As part of the fallout from the recently passed amendments to the City’s Dangerous Dogs Ordinance, the Human Services Committee took up a new amendment targeting problem pet owners on Nov. 7. The proposed ordinance passed without much debate other than an amendment to the title so that it accentuates the positive – responsible pet ownership – rather than focusing on the negative.
During the “dangerous dog ordinance” debate, Chief of Police Richard Eddington spoke about repeat offenders and the difficulty the City has in getting them to appear for administrative hearings. The same owners with the same dogs end up causing multiple calls to the police, and owners accumulate multiple violation citations. Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, proposed the “problem pet owners” ordinance as a tool to address the problem.
Under the ordinance, if passed, a pet owner with three or more separate violations within 36 months of the ordinances prohibiting cruelty to animals, or owning wild animals or dangerous dogs or with two violations of the dangerous dog ordinance at any time after a dog has been designated as dangerous can lose the right to own pets in Evanston for two years and have any pets currently in the home confiscated by the police.
The determination that an owner is a “problem pet owner” would be made by either an Evanston hearing officer or the circuit court. No additional fines or penalties would be associated with the designation, only those fines associated with the underlying offenses. Pets may be confiscated prior to and through the date of hearing if the Chief determines it to be in the best interest of public safety.
The ordinance does nothing to address the problem of failing to appear for administrative hearings, prompting Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, to ask, “Does this go far enough?”
“This gives us some additional tools to call to task some individuals who really are the issue,” said Chief Eddington. The measure now proceeds to City Council, with a more upbeat name but the same message to City pet owners.