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Skokie to Curb 'Problem Pet Owners'

The village is looking to categorize "dangerous" and "vicious" animals after two recent dog-related attacks. Meanwhile, a health expert says pit bulls, German shepherds are stereotyped and only account for small percentage of bites.

In Skokie as everywhere else, people love their dogs. What to do with the small number of owners who don’t control their dogs is now on the table for the village board.

Trustees are now pondering changes to the laws on the books regarding animal control. No decisions were made during Monday’s meeting, yet tighter regulations appear to be on the horizon with a likely August vote. This would reflect a shift in village thinking, which up until now had been to take a look at animal incidents on a case-by-case basis.

Village Dept. Director Dr. Catherine Counard began to look at the issue intensely when one dog mauled another dog to death and a Skokie resident was injured in another attack.

According to Counard, as horrific as those attacks were, they do not reflect a wider village problem. She emphasized Skokie has approximately 2,000 licensed dogs and the village has averaged only 33 dog bites to humans over an 18-year period from 1994 to 2011. In the last three years, the dog was provoked into biting in reaction to an incident about 67 percent of the time. There was an average of five incidents per year where the dog bit for no known reason. The village added that there have been a collective 25 attacks since 2005 by cats or wild animals.

Counard categorized the problem into two areas: “vicious” and “dangerous” animals.

“The difference between a dangerous animal and a vicious one is a dangerous animal that comes up to you and acts as if it is going to tear you apart,” she said. “But it didn’t touch you. But if it attacks you now it is vicious. If it bites or scratches you, that is vicious. That is a much more serious kind of transgression.”

Counard suggested a stiffer group of penalties for “problem pet owners.”  

Anyone who would have three violations in a three-year period with the same pet would be considered a problem pet owner, Counard said. If the animal was already declared vicious or dangerous then that number would be two, she added.

In terms of other consequences, Counard is proposing a variety of actions from steeper fines to mandatory training classes all the way to required euthanasia after a “vicious” animal commits a second offense. These same owners would not be allowed to get a pet license from the village for two years, she suggested.

Current laws problematic, trustee says -

With the way the situation is now, there are many cases where Skokie public officials are hamstrung by the existing regulations.  Specifically, if the complainant is not willing to sign a citation against the owner of the problem animal, as the village is beyond its authority right now if there is not a signed citation. Counard said an average of 20 percent who could sign such a complaint when situations have occurred have been willing to do so. 

There is no overwhelming reason for that to occur, it appears that some people are not willing to sign a complaint against what can often be a neighbor.

This scenario was problematic for Trustee Randy Roberts.

“If only 20 percent of the people are signing complaints, we are not holding the right people accountable,” he said Monday night. “I think we ought to rethink why is it the citizen has to file a complaint.”

Roberts said he believed a member of the village staff should be “the bad guy.”

Changing the rules could be part of the comprehensive overhaul village counsel Pat Hanley and the rest of the staff will work on before August.

Pit bull, shepherd statistics -

One other aspect of Counard’s report puts some holes in a stereotype that German shepherds or pit bulls are the main problem with biting dogs. According to the Health Director, over the last three years only 13 percent of bites were caused by pit bulls and ten percent by German shepherds. There are as many as 23 different breeds that have been thought to bite since 2009.

With that being the case, Counard said there are no plans to put together a breed specific proposal. 

“It’s the owners not controlling the dogs.”

