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Local News

Joliet Township Animal Control director speaks out on dog attacks

JOLIET – The director of the agency in charge of dog control in Joliet says a new ordinance in the works could give it more authority to pick up dangerous dogs.

But Sarah Gimbel said Joliet Township Animal Control has been getting wrongly blamed at recent Joliet City Council committee meetings focused on putting new teeth into the city’s dog control laws.

“I feel that the police and us work very well together, but others try to make it seem like we don’t work well together,” said Gimbel, director of Joliet Township Animal Control.

Animal Control has been the target of some criticism at the committee meetings in which city officials and residents have discussed the way the agency and Joliet police handle dog attacks.

Among the comments has been that Animal Control does not come out to the scene of a dog attack on nights or weekends.

“We have an officer available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year,” Gimbel said.

But the agency does not always get called, as was the case of a dog attack on another dog Feb. 20, she said. The incident was a topic of discussion last week during a Land Use and Legislative Committee meeting, where Animal Control was criticized for not being on the scene and not attempting to impound the dog that attacked.

Gimbel said Animal Control was never called to the scene and learned of the attack from a police report faxed to the agency several hours after the incident. Once the attacking dog was back in the home of its owner, Gimbel said Animal Control could not take the animal.

“Keep in mind that animal is property,” Gimbel said. “If the owner doesn’t want to give that dog, I can’t take that dog.”

The intergovernmental agreement between the city and Animal Control addresses stray dogs. The city is in the process of rewriting the agreement and city ordinance to give Animal Control authority to take vicious dogs from their owners.

“I would absolutely do what the city wants me to do,” Gimbel said. “If the ordinance states that we take the dog, we’ll take the dog.”

City Attorney Marty Shanahan said Joliet can write an ordinance that would enable dogs to be impounded in situations where attacks occur.

“The city has the right based on our home rule authority,” Shanahan said. “But we’re just going to have to work out the logistics of it with the township.”

Both Gimbel and Shanahan have said the city and township are cooperating in the rewriting of the intergovernmental agreement and the city’s animal control ordinance.

Gimbel said both documents are outdated and need to be revised.

“When Marty came to me and said we need to tighten these ordinances up, I said thank you,” Gimbel said. “These ordinances are out of date.”

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