Licensing Dog Owners, Not the Dogs: Maybe Not Such a Bad Idea

Licensing Dog Owners, Not the Dogs: Maybe Not Such a Bad Idea
Dr. J. B. Bruederle and Alderman Bob Fioretti on my WGN Radio Podcast discuss, what next?

As an outcome of the recent attack by two Pit Bull-type dogs in Chicago, Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd ward) has offered an interesting idea - licensing dog owners.

I actually believe the idea is brilliant - or at least a start. The city can better enforce; most municipalities (including Chicago)  license dogs. That's not very enforceable. And so few are compliant. While Chicago's previous City Clerk Miguel DelValle worked diligently to increase the number licensed, most dog owners still do not. And current City Clerk Susana Mendoza clearly also wants to do what is right.

In a brief conversation with  Alderman Fioretti, he says he is not interested in 'double dipping,' licensing both dogs as well as dog owners. No dollar amount has (to my knowledge) been discussed. And the Alderman understand it must be affordable, since pets mean as much to people with little income as to millionaires, and as much to seniors as to single moms.

I am all for lessening the number of severe dog attacks and dog bites in general. However, keep in mind dog attacks which leave someone seriously mauled are rare events. Shootings leaving people injured or killed, for example, are not rare events. The overwhelming majority of dogs are not dangerous weapons. In fact (and it is a fact) dogs do a great deal to benefit society. Simply put, no one forces Americans to live with dogs - yet many millions do; overall there are more pets in America than children.

To their credit the  Chicago Aldermen seem to understand that one breed (or combination of breeds - such as Pit Bull-looking dogs - whatever that means) aren't the issue - it's irresponsible and reckless dog owners who are the problem. I can't possibly explain or defend why the owner of the two dogs who attacked jogger Joseph Finley on January 2 weren't more seriously fined or charged with a stronger offense. Reportedly, these dogs had been running unsupervised and threatened people previously - and if reports are are true, were even complained about in the past.

Also, pediatric mandatory spay/neuter  is being discussed as a solution by some - that is a BAD idea....Here are just a few reasons: Veterinary visits will decline (people fear the veterinarians will 'turn them in') and then rabies vaccines decline (a public health issue) and the pets suffer by not seeing the vet; the presumption that in-tact male dogs are more dangerous is simply (based on science) not true; some dogs are actually more susceptible to certain types of cancers if spay/neutered early in life; and finally the philosophical issue of who needs government interfering with our medical decisions for our pets?  Then one sentence would simply do the trick: Mandated pediatric spay/neuter has not helped anywhere in America, why would it in Chicago? Even the one national organization which was previously supportive has seemed to back off.

I do strongly support educational programs, which would include participation from the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association - who has offered to participate as well myself.

Here's Fran Spielman's Chicago Sun Times piece. This is my WGN Radio Petcast with Ald. Fioretti and Dr. J.B. Bruederle.

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  • It sounds like a good idea, but the same people who don't get a dog license will probably not bother to get an owner's license either. Yes, if you can catch them and fine them it will raise revenues, but the idea that dog owners who like having vicious dogs will suddenly do the right think is wishful thinking.
    I used to take my dog to the Montrose dog beach, where you're not only supposed to have a City dog tag, but a Park permit too. We stopped going because there were too many wild dogs picking fights while their owners stood around chatting. They looked like nice people, and I'm sure many had the tags, but it didn't suddenly turn them into vigilant owners.
    As for spaying/neutering - I would be worried about the after care more than anything else. The dogs have to wear a cone for a while, and there's a risk of people "feeling sorry" for their pets, or just not caring for them properly, taking off the cones and then the wounds becoming infected. Many owners probably either wouldn't realize till too late or just wouldn't be able to afford for more vet care.
    On the other hand, many animals go a little "wild" when in heat and can easily get out and mate, resulting in unwanted pregnancies. This happened with the bitch I had as a child. The hussy was out all night, resulting in a large litter of unplanned puppies. More spaying would certainly reduce the number of pups in shelters.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Expat - listen - I'm not sure anything we can do, short of education (to help in the long run) is going to change overnight all irresponsible dog owners into the best dog owners on the planet, but this can have impact.

    About your issue at Montrose Beach - yes, I understand - not sure how it is relevant. Sometimes dogs in such a setting become over stimulated. Dogs aggressive to other dogs are not typically aggressive to people - two different issues. Of course,people should not take dogs who are not social with other dogs to dog parks or beaches. I agree! Self-policing can matter in these instances.

    Also, don't understand your 'cone comments.' Most spay/neutered dogs only need 'the cone' a short time following surgery. Truth is most dogs in the city are already spay/neutered. All dogs (by law) adopted from shelters, and all dogs from responsible breeders.

    Spay/neuter for population control and for health reasons - I endorse, absolutely. . . I just do not want the mandate because with mandates often come unwanted consequences.

  • I would like to say Thank You, for this Posting. I am a little confused about this statement: " combination of breeds - such as Pit Bull-looking dogs - whatever that means" Are you being sarcastic, or do you really not understand? Just in case, APBT is not a known Breed by the AKC, so there are no standards. Meaning anything that looks like a PB, is a PB, only unless proven otherwise. Same reason many Mixed Breeds have been labeled as a PB, when they were not.
    I am all for Spaying & Neutering, and if more people were to do this, there would be a Great Decrease in the Over Population of dogs. I believe it should be Illegal to Breed. Only unless you are a Taxed, Licensed & Reputable Breeder. This is a recession & people are pimping their dogs for their only Income.
    By Taxed, I mean, for every Liter the Breeder should Pay an amount & this money should go to the Local Shelters. Just because that Breeder is Reputable doesn't mean 5 generations down that Breeder will be Reputable. Not all Licensed Breeders are Reputable, take Puppy Mills for example. PMP Breeders are normally AKC Licensed & we all see how these dogs are Raised & Bred.
    It all starts with the Breeder, if we really want to stop attacks, that is were it starts.
    It should be Illegal for anybody with any kind of Government support to own a Dog, Period! These people can barely pay for themselves, let alone 3 Kids & 5 dogs. I don't mind helping people out, but while I pay for them to eat- they use the little money they have to feed a dog! How about they use all their Money on the KIDS.
    We also need Fencing Requirements, suitable to each dog's Size & Training. It should be Illegal to own any Med-Large Breed with a 4ft Chain-Link Fence. 6ft+ Wooden Fences or Better. If you pay attention to the dog attacks( that don't happen on property) it is clearly because of Improper Fencing, a Chain-Link Fence. This wouldn't only benefit for dog attacks, but for Breaks-Ins, as well.

    How about we treat Dog Owners like we treat Car or Gun Owners. Every dog owner should be Required to take & Pass classes & Training, Prior to Owning 1. It is all about EDUCATION!! The average dog owner knows NOTHING about their Breed, this is why dog attacks happen. More than 1/2 of all dog attacks are to children 12& younger. The majority of them between 5-8yrs. I don't know how closely you pay attention to dog attacks, but in about 90% of all those attacks to children- that CHILD WAS LEFT ALONE WITH THE DOG. People have to realize it doesn't matter the Breed, or Size, any dog can & will attack. I blame the Parents in those Cases, it is 110% their fault.
    We also have to change the Law, if my APBT were to attack someone (& I was at fault), they shouldn't have to go to court for me to pay their Medical Bills. By Law, Now all that will happen is my dog will be euthanized & in TX I would go to jail from 2-5yrs. What did that solve, they will still have to pay their own bills & when I get out nothing will stop me from Owning another APBT.
    I believe if my APBT were to attack someone, I should be required to pay their Bills & not only that, I should be required to take Courses & Training, prior to owning another.

    Sorry for the short story
    =)

  • In reply to MzTx:

    I appreciate your comments - but just because a person has lost his/her job, doesn't give them the right not to have a pet. Animals do so much for us, are here to tell me seniors (and many LIVE for their pets) should give them up because they receive govt. support? How sad an heartless.

    In homes where there have been foreclosures - not giving up the pet might be the one factor of stability in the lives of the children.

    Besides we KNOW pets are healthful. Just because a person is poor - doesn't mean they can not share their lives with a companion animal.

    I don't understand your Pit Bull statement - only a miniscule percent of Pit Bull looking dogs are true APBT (though they may be called Pit Bulls). Dogs in urban areas may be but are rarely pure bred AKC bully breeds, and even more rarely the UKC breed your refer, the APBT.

    Most are mixes of Pit Bull and who knows what else, even if there is some Pit Bull there or not. In fact, the phenotype (the way a dog looks) sometimes has little to do with what is really the genetic make up. I assume you've seen the photos of Pit Bull-looking dogs and are asked to identify which one is a Pit or has any Pit Bull in it (based on genetic testing), it's hard for dog show judges, veterinarians - anyone with knowledge to get the right answer.

    I agree, overall, that people do need to be responsible for their pets.

  • In reply to MzTx:

    Wow, I hope you don't work in government! Going crazy with those laws and taxations there. I should not have to pay any type of tax or fee for breeding my dogs (I'm not a breeder, but could be someday). I don't know if people are breeding for money due to the economy, because by that same token the demand for puppies and expensive dogs would be down.

    You may not realize the high number of people who are on some type of gov't aid right now, and I'm sure plenty of them own a pet. You want everyone who is on food stamps to have the cops come and remove their pets from the home? Or are you going to give them tickets and fines to enforce this, when they're already low-income?

    I do not really see any comparison between driving a car on a public way, hundreds of 2,000 pound hunks of steel moving 65 mph on a street... and a GUN. You need licenses for these things. Neither one compares to me having a Shih Tzu in my living room.

    I do agree with the idea of any pet owners given citations having to take a pet ownership course, that's a great idea. Like how negligent parents have to take parenting classes. Make the penalty higher for dog attacks. If you get a "talking on cell phone" ticket and don't pay it within 7 days, it goes to $500. They should also have a hefty penalty for your dog attacking someone elses dog, people get away with that way to much.

  • People could just let them play em like a fiddle...

    Here's what I predicted could happen. This issue comes up of "Banning Pit Bulls." The dog community goes hysteric, "Oh no, they can't do that, let's fight it!" The city says "Ok, you heroic pit bull lovers have shown us the right way, we will SETTLE for just having a lil' "permit" for pits." Oh thank god, that's better, tragedy averted.

    We have to identify what exactly is the problem and goal here. To reduce dog attacks by dangerous pit bulls at large? In that case, permits won't matter, will they? The majority of the people who keep dangerous pit bulls are not going to care to get permits in the first place. Nor dog licenses, nor obedience training, nor secure locks on their gates apparently. Like Steve says, these attacks are rare. Very rare, IMO, frequency per capita, we have a lot of pits in this city, lots of good pits with no incidents.

    Permits for dog ownership? Sure, why the heck not. They're gonna start selling permits to breathe the city air soon. Any way for the city of Chicago to squeeze one last dime out of people (and businesses) who are already suffering in this economy, and with these restrictions and nanny state we live in, in Chicago, IL. I don't like the idea of even *debating* "Should the government *be allowed* to forbid you from owning any particular breed of dog?" It just seems like common sense to me. Sure we all need to restrain our animals, but if I want to any breed as a pet, or even have vicious guard dogs to protect my property, that is my right. With all the taxes I pay, (both in property tax and all SORTS of other taxes) with all the licensing, fees, stickers, and red tape I have to go through... I am not going to have my right to own a pit bull, or an in-tact dog for that matter, taken away, or limited whatsoever. Think about the views and opinions of the people that matter. The "influential people". Then realize that if your clout is nothing compared to theirs, your voices have to be that much LOUDER to be heard.

    In my opinion, the real problem is irresponsible breeding of pits. One of the BEST ideas out there is educating at a community and national level, then also (in some programs) paying people to get their animals fixed. We know there are $$$$ resources out there for animals-- put some of it towards this. Give 'em $20 a snip or something. I am aware of the free programs, and they are awesome, but sadly there are too many apathetic people that will not make that early morning appointment and bring a dog down there. Some people do not see or care about the benefits of s/n. But give them a crisp Jackson and they'll be lining up. I think the mobile s/n vans are great for reaching out, too.

  • Pit Bull refers to several Breeds of dogs American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, & in some cases American Bulldogs & Presa Canario.

    I am Not speaking for the people who just lost their Job, or are Looking for one. I am talking about the people who don't try, who have been Unemployed for years.
    Oh, I agree with ur PB statement, I think we r saying the same thing lol.

    For the Last 2 years, I have been documenting Dog Attacks, PB & Non-PB & they are all the same. Every dog attack could have been Prevented.
    CDC & AMVA both state: " First a dog's tendency to bite depends on 5 interacting factors: Heredity, early Experience, Socialization, Training, Health ( Med & Behavior) & Victim Behavior."
    FYI- If I were to lose my job and were to have problems feeding myself & my dog, I would put my dogs down. Yea, I could take them to a Shelter or a Rescue, but at the end it would cost them Hundreds more to feed & care for my dog, then to euthanize them anyways. I love my dogs enough not to put them in that situation.

    If a person is Poor, then how are they going to give that dog what it needs. How will they pay for the Medical Bills, Vaccs, S&N, Food & Training? They can't, and people should put Priorities First.
    Just like homeless people, I understand they are alone & need something to feel that void, but these people can't give that dog anymore than Love & a dog needs more than that. Plus poor people are way more likely to leave their dogs behind, just more dogs in the Shelter.
    I also believe there should be Limits on how many dogs a Household should own. We all know dogs have Pack Mentality, and some of the worst attacks are to Packs.
    Thank You for your reply Steve =)

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    Educating people is the best solution, as there is no perfect solution. Attacks are not ok, but seriously, there are so many other things that hurt and kill people, and dogs are on the very bottom of the list. Why do we make such a big deal about dog attacks, when 40,000 people die in car accidents every year, and over 200,000 are maimed forever? Seriously, stuff happens, and in areas where people are educated about canine behavior, there is a major reduction in serious attacks. Is it so hard to squeeze in an annual seminar at schools to teach children how to treat dogs and how to react when a dog attacks? It could be all volunteer, and would save a lot of trouble for everyone. Also, why doesn't Chicago try enforcing current laws before making new laws? They don't even tackle dog fighting, and that is a major part of the problem.

  • Chicago Dog gal - if you read my post you could have avoided your long rant. The reason why I support is that it is more enforceable than the current statue which calls (by law) for a city dog tag. Chicago is hardly the only place which mandates dog tags, virtually every municipality has for decades. But because it's non-enforceable most people don't do it. This would, as planned, not be an additional purchase but instead of. I don't know the cost, but hopefully no more expensive or very little more. So, really it wouldn't cost dog owners who already compliant any more money.

  • MzTx - not sure what the CDC, AVMA have to say about dog bites (which is correct) has to do with people who look for jobs.

    Listen, I have no clue who has lost their job and really tries to find work and those who are not trying hard to find gainful employment....I also won't comment on politics here.

    This isn't political - simply saying, I believe having a pet is beneficial for people, rich or poor or old or young. And we do need to find ways to better support those with limited incomes in reference to their pets. No matter, people who have little income - I don't know why they have little income and I'm not sure I'm in a position to determine if they really could find work if they wanted - all I know is that they shouldn't have to give up their pets.

  • City Hund - I actually tend to agree...though licensing dog owners really would be a new law, then the old law of licensing dogs would be dropped (as I understand it), kind of trade off. Or we must enforce the license for dogs....that, though is not easy in the real world.

    Overall, though, you are totally right and I've been saying that....we just celebrated the first 24 hour period in Chicago in like a year where no one was injured or killed by a gun. Though one IS too money, we go years without a severe dog attack.

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