Carmen July 05, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I have neighbors who don't close their gates or put their dogs on leashes and those dogs are biters. They also poop on everyone else's lawns but that's a different issue. This is a daily occurence and the village won't do anything unless they "see" the dog running loose. Should we video tape? Will that hold up when a complaint is filed - because if it does I'll be submitting film at least once a week. True, there are some breeds that are more aggressive but the village has to hand out informational packets about neutering, STRONG leashes - not the idiot cords and adult supervision when the law-abiding citizens get their pet-tags. Now, what do we do about the residents who don't license their pets? And there's hundreds of them...how about a $2000 fine - sure, it's steep but something to consider when their dog is caught off-leash and not with tags.
John Tobin July 05, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Owners who consistently leave their dogs off leash need to be warned and fined, and eventually need to lose ownership of their dogs. As for frequency of biting for pit bulls, it needs to be considered what relative damage is done when they do bite. The risk may be similar for most breeds, but the stakes are often higher with some. JT
Skokie Mike July 05, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Careful John, the pit bull nuts will come to this story and start screaming at you. People lie to themseleves. Pit bulls are dangerous, vicious animals that kill. im just going to wait for the comments about pit bulls being the worlds best baby sitters or stories. Of course, they're going to leave all this stuff out: (Recent google search on "pitbull kills): http://www.google.com/#q=pit+bull+kills&hl=en&sa=X&prmd=imvnsu&source=univ&tbm=nws&tbo=u&ei=tbX1T-SlL-es2gXS8-DWBg&ved=0CBYQqAI&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=562843a58ca8658f&biw=1920&bih=955
Skokie Mike July 05, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Lets not forget that the village is looking to change their current laws AFTER TWO PITBULLS KILLED TWO DIFFERENT DOGS. Yesh.
Frank July 05, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I think the police need to be called when the dogs are off leash...though the owner may think the animal is okay, many people are frightened of large dogs who can possibly be aggressive. Many of my neighbors have commented about a particular unleashed large Shepard who is aggressive, they feel they have to avoid going near the house...animal control has been called several times, with little or no effect....any unregistered dog needs to be impounded..and I love dogs had REGISTERED dogs in the village for 27 years.
Roxanne Conway July 05, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Skokie Mike you are a bitter and rude little man who has far too much time on your hands. Try googling other breeds with the word "kill" too and hey look what I found: http://www.examiner.com/article/labrador-shot-and-killed-after-attacking-toddler-maine Crazy the stuff you can find with google right? Using google is hard. (that would be sarcasim right there) I am not a pitt bull nut but neither am I a selfish, selfserving, close minded jerk who likes to put others down to make himself feel better while hiding behind an alias.
Roxanne Conway July 05, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I think all dogs are evil because they may BITE! YESSH outlaw dogs! They have teeth!
Skokie Mike July 05, 2012 at 07:45 PM
@ Internet tough girl - Let me ask you this: Why do most shelter or rescue clinics offer to nuder, spade pit bulls for free? Is it because pit bulls are breeding faster than any other dog or is it because they're viscous and dangerous and need to be calmed down? I really wonder ...
Roxanne Conway July 05, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Maybe because the stigma that you are buying into Mr. Alias? Because they are so many backyard breeders and when they aren't tough enough to fight in illegal dog fights they are dumped on the street. And because again of the stigma about the breed no one wants them. So stop your pretty little head from wondering...
Roxanne Conway July 05, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Hey lookie here! There are lots of places that spay and neuter all breeds! Crazy that google.com huh? http://www.google.com/#hl=en&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=free+spay+and+neuter+clinics+illinois&oq=free+spay+and+neuter+clinics+illinois&gs_l=hp.3..0i30.1068.1068.0.2077.1.1.0.0.0.0.113.113.0j1.1.0.eiatsh..0.0.na2FPT2xmmI&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=ce19979f0aca28f&biw=1525&bih=791
Internet Tough Guy July 05, 2012 at 08:17 PM
First of all, I'd like to see your source on the idea that most shelters and rescues will "nuder" or "spade" (might want to look up the real words) for free whereas they won't with non-pit breeds.. Second, if it is the case, then maybe it's because pit bulls represent an estimated 25% of the dogs that are euthanized in shelters because <insert expletive> people breed them like crazy to either try and train them to be fighters or make themselves look tough and a lot of people won't adopt them because of <insert expletive> people like you who reinforce stereotypes.
Carmen July 06, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Boy this heat is something isn't it? - makes people AND dogs angry. How about euthanasia after one bite? Two offenses is too lenient. Unfortunately by the second offense those dogs have done some real damage. Does that shepherd jump the fence? If not, it's a barker and that's what most dogs do; especially shepherds - they love to bark. I have one - I know (FYI: it's not my dogs scaring people folks - she's too lazy). My shepherd got mauled by a pitbull (how's that for a twist?) which was running loose from two little kids who couldn't hold the cord/leash. It was human error - they couldn't handle an 80 pound angry dog. The kids ran off with the dog and again, SPD won't do anything unless they "see" the dog loose or in action. Can't ban a breed because these fighting breeders will mix them with something else just as volatile; labs chew people's toes and faces and they are supposed to be good family pets. HUGE fines for all offenders folks, people won't wake up unless they get hit where it counts: in the wallet.
SuburbanMary July 06, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Any reputable shelter or rescue organization will neuter or spay (let's get the terms right, Skokie Mike) the animal BEFORE it is given to a family for adoption -- because that is the policy. These organizations know that there are too many dogs out there already and this cuts down on more of them being bred unintentionally. It certainly does not have anything to do with a particular breed.
skokie 2 July 07, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Waiting on someone to blame it on Section 8.
h m July 07, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Maybe the village need to put down people after the commit crimes
sherwin dubren August 10, 2012 at 01:16 AM
It's another pit bull attack. This time in South Elgin. This dog clamped on to a 41 year old woman and she was smeared with blood. A police officer was forced to shot the dog when he feared an attack on himself. The dog had first attacked a 5 year old boy and then turned his attention to the 41 year old woman. The boy suffered bites to his arm and hand. I would never go near one of these pit bulls. They attack with no provocation. They should be banned.

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