Elgin looks to beef up pit bull laws

Published: 2/23/2010 12:01 AM

Elgin city leaders are considering rules that will require pit bull owners to: pay $100 for a three-year registration of their dogs; have $500,000 worth of insurance; and have their pets leashed and muzzled when they are being walked.

Violators could receive a $1,000 fine if they do not comply with the proposed laws that automatically deem pitbulls "dangerous" dogs.

Dangerous dogs also are required to be kept in a yard with a six-foot-tall fence with locks.

Mayor Ed Schock supports the proposal, which the council will take up at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Centre's Heritage Ballroom, 100 Symphony Way.

Schock said a pit bull ban would be "too extreme" and the new law helps protect the public, hold bad owners responsible while allowing pit bull owners to keep their dogs.

"This is a compromise," he said. "It really strengthens our animal control ordinance, which compared to other communities was outdated and relatively weak. It puts additional restrictions on them on our belief that they are potentially more dangerous than the average dog."

For years, the city has aimed to give its animal control laws more teeth, but demands from residents for the city to do something about pit bull attacks reached a crescendo last summer when scores of people recounted devastating attacks.

And this past weekend, police found 21 aggressive pit bulls during a raid of an indoor marijuana growing operation and had to shoot six dogs.

Opponents of a pit bull ban railed against "breed specific legislation" saying it was better to punish the deed instead of just one breed.

The police department could not immediately specify how many dog attacks were reported in the city this year or last year and said a Freedom of Information Act request needed to be filed.

City Manager Sean Stegall and Corporation Counsel William Cogley said the laws, the first update in more than 20 years, hopefully will help prevent attacks.

"What we're trying to do is prevent the first bite here," Cogley said. "When (pit bulls) do attack, they attach with a relentlessness and ferocity that is different from other breeds."

Council member John Prigge, who was elected last spring, advocated for "grandfathered ban" on pit bulls but didn't have enough support on the council to move forward.

"This is going to get this dangerous breed off the streets of Elgin," Prigge said. "I'm very excited about this. A lot of work went into this. I've been on this since last April."

The earliest the city council can approve these new laws is at the March 10 meeting. Public comments will be limited to 30 minutes Wednesday.

If passed, pit bull owners will have until June 1 to register their dogs.

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