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Jacksonville may let dog laws lie

By Cody Bozarth, Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Ill.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 22--Continuing discussions on suggested new city regulations for vicious dogs, Jacksonville officials made it clear that a breed-specific ordinance was not going to be considered.

In March, the City Council was approached by Morgan County Animal Control Administrator Jay Hudson, who asked that the city impose new rules on any dog exhibiting violent behavior. He also asked that all pit bulls and pit bull mixed breeds be subject to the same regulations.

During a public protection committee meeting Wednesday, aldermen came together to discuss the result of their own research. Having quickly determined that breed-specific legislation was prohibited in state statutes, some wondered if the city needed to do anything at all.

"Presently the Morgan County Animal Control follows the Illinois Animal Control Act," said aldermen Marcy Patterson. "Based on that, and the rewriting of [the county's] ordinance they did recently. They have pretty clear guidelines. ... I think, based on what they have and what they're doing, we don't need to do anything further."

Given the fact that the city's ordinance regarding dangerous and vicious dogs is rather sparse, there was some consideration on implementing a mostly identical version of the county's ordinance. The city could put in some additional rules -- such as requiring that a sign be posted on an enclosure notifying that a dog that has been determined by state law to be dangerous or vicious.

City Attorney Dan Beard said he plans to provide copies of the county's animal ordinance to aldermen and consult with Hudson to see if he had any input, and that the the city would "make sure our ordinance, as much as possible, is in line with the county ordinance so there's not two sets of rules that animal control is trying to follow."

The city plans to meet again to continue discussing how it might proceed from here, but no action is planned.

To a group of about 12 people at the committee meeting, the committee reiterated that any breed-specific rules would not be considered.

Katie Brunk, of The Dog P.E.N. animal rescue group, said she thanked the council for their "astute judgement" in not targeting pit bulls.

"We also want our community to be safe, but discriminating against pit bulls and other breeds won't help achieve this goal," Brunk said. "We do think stronger enforcement of Jacksonville's leash law ... and stronger enforcement of the Illinois Animal Control Act go much further in protecting Jacksonville from vicious and dangerous dogs."

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Jane McBride, board member for Illinois Humane in Springfield and Assistant Attorney General at Illinois Attorney General's Office, was also present at the meeting and spoke on the state's statutes -- which she helped revise in 2003 -- giving aldermen some context as they move forward.

Hudson first approached the city about imposing more thorough record keeping and requiring proof of liability insurance for violent dogs and all pit bulls shortly after two pit bulls attacked and nearly killed a pony he had on his property.

Though the city agreed to discuss the proposal and suggested nothing more, the news quickly caught widespread attention online and through social media. Sites like Best Friends Animal Society and blog "Bless the Bullys," provided form letters or email addresses and encouraged readers to contact aldermen.

Patterson expressed frustration at some of this correspondence, as well as the "slandering of Dr. Hudson."

"I am concerned about the rumors," she said. "Prior to the next meeting I would like to not receive 20 emails from people in Chicago telling me they're disappointed in me. Because, really, I don't care if they're disappointed in me. I care about what's best for the city of Jacksonville."

"I don't know where most of the emails came from, because they weren't on point" said Aldermen Tony Williams. "Seems like a waste."

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Cody Bozarth can be reached at (217) 245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @JCnews_Cody.

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(c)2014 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.)

Visit the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.) at www.myjournalcourier.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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