Just Arrest Me Now - Dog Limit Proposal Dies

At City Hall today (Monday, 11/30) Ald. Gene Schulter's committee on Licensing and Consumer Protection entertained a proposal to limit the number of dogs in Chicago.

There was no vote - more to come on the outcome from the primary proponent of the ordinance, Ald.Ray Saurez.

First to testify, Mark Rosenthal, of animal care and control (ACC) who suggested ACC is in favor, but staffing is short, eventually complaints will be answered, eventually He actually called for a limit on total pets (cats and dogs) in a home. Sergeant Mark George of the Chicago Police Department also spoke in support.

There were no non-city employee supporters who attended.

First to speak in opposition was Cynthia Bathurst of Safe Humane Chicago and Best Friends. Cynthia read a detailed statement from Best Friends, but also explained that Best Friends is paying for a study now being completed, which will identify how we can live better with dogs in Chicago. Based on interviews with animal experts (myself among them), shelter professionals, rescuers, and citizens of all shapes, sizes, age ranges and socio-economic strata - the information is being tallied by the Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development at DePaul. It's a wonderful gift to the city, let's wait and see what the results are.  

I was second to testify (more on my testimony to come). I was followed by Charlie Propsom of the Friends of Animal Care and Control, explaining that ACC depends greatly on wonderful volunteer Foster families who would be in violation of the law if this were to pass. Dr. Susan Ferraro, a commissioner for animal care and control (so is Cynthia Bathurst) said the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association is opposed, and articulately explained.

Perhaps the most compelling argument came from Joe Citizen, Charles Ginsberg. He's just a guy with dogs who said to all the Aldermen on the Committee, "I've had four dogs, three dogs, six dogs....I think I'm responsible - but when it comes to my dogs, just arrest me now. Take me now!"  Charles drilled home what all us experts were to attempting to say, it's all about responsible dog owners.

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So, how did Aldermen respond? What did I say in my remarks? And what does this proposed ordinance really say in the first place?

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."

Aldermanic responses varied. Alderman Freddrenna Lyle was the first to bring up the lack of a 'grandfather clause' (I didn't because she did). So, if someone is one over the limit - "you tell me which dog a family gives up," she asked.

Alderman Isaac Carothers and Alderman Ariel Reboyas pointed out there are more responsible dogs owners than irresponsible, and wondered if there is evidence that with more dogs people are more likely to be irresponsible. I said in my testimony, "We don't know. So, a person with one or two dogs can be an awful steward, but another person with six dogs may be very responsible."

Here are some points I made in my testimony (some in the previous blog post):
- Due to the economy, experts concur foreclosures will be on the rise in 2010 and maybe into 2011. Those families statistically have a pet or more. If they are lucky enough to move in with a family member with a pet,even temporarily, the city may be asking for them to give up animals. There is no farm for those 'extra animals,' dogs or cats - if the city wants to limit cat numbers also. Euthanization without cause means even more pressure on ACC, and other shelters - not to mention that this is simply inhumane and unnecessary.

- I offered an example in my life several years ago about how having two dogs can become more fast. We have our two, our neighbors go to Europe, so we add Boots Montgomery; and another neighbor goes away for a few days, and we find ourselves watching Sophie. That's four. Down the street, old women goes to the hospital, no family member around, so they ask us - the dog guy, to watch their pups. I would have been in violation.

- We already have more ordinances and laws city wide, county wide and state wide than most concerning companion animals...So when Ald. Suarez shows us all a photo of a poop-fllled lawn, looking like it was bombed with feces - I agree with him. Horrible. I wouldn't want to live next door to that either. Ald. Suarez also talked about dogs left out in the winter without water....Well, we already have laws to protect citizens against a mess and to protect animals against inhumane treatment. No doubt there are loopholes or places in the City's animal control act which may require sprucing up. I'm all for that, and for encouraging responsible dog ownership.

- Due to mandatory spay/neuter's ongoing threat it's astounding that City Clerk DelValle has even been able to increase dog licensing (which he has). Now, dog owners with anywhere near a dog limit will be concerned. No doubt, you're not allowing government to count your dogs, so licensing declines.

Please don't hesitate to offer your views to Aldermen - but I know Ald. Suarez actually likes dogs, a lot. . . he's only responsding to constituents. Please don't berate him. What he is responding to is what happens potentially when a few are irresponsible. Ald. Schulter has long understood the importance of companion animals and what they mean in our lives, and is always reasonable. That's true for most Aldermen, just like all of us, many have pets.

What I hope is that once the Chaddick Institute advisory is released, and we have time to digest. Aldermen make their 'pet complaints' known to the Task Force I co-chair on Companion Animals and Pubic Safety, then we find ways to resolve these concerns. I believe we can do it! Instead of knee jerk responses, since our Task Force has been in place our responses have been well thought out, and based on data. 

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  • Thanks to all the experts, citizens, and very caring alderpeople who are letting us keep our families together! Thank you, Steve, for going to bat for the families of the 'furries'.

  • One more victory for dogkind. Oops, other animals and reptiles and anything else included.

  • The same things keep popping up out here in Mchenry county. We recently had a proposal to limit the number of dogs across the county, and almost 100 people braved a snow storm to voice their disapproval. It hasn't come up since! Since then one local town has passes a 3 dog limit, and several residents immediately threatened to move! I have 5 dogs and would move in a heart beat if a law was passed. If it wasn't for responsible people like me rescuing dogs and putting them in good homes, the shelters would have it even worse.

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