How Many Dogs Are Too Many – City Council May Say Magic Number is Five


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If you have five dogs in Chicago, you soon may have to let one go. There isn’t even a grandfather clause in the proposed ordinance on dog limits from Aldmerman Ray Suuarez (31st) which will be discussed at a hearing Monday, November 30 at City Council Chambers at noon (room 201-A, City Hall).

According to the proposed ordinance I have, “It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor or otherwise process five or more dogs over the age of four months within any household’s residential dwelling unit.. . Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be fine not less than $100 or more than $1,000. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate distinct offense.”

Next the story behind the story, and what my public response is. I want to know what you think – or better show up at City Hall, at least call your Alderman. Don’t complain about passed laws if you don’t speak up – (please click to continue reading below)

by my count, this dude (not really in Chicago – so I can’t get him in trouble) is two over the limit.

My objections to this proposed ordinance begins with a political story. To enhance public safety and reasonable City ordinances on companion animals, way back with Ald. Shirley Coleman, I created a group of experts, which we re-named under Alderman Gene Schulter, the Task Force on Companion Animals & Public Safety (co-chaired with Cnythia Bathurst). The idea is to offer expert advice from veterinarians and those in animal welfare on all matters pets. Also, to do the research, then hopefully craft a collaberative (non binding) recommendation to the City. All as volunteers. I put a lot of time into this effort, and it’s worked, even becoming a model for other cities. Our Task Force was circumvented on this one. I didn’t know about the hearing until just before Thanksgiving. How could we possibly have met as a Task Force over the holiday weekend?

More important – in this time of foreclosures….you’re lucky to find a home with another family member if you’ve been foreclosed on. Most families in the city have at least one pet. Those with dogs have about 2 dogs per home (based on APPA and AVMA stats).

True story, a veterinarian I know living with her own three dogs. Then, her elderly mom must move in – and mom has a dog. Now, a relative foreclosed on has no place to go. He has two dogs. Now, they’re one over the limit. Who goes? Where does that dog go? Probably to death. A death sentence which is obviously inhumane because it is absolutely not necessary, and traumatic to a family already reeling.

We have many laws on the books to deal with irresponsible owners of one dog or five dogs. If the dogs are noisy, it was Ald. Suarez himself who wrote the ‘barking ordinance’ just a few months back, and it was passed.

City Clerk Miguel Del Valle has a Task Force on dog issues – which I am proud to be a part of. A part of our goal is to get more dogs licensed. That’s revenue for the City and animal control. Now, multi-dog owners will be hesitant (which they are anyway because of the ongoing mandatory spay/neuter threat).  

It does cost animal care and control (and therefore taxpayers) money each time investigators go out, and each time a dog is euthanized.

What happens to rescuers who are a part of the solution? By taking in two or three Pointers, or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (you name the breed) space is being made at shelters (including the city animal control agency) for dogs who might be adopted out. Also, rescuers offer dogs far better environments than shelters. The rescuers are heroes! Really good guys. Is this how we treat them for helping? There is no provision here for those who rescue.

Listen I want to go after dog fighters (who tend to have many dogs) and reckless nasty “breeders” as much as the next guy.  So many times Aldermen have promised using dog ordinances to get at these bad guys. Face it: This is a problem – but it’s a social problem, not a dog problem…Best Friends is working on a City Wide plan (a gift to Chicago) concerning dog issues, at least wait until their data (tabulated by numbers people not dog people) is released. Or allow the Task Force of experts to attempt to come up with an answer.

By the way, why is five dogs too many – how about four or six. It is an arbitrary number – not based on any data I know.

Alderman Freddrenna Lyle once asked me why some of these dog issues get more attention at City Hall than kids being shot, and the rampant violence going on. While dogs (and all pets) matter as a part of the family…And being humane hopefully is contagious. . . she has a point. Particularly, since there are now SO many ordinances on the books to deal with irresponsible owners of any number of animals. I believe this effort is misguided and misplaced when there are more important matters. 
 
If you believe (on either side) feel free to comment here (who knows, I many comment on the Chicago Now Blog comments when I testify – if I decide to testify). But best – come in person and definitely call your Alderman.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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