Skokie considers stricter law after 3 dog-on-dog attacks

Jessica Sectzer-Rubin acknowledges her prejudice against pit bulls.

“I feel like I fall into the same category a lot of people do in terms of when I hear ‘pit bull,’ ” she said as she walked her two dogs in Skokie last week. “I have some of my own fears in terms of their aggression. I feel horrible saying it, but I feel like a dog racist.”

Skokie is considering putting a lot more bite in its ordinance pertaining to “vicious animals” after three dog-on-dog attacks involving pit bulls in the last two months left three pets dead.

“We are strengthening our response and our ability to respond,” said Skokie’s health director, Catherine Counard. “We are looking at having stronger consequences for owners who don’t control their animals.”

Counard said the three attacks were an April 29 incident in which a Skokie dog got loose, crossed into neighboring Morton Grove and killed another dog; a March 13 incident in which another pit bull attacked and killed a small dog that was being walked near Madison Street and Kostner Avenue; and an incident earlier in March in which a third pit bull killed a dog.

“Clearly we have to make sure that owners are training their dogs appropriately,” Counard said. “The message is that if you’re injured or threatened by a dog, you have to report it and be willing to sign a citation.”

Village staff and the Village Board would have to sign off on the initiative before it became law, she said.

“We have about 33 reported bites on humans every year, and almost 90 percent are from dogs, and 70 percent of those are provoked,” Counard said. “There’s a reason why the dog bit the person.”

She said that if her proposal passes, fines for owners of a dog that has bitten someone or attacked another animal would jump from $200 to $500 per incident.

She also said the village may mandate training for vicious and dangerous animals; require that they are neutered, which makes them less aggressive; and require that the animals’ owners keep their pets in enclosures.

Counard said that the proposed ordinance is not designed to target pit bulls specifically and added that it is likely a coincidence that pit bulls were involved in the three deadly dog-on-dog attacks. But she also said larger dogs like pit bulls are more dangerous than smaller dogs.

“The toy poodle probably in their heart of hearts might want to really cause injury, but they’re not capable,” she said. “But if you have a larger dog, you really need to make sure that dog is under control.”

Gretchen Gantner, who was also walking her dog in Skokie last week, said she supports the proposed ordinance and would sign a complaint against an aggressive dog.

“I wouldn’t want that dog around me or my dog or hurting anyone else,” she said. “It’s not safe, especially with children around.”

Counard said the proposal also includes more information on what constitutes animal cruelty.

“We’re defining it to implement some fines,” she said. “It’s not very well-developed as to what constitutes an act of cruelty. We’re spelling that out more.”