Under Elgin's new animal ordinance, a dog can be declared dangerous and its owner fined $1,000, even if it doesn't bite a person or another animal.
That was evident at the conclusion of an administrative hearing Tuesday afternoon in which an Elgin woman was fined $2,200. A hearing officer ruled that on June 24 Mayor Ed Schock fended off two pit bulls as he was walking his dog in the 200 block of Plum Street.
"It's continuing to send the message to dog owners that they have to be responsible for their dogs," Schock said afterward.
Mark Schuster, the administrative hearing officer, declared both dogs, Chico and Chata, dangerous and also fined owner Silvia Lugo for not having collars with rabies tags on the dogs at the time of the incident.
Lugo's male dog, Chico, was cited as being loose as well.
In addition to the fine, Lugo must obtain $100,000 in liability insurance, register her dogs at city hall, muzzle them when they are outside and have both dogs microchipped.
Schock testified that he was walking his dog at about 9:15 p.m. when two dogs bounded off a porch along Plum Street.
Schock said he and his German Shepherd, Rako, retreated behind a tree along the city-owned parkway and he felt they were both threatened and in imminent danger.
"They were coming full speed. One of them came to a screeching halt because I kicked it right under the chin. The other I hit with a leash," he said.
Schock said a man corralled the dogs and brought them inside the home and Lugo "proceeded to berate me and curse me for kicking her dog."
Lugo and her sister-in-law, Desiree Ramirez, testified that Chico ran off the porch to merely smell Schock's dog and the other remained on the porch steps. Lugo also produced rabies tags that she said were packed away from a recent move to Elgin from North Carolina.
"My dogs are friendly," said Lugo, who left the hearing in tears.
Schuster said people have a right to walk down the sidewalk and not be threatened by loose dogs.
"(Schock) doesn't know your dogs and they were running at him," Schuster told Lugo. "It's easy for you to say, 'Don't worry about that,' but it's not easy for him to make that judgment when they're racing at him."
Earlier this year, the Elgin City Council considered a tougher stance that would have declared all pit bulls as "dangerous dogs," which would automatically trigger the set of rules Lugo now must follow.
But dog owners implored the city to "punish the deed, not the breed," and council members softened their stance with the new law taking effect on June 1.
Also Thursday, Judge Bruce Lester found an Elgin woman liable for her two pit bulls, which escaped and bit a 9-year-old boy on the hand on May 28 at Festival Park before police shot the dogs in front of more than 100 onlookers. The dogs were eventually euthanized.
City Prosecutor Stephen Tousey said Sonia Torres was fined a total of $1,500 - $650 each for two loose dog violations and $100 each for not having rabies shots for the dogs.
"This case was written under the old ordinance before it was changed," he said.