Over the last several days, the news media in Chicago has ramped up coverage of “pit bull”-related incidents (including this incident where a loose dog “confronted” a city worker—hardly newsworthy if it were any other type of dog) and has been running various headlines suggesting a pit bull ban in the works.
Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti was initially quoted in the media as saying he would consider a breed ban or breed-specific restrictions. He has now modified his stance and no longer seems interested in BSL (read full article “Bad Dogs: Nature vs. Nurture” here):
“Clearly, everybody is outraged and horrified by this incident,” said Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), whose ward in the South Loop and West Loop has a number of dogs and dog-friendly areas. He said his office this week has fielded calls, emails and texts from residents asking about stronger laws and urging a ban on pit bulls. “Whenever an incident occurs, we don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction. We want to have something that is comprehensive, well thought-out and increases public safety.”
Fioretti plans to introduce a resolution at the City Council meeting Jan. 18 to explore ways to make pet owners more responsible for their pets. He wants the city to look at the laws in place and how they’re enforced. He also said he wants the council to examine how other cities and states handle the issue and discuss ways to strengthen Chicago’s rules.
“Is banning breeds the answer? I think this City Council has looked at it in the past and they said no,” Fioretti said.
Another alderman, George Cardenas, has posted this on his Facebook wall: “As Chairman of health and the enviroment for the city I will call for hearings but this time on a serious push on protecting people either a ban or much tighter control. They are sweet, I understand but are also vicious in the wrong hands. The point is that these dogs [pit bulls] have become dangerous weapons and the public must be protected, bottom line.”
After around thirty (mostly opposing) responses to his post, Cardenas posted a reply: “I get it but you see my point that something has to be done. Seriously, how many people will choose not to use the park anymore? or get close to a dog or an animal for that purpose? We may have to include criminal penalties for dog owners if their dog does harm to someone. We need to talk about this and the find the right balance.”
A recent letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune provided insight as to why some citizens are, according to Fioretti, calling Chicago lawmakers’ offices to ask for a pit bull ban or restrictions on ownership. It indicates several factors influencing public perception, including media over-saturation of “pit bull” incidents, notions of “pit bulls” as “different from other breeds,” and the belief that ”pit bulls” are “biologically capable of doing great harm,” unlike other breeds of dogs.
Chicago considered a pit bull ban several years ago, but it did not get far. The city has a number of well-organized and outspoken animal advocacy groups that have opposed BSL in the past and will continue to do so. Also, Chicago has 50 aldermen, making it difficult to get enough support to pass something that is highly controversial. And finally, considering that the two aldermen who were most outspoken for pit bull restrictions two days ago appear to no longer be interested, we suspect that the whispers of BSL will drift along on news media-driven hype for a while before fading away.
But even if BSL is not proposed, it seems that Chicago may need some effective breed-neutral animal ordinances, better enforcement of those ordinances, and public education about responsible dog ownership. We encourage Chicago residents to get involved in the discussions regarding dogs and dog ownership, to ensure that proposals are breed-neutral, effective, and reasonable.
Contact your alderman here and let him or her know where you stand on breed-specific laws and breed-neutral dog ownership laws: http://chicago.legistar.com/People.aspx
Here is a cut-and-paste list of all email addresses for aldermen (thanks to Kat for compiling it)—please note not all aldermen have published email addresses.
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Willie.Cochran@cityofchicago.org, email@example.com, Pat.Dowell@cityofchicago.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, Robert.Fioretti@cityofchicago.org, Toni.Foulkes@cityofchicago.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Ward22@cityofchicago.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Brendan.Reilly@cityofchicago.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, JoAnn.Thompson@cityofchicago.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Attend the next council meeting, at which Alderman Fioretti intends to introduce a resolution to review current dog ordinances: January 18, 10:00 AM, City Council Chambers, City Hall, Chicago.
Here are just a few of the advocacy groups you could join to help Chicago become safer, smarter, and more humane.
Facebook group Chicagoans Against Breed Discrimination: http://www.facebook.com/groups/333987873287243/
Safe Humane Chicago: