Maywood Pit Bull Owners Pressing Village to Change Regulations

Blue_nose_pit_bull_puppy.jpgWednesday, May 3, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The Maywood Board of Trustees is considering changing an ordinance regulating the ownership of pit bulls in Maywood after numerous residents have complained that the local law unnecessarily stigmatizes the dog breed and places undue burdens on the owners.

“You guys have a rule about no pit bulls and that rule isn’t valid in Illinois, but it is home rule here,” said Maywood resident Phillip Brooks during an April 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee meeting.

“Anybody in town who owns a pit bull should be able to register their dog and own their dog just like anybody else,” he said.

According to the Illinois Animal Control Act, municipalities cannot adopt animal regulations that are specific to a certain breed; however, home rule municipalities, such as Maywood, can override the state’s legislation and adopt local breed-specific regulations.

Currently, Maywood regulates pit bull dogs — which are defined as Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or any mixed-breed of dog that contains traces of either of those breeds — by requiring their owners to fulfill a series of obligations before obtaining a permit to keep the dogs.

Pit bull owners are obligated to “install outdoor enclosures surrounded by a security fence that the dogs must be maintained within when on the owner’s property but not inside the residence,” according to village ordinance.

The owners must not allow the dogs outside of an enclosure or residence unless they’re securely muzzled, supervised and controlled by an owner or family member no younger than 16 and on a non-retractable leash or chain “with a tensile strength of 300 pounds and not exceeding 3 feet in length.”

In addition, anyone seeking to obtain a permit to own a pit bull older than 4 months must show proof that the dog has been spayed and neutered, and received obedience training from a certified and licensed trainer within the past calendar year.

Pit bull owners must also obtain a homeowners or renter’s insurance policy covering the address where the pit bull is kept. Any pit bull owners living in a property owned by someone else must obtain the signed consent of the landlord.

And in Maywood, no resident can own a pit bull if he or she lives within 1,500 feet of a school, public park, playground, day care facility or other similar facility, according to the village ordinances.

Pit bull owners who violate the section of the village’s ordinances pertaining to pit bull ownership are subject to fines ranging from $200 to $1,000. Those owners who are found guilty of a third violation within a calendar year may have their permit immediately revoked and may be prohibited from obtaining a new permit for at least one year.

If, during this revocation period, the pit bull is found on the owner’s premises, then the dog can be impounded and “may be placed for adoption, humanely euthanized, or otherwise disposed of in accordance with Illinois law,” according to the ordinance.

Village attorney Michael Jurusik said that Maywood’s pit bull regulations were formed between 2005 and 2006, when many municipalities across the country, including Chicago, were considering regulations for, and even complete bans on, certain dog breeds, including pit bulls and rottweilers.

Deloren Johnson, Maywood’s animal control officer, said during the April 26 meeting that he’s been confronted by residents, both new and old, who have aired their concerns about the pit bull regulations, which Johnson said can make owning the breed of dogs expensive and even, in some cases, prohibitive.

Johnson said that the requirement that pit bulls over 4 months old be spayed and neutered can be particularly cumbersome since most veterinarians won’t agree to do the procedure on dogs over 6 months old.

“Most of the dogs [he’s encountered in the village] are a couple years old and it’s expensive to have dogs spayed and neutered,” Johnson said. “Most vets won’t attempt to do that. Usually, dogs get spayed or neutered at around 4 to 6 months old. The procedures become more costly as dogs age.”

Johnson said that, from 2015 to 2016, his office didn’t receive any reports of pit bull bites. In 2016, he said, his office reported three dog bites, one of which involved a breed of dog that he couldn’t identify because the owner hid the dog after the attack. So far this year, Johnson said, he’s responded to four reports of pit bulls that have been roaming at large, but no bites involving the breeds.

“The majority of the dogs I pick up are not usually reclaimed by their owners,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, people have to move and they can’t take their animal with them. Instead of calling us to get the animals, a service we offer for free, they just let them run out.”

Johnson said that whether or not a dog is considered dangerous is less dependent on the breed than the owner.

“The thing about any dog is the way they’re trained. If you train an animal to be aggressive, the animal is going to be aggressive. If you don’t train the dog and it gets loose, it will potentially be a problem,” he said.

“So, the issue is more or less the owner rather than the animal. It’s the knowledge the owners have and if they’re able to take care of the animal. A lot of times, people own dogs but don’t know how to take care of them.”

Trustee Isiah Brandon said that he would be interested in changing the current pit bull regulations as long as “the same compliance measures [are kept] in place to make sure that if anything occurs there is a safety net.”

Trustee Michael Rogers said that he thinks the 1,500-foot requirement for owning pit bulls “is rather excessive.”

“That’s more than a quarter of a mile,” he said. “That’s excessive. I’m generally in favor of having the ordinance. I think we have to be safer than sorry. But 1,500 feet is a long way. Coming down to something more like 300 or 500 feet [still] provides a level of safety.”

One business owner, however, said that the village should enforce its existing regulations on pit bull ownership. Glenda Thomas, who owns a preschool on the 3500 block of South 19th Ave., complained about an apartment building across the street from her establishment.

“There are dogs out that aren’t supposed to be there. There are unregistered dogs. The village came down and could not help me with your own ordinance,” she told village board members. “Use your own power.”

The board directed the police and animal control to work with village staff to bring back a revised ordinance that the board could vote on in the weeks ahead. VFP

Photo: A blue-nosed pit bull pup. | Wikipedia 

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