How Many Dogs Are Too Many - City Council May Say Magic Number is Five

If you have five dogs in Chicago, you soon may have to let one go. There isn't even a grandfather clause in the proposed ordinance on dog limits from Aldmerman Ray Suuarez (31st) which will be discussed at a hearing Monday, November 30 at City Council Chambers at noon (room 201-A, City Hall).

According to the proposed ordinance I have, "It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor or otherwise process five or more dogs over the age of four months within any household's residential dwelling unit.. . Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be fine not less than $100 or more than $1,000. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate distinct offense."

Next the story behind the story, and what my public response is. I want to know what you think - or better show up at City Hall, at least call your Alderman. Don't complain about passed laws if you don't speak up - (please click to continue reading below)

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by my count, this dude (not really in Chicago - so I can't get him in trouble) is two over the limit.

My objections to this proposed ordinance begins with a political story. To enhance public safety and reasonable City ordinances on companion animals, way back with Ald. Shirley Coleman, I created a group of experts, which we re-named under Alderman Gene Schulter, the Task Force on Companion Animals & Public Safety (co-chaired with Cnythia Bathurst). The idea is to offer expert advice from veterinarians and those in animal welfare on all matters pets. Also, to do the research, then hopefully craft a collaberative (non binding) recommendation to the City. All as volunteers. I put a lot of time into this effort, and it's worked, even becoming a model for other cities. Our Task Force was circumvented on this one. I didn't know about the hearing until just before Thanksgiving. How could we possibly have met as a Task Force over the holiday weekend?

More important - in this time of're lucky to find a home with another family member if you've been foreclosed on. Most families in the city have at least one pet. Those with dogs have about 2 dogs per home (based on APPA and AVMA stats).

True story, a veterinarian I know living with her own three dogs. Then, her elderly mom must move in - and mom has a dog. Now, a relative foreclosed on has no place to go. He has two dogs. Now, they're one over the limit. Who goes? Where does that dog go? Probably to death. A death sentence which is obviously inhumane because it is absolutely not necessary, and traumatic to a family already reeling.

We have many laws on the books to deal with irresponsible owners of one dog or five dogs. If the dogs are noisy, it was Ald. Suarez himself who wrote the 'barking ordinance' just a few months back, and it was passed.

City Clerk Miguel Del Valle has a Task Force on dog issues - which I am proud to be a part of. A part of our goal is to get more dogs licensed. That's revenue for the City and animal control. Now, multi-dog owners will be hesitant (which they are anyway because of the ongoing mandatory spay/neuter threat).  

It does cost animal care and control (and therefore taxpayers) money each time investigators go out, and each time a dog is euthanized.

What happens to rescuers who are a part of the solution? By taking in two or three Pointers, or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (you name the breed) space is being made at shelters (including the city animal control agency) for dogs who might be adopted out. Also, rescuers offer dogs far better environments than shelters. The rescuers are heroes! Really good guys. Is this how we treat them for helping? There is no provision here for those who rescue.

Listen I want to go after dog fighters (who tend to have many dogs) and reckless nasty "breeders" as much as the next guy.  So many times Aldermen have promised using dog ordinances to get at these bad guys. Face it: This is a problem - but it's a social problem, not a dog problem...Best Friends is working on a City Wide plan (a gift to Chicago) concerning dog issues, at least wait until their data (tabulated by numbers people not dog people) is released. Or allow the Task Force of experts to attempt to come up with an answer.

By the way, why is five dogs too many - how about four or six. It is an arbitrary number - not based on any data I know.

Alderman Freddrenna Lyle once asked me why some of these dog issues get more attention at City Hall than kids being shot, and the rampant violence going on. While dogs (and all pets) matter as a part of the family...And being humane hopefully is contagious. . . she has a point. Particularly, since there are now SO many ordinances on the books to deal with irresponsible owners of any number of animals. I believe this effort is misguided and misplaced when there are more important matters. 
If you believe (on either side) feel free to comment here (who knows, I many comment on the Chicago Now Blog comments when I testify - if I decide to testify). But best - come in person and definitely call your Alderman.


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  • Dear Alderman Moore -

    I would like to see Ray Suarez' proposed ordinance regarding dogs discussed and revised in committee, not passed in its current form. The proposed ordinance is discussed here:

    I emphatically agree that poorly-managed dogs are a serious problem in the City of Chicago, and additional legislation could help. This ordinance, however, is a huge and very blunt instrument that will punish good animal husbandry. As written, it will also be less effective at solving problems than a well-crafted ordinance would accomplish.

    By way of example, the instant a litter of pups is born, a household would almost certainly be out of compliance. That's kind of silly, except a fine of $100 to $1000 is something less attractive than silly. I am also skeptical that, as applied, there will be equitable treatment across race and class. Meaning, are Chicago police really going to ticket middle-class white homeowners for this? It's a grand opportunity for racist, anti-poor, pretextual enforcement. The ordinance simply needs to be more carefully crafted to drag in bad dog owners while leaving responsible ones alone.

    I would be happy to assist in redrafting the ordinance, if that would be helpful. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


    Thomas J. Westgard
    Attorney at Law
    1400 W Devon Ave #351
    Chicago, IL 60660

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    there are many different property sizes and animal sizes in this city. And too say you can't have 6 or more animals if they are well cared for and stay within all other ordinances (noise, licencing, smell), is crazy. When many people are loosing homes and have to move in with other family members. So if each family had 4 dogs now there is 8 in a home. They are cared for feed up on shots but just a large number, Who should die? This is stressful enough for us what stress is the animals under? Would they survive a shelter? or our senior dogs or cats, really how adoptable do you think they are and they should die or live their life out in a cage because their owner lost there home...Just too sad.
    Leave numbers out of this and address abuse or inability to care for the animals, like hoarders for example.
    Leave responsible pet owners alone.

  • I have been debating with myself if my neighbors needs to be reported. I have reached a conclusion that they must be. First they are a middle aged couple with a one year old beautiful baby girl. They have six dogs in a one bed room apartment (six being chihuahuas and one being a Newfoundland.) They have been breeding their chihuahuas and i actually bought my dog from them. However, when i bought my dog he said something that stuck with me out of discuss, he said, "she can make you a lot of money" obviously i had no interest in becoming a breeder. The living condition for these dogs is beyond unbelievable. He puts all six chihuahuas in a small cage. They are mean and on occasion bite my ankles when i come home from school. I dont know what to do... If they loved there little dogs i feel they wouldn't put them into one cage or use them as money makers.

    Please give me some advice... Should i report them or shou i just let it be?

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