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Local News

New Joliet dog law sets requirements for owners of dangerous animals

JOLIET – A tougher dog ordinance that forces owners to take more responsibility is slated to go to the City Council for a vote May 3.

The council Land Use and Legislative Committee this week approved both the dog ordinance and an intergovernmental agreement with Joliet Township Animal Control.

Together, the ordinance and agreement spell out procedures for handling dangerous and vicious dogs while requiring that the owners of the dogs take measures to ensure public safety.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said. “We at least now have something we can enforce.”

The ordinance and agreement were crafted after a series of meetings in which residents said the city’s dog laws and enforcement are too lax.

Both Quillman and Councilman Jim McFarland, also on the committee, said they believe the new ordinance allows the city to crack down on owners who let dangerous dogs roam their neighborhoods.

“Now we can go after them for basically being a bad dog owner and not taking care of their animal,” McFarland said.

The ordinance had been in the works for months before a pit bull attack in January added new urgency to the action as residents attended one of the committee’s meetings to complain about repeated attacks by loose dogs.

The ordinance requires that dogs determined to be vicious after they have killed or seriously injured a person or companion animal be euthanized.

The owners of dogs determined to be dangerous because they posed an unjustified threat of injury to a person or companion animal would face several requirements:

• The dog must be under direct control of someone age 18 or older and under leash and muzzle when on public property

• Owners must have liability insurance with a policy limit of at least $100,000

• A sign must be posted prominently outside the home saying “Warning: Dangerous Dog Kept on These Premises”

• Owners must give the city notice if the dog is moved away from the owner’s residence.

A city hearing officer could also force owners to reimburse victims for any damages their dogs cause when they attack.

The intergovernmental agreement with Joliet Township Animal Control outlines procedures and response times for dog incidents.

A number of people who came to meetings complained that it was unclear who they were supposed to call when a dog attack occurred and who would respond.

“I think it helps clarify a few things,” Joliet Township Animal Control Director Sarah Gimbel said of the agreement, “and helps build communication between the township and the city.”

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