Officers kill two pit bulls after boy attacked in Elgin

Published: 5/30/2010 12:24 PM | Updated: 5/30/2010 10:20 PM

Will Elgin leaders reconsider stricter laws for pit bulls and their owners?

That's one question that has been raised after a weekend incident in which officers shot and killed two loose pit bull dogs after one bit a 9-year-old boy in front of about 100 people at the fountain at Festival Park.

Councilman John Prigge, who pushed for a grandfathered pit bull ban earlier this year but later backed off, said he will meet with city officials and other council members to see what to do next.

"I knew we would be back here," Prigge said Sunday. "I'm rearing to go on this."

The incident occurred about 4:44 p.m. Friday near the north end of the park at 132 S. Grove Ave.

Officers had already been tracking reports of two stray dogs on the city's near east side for 20 to 30 minutes when the dogs were spotted at the park.

Elgin Police Lt. Matt Udelhoven said two boys were walking down a sidewalk when one of the dogs that was laying in the grass bit a boy on his left hand and wrist area and started scratching at his back.

When one of the responding officers moved forward to interrupt the attack, the dog then turned from the boy and lunged toward the officer, who shot it.

The second dog then began circling the officers and lunged toward the second officer, who then shot it, police said. Both animals were taken to the Dundee Animal Hospital and later euthanized, Udelhoven said.

The boy, from Elgin, was treated for minor injuries to his hand and released to his family with the understanding they would take him to receive medical treatment, Udelhoven said. The dogs' owner later was identified but was nowhere near the dogs throughout the incident, added Sgt. Dennis Hood. The owner has been cooperating with police's ongoing investigation into whether any ordinances were violated, Hood said. No charges had been filed or fines levied as of Sunday.

In March, Elgin councilmen enacted a new law classifying any dog that attacks another animal or human as "dangerous," triggering a number of added regulations for the owner of such an animal.

This was considered a compromise of an earlier proposal that would have automatically classified all pit bulls as "dangerous," thus mandating stricter laws.

Some of the regulations that come with owning a dog classified as dangerous include muzzling it outside the home, building a 6-foot fence for any outdoor area where it's kept, obtaining $100,000 in liability insurance, use of a 6-foot-long leash whenever the dog is walked by a person who must be at least 18 years old and paying a $50 registration fee every three years.

The new law is supposed to take effect Tuesday; the current law carries a $50 fine.

Prigge, who vowed in March to be on the lookout for any further pit bull attacks in the city, said he wants to see what feedback he gets from the public from now until the next city council meeting June 9.

"I don't know what to tell you," said a frustrated Prigge. "Let's see what the people say. We listened to them in March. We'll listen to them again."

One reason council members backed off the pit bull laws was because scores of pit bull owners said the city needed to hold owners responsible and to "punish the need, not the breed."

"The whole thing we heard over and over again was 'make the owners responsible.' It's a long process. It's not going to happen overnight," said Mayor Ed Schock.