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Time to let fifth dog go, Wheeling says
'Rules are rules': Wheeling won't budge on animal ordinance
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Wheeling's Margaret Bucher pleads her case Monday night before the Wheeling village board, asking the board to change an ordinance that limits a person to four dogs per household. Bucher has five.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Supporters Barb Babich of Schaumburg gives Margaret Bucher a supportive hug before she pleads her case to keep her fifth dog before the Wheeling village board.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Wheeling's Margaret Bucher pleads her case Monday night before the Wheeling village board at the village hall, asking the board to change an ordinance that limits a person to four dogs per household. Bucher has five.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/7/2009 12:01 AM

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As a last resort, Margaret Bucher brought a letter of support from her mail carrier on Monday - because if anyone would have an issue with her five dogs, it would be her mail carrier, she said.

But members of the Wheeling village board didn't buy it.

Those who spoke at Monday's board meeting said they'd stick with the village code, which allows only four dogs per home. Bucher wanted the board to give her a variation or change the code.

Only a handful of people attended the meeting, and only one person spoke out on Bucher's behalf, but Trustee Robert Heer blamed her for "creating a circus atmosphere."

"You talked to every radio station and newspaper you could," Heer said. "Laws are for all people. You come with this idle threat of moving. If you choose to leave, then leave."

Village officials had given Bucher until April 1 to give up one of her dogs or face a fine of between $50 and $500 per day. Officials later extended the deadline to give Bucher time to work out a plan. But Bucher said she couldn't possibly choose which of her five dogs - a Pomeranian, two Maltese, a shih tzu and a Maltese/shih tzu mix - she would give up to comply with Wheeling village code.

And if the village doesn't let her keep all five dogs, she'll move, she said.

Acting Village President Dean Argiris told Bucher she could meet with village Manager Mark Rooney but that the board wouldn't change the ordinance for her.

"Every single one of us up here loves animals and we're sympathetic," Argiris said. "I have a dog myself. But rules are rules, and we have to enforce the laws."

On Monday, Bucher read a letter that was "written" by her dogs.

"Please let us stay in our home," she said in a shaky voice. "We are house dogs and live in a clean home. We have to depend on our owner to fight for us. She loves us very, very much."

The village code has nothing to do with how well Bucher cares for her dogs, village attorney James Ferolo said.

"The village code protects all property owners," Ferolo said. "We can't selectivity enforce our ordinances."

Ferolo also said it doesn't matter that Bucher didn't know the ordinance existed when she got her fifth dog.

"An ignorance of the law is not an excuse for not following the law," he said. "I say that in the most respectful way possible."

Wheeling's dog ordinance dates back 18 years.

Budge: Woman still says she'll move to keep fifth dog