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Elgin, Illinois Takes Heat Off Pit Bulls, Revises Dog Law

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By Harry Hitzeman for Daily Herald

In the weeks and months leading up to Elgin’s pit bull vote, dog owners pleaded with city council members to “punish the deed, not the breed.”

Now, the city plans to do just that.

Wednesday night, Elgin leaders backed off a batch of new laws aimed specifically at pit bulls, much to the delight of about 275 people who erupted in cheers.

The old proposal automatically declared all pit bulls “dangerous,” a distinction that triggered a set of regulations punishable by fines of $1,000.

Some of them were that the dog be muzzled when taken out of the home, a 6-foot-tall fence be in place if the dog was to run free, the owner obtain $100,000 in liability insurance, a 6-foot-long leash was mandated when walked by a person who had to be at least 18, and owners pay $50 to register their dogs at city hall for three years.

Now, pit bulls will not automatically be declared “dangerous.”

Under the new law, any dog that bites or attacks another animal or human can then be deemed dangerous, triggering the new set of laws for the owner. The breed of dog does not matter.

Councilman John Prigge, who initially pushed for a grandfathered pit bull ban, said if there is another bad pit bull attack, he will renew his push for pit bull-only laws.

“I will be watching. My colleagues will be watching. I will be vigilant. They will be vigilant,” Prigge said. “I haven’t abandoned my belief that public safety in our neighborhoods is an imperative city council goal.”

Two weeks ago, Prigge, Mayor Ed Schock and council members Robert Gilliam and Mike Warren supported an even more stringent set of pit bull laws.

Schock said he never supported an outright ban and credited Prigge for stepping back. The mayor also commended audience members for being civil and Elgin residents for giving their input throughout the process, no matter what side they supported.

“Democracy works,” Schock said, adding that input helped “the council open its ears.”

Over the last year, people shared horror stories of pit bull attacks in Elgin, but quantifying the extent of pit bull problem proved difficult.

The Elgin Police Department does not track which types of breeds are responsible for attacks and bite cases. But police respond, on average, to one call every three days.

In 2007, there were 142 reported dog bites in Elgin, followed by 120 in 2008.

The tally dropped to 113 in 2009, and there have been nine so far this year, according to data provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Danger: Restrictions can apply if any dog attacks or bites


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Elizabeth
Elizabeth
12 years ago

I am so glad that they used some sense! Pit bulls are not dangerous dogs… any dog can bite, and it's the owner's fault for not properly caring for their dog. Read some dog attack reports and you will notice a trend… the dogs are all chained or penned, not members of the family…

Jeremy
Jeremy
11 years ago

Hmm…I have a Lab who is part Pit…he was terrorized by a local kid who yelled at him, threw stones and sticks at him, and taunted him. When that kid decided to lean over our fence our dog bit him in defense of our children who were in the back yard. Was the kid invading my property? Yes. Was the dog right in seeing this kid as a threat? Elgin says no. Should my dog be treated as a hardened and trained mankiller? The city of Elgin says yes. By the way…my dog has never acted remotely violent towards any other person or animal…and of all the times he’s gotten out, he’s played with people, peed on every bush in the neighborhood…and played “tag” with those trying to catch him….but never acted violent. Tell me this law is written with sense. I say it needs a lot more detail. Dogs defend their homes and masters, that’s what they do. Don’t punish them and their owners because someone makes them do what they do. My mom taught me not to mess with strange dogs, especially without their owners around, because dogs bite when provoked and guess what, I learned how to treat a strange dog and avoid getting hurt. But we have come to believe that we should not have to teach our children how to not get hurt, everyone else should anticipate our children’s stupidity because we don’t want to take the time to teach them. In today’s society, when someone puts their hand on a hot stove and gets burned…the only question asked is “who is held responsible for the presence of the stove?”. No one asks “Why wasn’t this person taught that a hot stove can burn you?”

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