me. I would become a criminal, and I would have no problem doing it. … Wednesday, I will be 65 years old obeying the law. But, quite honestly if I had to do it again — just take me away now.”

Without a “grandfather clause” to exempt owners who kept the litter when Fido had puppies, Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) warned that Chicagoans could be forced to “divest themselves of one of their family members.”

“I’m not opposed to having some kind of reasonable limitation that people are aware of before they make these choices. But, we certainly should not pass anything that’s gonna require people to have to go out in 30 days and decide which one of their animals they’re going to get rid of,” Lyle said.

Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) said the problem is not the number of dogs. It’s irresponsible owners.

“Some people might have ten dogs and have a wonderful, clean environment, take care of ‘em and do everything. But, I know people who’ve got two dogs and people complain all the time how they don’t clean up after ‘em, the dogs always run loose. They bark,” Carothers said.

Today’s hearing began with Mark Rosenthal, operations manager for the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control, endorsing the five-dog limit, but suggesting that it be applied to dogs and cats or a combination of the two because cat “hoarding” is more prevalent.

Rosenthal also made it clear that enforcing the limit would “not necessarily be a high-priority call” for the city’s inundated army of 26 animal care officers working around the clock, 7 days-a-week.

The hearing ended with License Committee Chairman Eugene Schulter putting the final nail in coffin.

“Limiting the number of dogs is, quite frankly, not the way to go. .. It all goes to who is the owner and how are they taking care of the dogs,” said Schulter, who has asked Best Friends Animal Society to do a comprehensive study of Chicago’s animal care and control laws.

Even Suarez appeared to throw in the towel when he told Ginsberg, “No one wants to make you a criminal. We’ll look at a different approach, if that’s what it takes. But, there’s got to be a solution somewhere because there is a problem out there and it has to be addressed.”

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