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Illinois breed ban?

JOHNSBURG, ILLINOIS, USA – Brian Diedrich is prepared to leave the village and relinquish his volunteer post with the McHenry Township Fire Department to keep his three Rottweilers.

His Rottweilers, three-year-old Embers, six-year-old Blaze and nine year-old Cinder, will not be allowed in the village if a proposed law banning them is approved. Residents throughout the area are signing petitions and campaigning against the proposal to outlaw certain dog breeds deemed dangerous, such as pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds.

Members of the Ordinance Com-mittee were scheduled to talk about the issue on Wednesday of this week, Village President Dave Dominguez said.

"I'm not losing my dogs," Diedrich said. "I'm going to fight this. I'm going to fight this pretty hard."

Opponents of the proposal are repeating the mantra, "It's not the breed, it's the deed."

"I don't think it's fair to make everybody pay for a few bad eggs," said Diedrich, a full-time Skokie firefighter and part-time McHenry Township firefighter. "You could make a poodle a nasty dog."

Johnsburg village code does not ban any particular breed of dog or limit the number of dogs that residents can keep on their property. However, during their March 5th. meeting, Ordinance Committee members talked about creating a law that would ban certain breeds.

The move was in response to recent high-profile dog maulings.

A 48-year-old pediatric nurse from Evergreen Park died from injuries she suffered in January after being attacked by two pit bulls in the Dan Ryan Woods on Chicago's Southwest Side. A 46-year-old woman from Chicago's Beverly neighbourhood was mauled in the same area that day while jogging, but survived.

Ordinance Committee Chairman Bill Sandell was unavailable for comment.

Peggy King, owner of Angels With Tails pet supply store in Johnsburg, said at least 150 people have signed petitions opposing the ban. She would not be able to keep her German shepherd, 8-year-old Lacey, if the ban is approved.

"I believe the proposed ordinance is based on fear, not knowledge," she said. "We're not in some country with dictators."

Resident Pam Mikes rescued her six-year-old Rottweiler, Sky, from an abusive home. She said she is sick of the area being compared to Chicago, where the January dog maulings occurred.

"We pay sizable taxes to be in this town," Mikes said. "My concerns are people playing with other people's rights without having all the facts."

Johnsburg Police Chief Ken Rydberg said no dog bites have been reported in the village this year.

From Jan. 11, 2002, through the end of the year, four dog bites were reported in Johnsburg, Rydberg said. Village police do not record the dog's breed, he said.

Village officials released a statement Friday, that the village president and village board are not considering a dog-breed limitation ordinance.

"This issue is not a village board matter and has not even been considered as an agenda item," the statement read.

Dominguez said village board members were unaware of the committee's discussion about the dog ban, he said, until they read the newspaper the next day.

"There have been some calls to the village hall about what was published in the paper," Dominguez said.

Dominguez said he has not formed an opinion on the proposal because the village board has not studied it. However, some residents have contacted county officials asking whether the ban would be legal, he said.

Terry and Gayle Packard, who live in unincorporated Pistakee Highlands just outside Johnsburg, said a dog-breed ban would be a blessing.

Terrified

They said they are regularly terrorized by neighbourhood pit bulls. One day, their son Lorenzo, then three, was playing in their yard when two pit bulls tried to get through the fence, they said. Lorenzo, now six, is terrified of the dogs, Terry Packard said.

"I agree with Bill Sandell," Gayle Packard said. "Pit bulls should be banned totally. It is in a pit bull's nature. They were originally bred to fight, to attack, to kill. Should I move or should I stand up for my freedom to live without fear?"

Terry Packard said he has considered moving his family to Johnsburg if the law is passed. Gayle Packard said countywide dog-control laws should be enforced and strengthened.

County law deems a dog dangerous if it bites or attacks three times, unless the dog is on its owner's property and defending against a trespasser; has been tormented or abused; or is a professionally trained police dog or guard dog.

Norma Spitzbart, animal control coordinator for McHenry County Animal Control, said she thinks that committee members should look at any proposal to ban certain dog breeds more closely before recommending approval.

"A lot of it is irresponsible owners, not the dogs," she said. "If any owner won't take control over a dog, problems are going to happen regardless of the breed. Any dog can be aggressive."

If the proposal is approved by the village board, animal control officials might have to limit the types of dogs they allow families in Johnsburg to adopt.

Diedrich's dogs play in a fenced-in back yard. He said he always walks them with leashes. His dogs never have bitten anyone, he said.

"I'm cautious," Diedrich said. "You have to be a smart owner."

Top 10 dog breeds that have bitten a resident or animal during the past five years in McHenry County, according to data supplied by: McHenry County Animal Control

Labrador Retriever 478
German shepherd 452
Rottweiler 163
Golden Retriever 117
Siberian Husky 96
Beagle 88
Chow Chow 84
Pit Bull 65
Akita 58
Dobermann 56