JOLIET – Vicious dogs would be euthanized rather than being returned to their owners under a proposed revision in the city ordinance.
A City Council committee on Tuesday agreed with the city attorney that dogs should be euthanized once they are determined to be vicious.
What started out as a routine updating of the city ordinance on vicious and dangerous dogs has taken on a more serious purpose in recent weeks because of dog attacks and residents insisting that something be done about dogs menacing their neighborhoods.
City Attorney Marty Shanahan told the Legislative and Land Use Committee on Tuesday that the existing ordinance allows the option of owners keeping dogs declared to be vicious while putting them under certain restraints.
“Vicious is death or severe physical harm,” Shanahan told the committee. “Then the question is, why would the city allow something that causes death or serious injury?”
“I agree,” committee Chairman Terry Morris said.
The committee also agreed with Shanahan that the ordinance should allow a dog deemed to be dangerous after repeated incidents should be subject to a hearing in which it could be declared vicious. The committee suggested two incidents should lead to a hearing on whether the dog is vicious.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman noted there should be leeway allowed for dogs in biting incidents.
“I think it depends on the situation,” Quillman said. “You can have kids teasing a dog and the dog nips them. That doesn’t make the dog vicious.”
A city hearing officer would determine whether a dog is vicious. A dog owner could go to Circuit Court to reverse a decision to euthanize.
In whatever way the city’s dog ordinance is rewritten, residents at the meeting said the city needs to make it work.
“Verbiage does nothing,” resident Ron Repp said. “You can play with words all you want. The fact is you’ve got to stop the rhetoric and start the action.”
Repp brought the committee pictures showing injuries he and his dog suffered when attacked by another dog in August.
Councilman Jim McFarland said he agreed with residents who have complained that it has taken the city a long time to come up with a solution to vicious dogs in Joliet.
“I think it’s accurate to say this has been an ongoing issue for months,” McFarland said.
The city also has to work out an intergovernmental agreement with Joliet Township Animal Control, which actually handles dog situations in Joliet. Shanahan said he is working on the agreement and it needs a lot of work.
“That intergovernmental agreement needs to be started from scratch,” he said. “It really only addresses stray dogs.”