Elgin OKs ordinance without pit bull designation
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Elgin City Council approved a watered-down version of a new animal control ordinance Wednesday in front of about 275 people who were in attendance to protest the specific restrictions regarding pit bulls.
Applause rang out through the Heritage Ballroom in The Centre in downtown Elgin when the ordinance was unanimously approved without the references that automatically labeled all pit bull breeds as dangerous.
The ordinance allows an animal control officer to designate a dog as either dangerous or vicious in the case of an attack of either another dog or a human.
A dangerous dog is a dog that attacks and injures, but a vicious dog is one that attacks and causes severe injuries or death.
The new restrictions include many new rules such as a dog declared dangerous or vicious would have to register with the city for a three-year, $100 license; the dogs would have to wear registration and rabies shot tags at all times, along with proof of having been neutered or spayed; and they must be micro-chipped.
Dogs in either category would also be required to be kept in a 6-foot-tall locked fence. The owner of a dangerous dog would need to secure $100,000 liability insurance, and an owner of a vicious dog would need to secure $500,000 in liability insurance.
Dangerous dogs on public property would need to be muzzled and on a short leash and with an adult 18 years or older. A vicious dog would not be allowed on public property at all, according to the new ordinance.
"I was crying. I am just ecstatic," said Linda Wyka, president and part-owner of Almost Home Foundation in Elgin that takes in homeless and rescued animals. The pit bull breed "gets a second chance."
Wyka said she feared that if the ordinance passed the number would double of pit bulls that she would see coming to her shelter to either find new homes outside of Elgin or be destroyed.
"It's not the dog, it is the owners that are the problem," Wyka said echoing just about all who opposed the automatic labeling of the pit bull breed as dangerous.
City officials attempted to designate pit bulls as dangerous animals in the new ordinance in response to residents' complaints of stray, unleashed pit bulls and a pit bull attack last spring that killed a 6-pound Chihuahua.
Councilman John Prigge said that although he "firmly believes that pit bulls are dangerous" he feels it would be acceptable to "give pit bull owners a chance to demonstrate that they are every bit as responsible as they've assured me they are ..."
But he said it is the city council's goal to ensure that all residents are safe in their neighborhoods.
"I will be watching. I will be vigilant," Prigge said. "If there is another tragic pit bull attack in this city or if circumstances otherwise warrant, I will request we revisit this issue and suggest we implement all of the proposed pit bull regulations to prevent any further attacks."