A large crowd packed the Jacksonville City Council chambers Monday night to hear a presentation focusing on regulating dangerous dogs.
Morgan County Animal Control Administrator Dr. Jay Hudson asked aldermen to consider creating an ordinance that would require all pit bulls and pit bull mix-breeds in the city be registered with Animal Control, based on the premise of public safety.
Hudson says registering the dogs and keeping a picture on file will make it easier to keep track of them and make sure their owners are keeping the animals current on vaccinations. He also wants pit bulls neutered, implanted with a microchip and for their owners to carry liability insurance.
“I’m asking the city council to be as concerned as I am about the pit bulls in our community and the potential danger that they cause. When that type of dog makes up 40 percent of the bites that we’re seeing in Morgan County, then there’s something wrong with that kind of dog and it has to be that those dogs are causing the problem,” Hudson says.
“They’re very aggressive. They have a tendency to turn and become even more aggressive. So, I think [we should] have those dogs properly observed and taken care of.”
Statistics provided by Hudson last night indicated that in 2013, 10 of 25 dog bites recorded were from pit bull or pit bull cross-breeds. In 2012, the number was 21 out of 46. He added that nearly 75 percent of Taser use by animal wardens in the county in the last two years were on pit bulls.
Hudson says what drove him to make his presentation was an incident at his veterinary office on East Morton last December. He explained to aldermen that a 400-pound pony on his property was viciously attacked by two pit bulls. The pony survived, but Hudson says they were trying to kill the horse.
He says that experience changed his attitude on pit bulls.
“Something that you love and work with is torn to shreds right in front of your eyes. That’s very devastating,” he says.
Hudson added that any dog that is involved in a biting incident in Jacksonville or Morgan County should be in the same category of regulation, regardless of breed.
“If an animal becomes a repeat biter, then they’re declared a dangerous dog and then after dangerous dog, they can be declared a vicious dog, and then they have to be confined in a child-proof enclosure for the rest of the dog’s life,” Hudson says.
There were people in attendance last night on both sides of the argument. One of those against the idea was Protecting Animal Welfare Society director Lisa Jackson. She argues there are already laws on the books on how to deem a dog “dangerous” or “vicious”.
“All dogs are to be micro-chipped anyway that leave Animal Control or leave a rescue; it can be put on the responsibility of the adopter to do so,” she says.
“To single out pit bulls specifically or larger ‘bully breeds,’ I don’t find fair. A dog that bites? OK, but again, there’s laws on the books of the procedure to get to that point. I will believe [Hudson’s claim that 40 percent of dog bites in the county are pit bulls] if there was a DNA test done on every dog that has been listed as a pit or pit mix,” continues Jackson.
Currently Hudson says dogs picked up for biting people are only quarantined and vaccinated.
Jackson argues it’s how “bully breeds” like pit bulls are raised and treated that determines whether they’re violent animals.
City attorney Dan Beard says breed-specific restrictions are allowable if they’re reasonable.
Illinois had adopted legislation prohibiting the banning of dogs based on breed alone, but Beard notes there are several Illinois municipalities that have breed-specific bans on the books.
“Several of these were adopted subsequent to the state taking its position,” Beard says. “The U.S. Supreme court refused to hear a case out of Ohio basically letting a breed-specific ban in place, so it’s kind of up in the air- if the city passed a ban on pit bulls- whether it would be enforceable at the state level or whether the federal case would overrule that,” he adds.
The Jacksonville Public Safety Committee will discuss the issue at a date yet to be determined.
In other action last night, aldermen voted to rescind a resolution expanding the city/county Enterprise Zone after the Villas of Holly Brook assisted living facility withdrew their plans to build a new structure on North Diamond.
In addition, a resolution was passed approving a new sludge pump for the city wastewater treatment plant. Resolutions approving payment for several other wastewater and water treatment plant projects were also approved.