Owners should obey city, county codes

Marcia Quast, center, holds Colby as her nieces Dani Shirey, left, and Brooke Shirey look on.

For the first time in almost a year, Colby is free. Gone are the “I bite” and “bad dog” tags around his neck.

The Jack Russell terrier has a new home in Perrysville, Ind., leaving behind a life of “crime” in Florida. The 4-year-old was under house arrest for getting loose one day and chasing an 18-year-old cat, which died.

Owner Marcia Quast of Melbourne, formerly of Danville, drove up last week to visit her sister, Geri Shirey, and deliver Colby to his new home.

It was difficult to let go, but she reported later he seemed to be adjusting fine. He even came face-to-face with a cat, but didn’t chase it.

“I do think it’s the best thing,” Quast said.

When the cat-killing incident happened last March, animal control officers declared him a dangerous dog and imposed all kinds of restrictions. Among them: he had to wear a black transmitter for a shock fence; he had a microchip implanted to show his “bad dog” status; and his family had to carry a $100,000 insurance policy and put up “Bad Dog” signs on their home.

Colby was restricted to his home, and he couldn’t go anywhere without a muzzle and a 300-pound-strength leash. The family spent more than $2,000 to comply with the regulations.

His plight was featured in this column and several people offered to take him.

Quast had wanted to bring Colby to this area, thinking the “dangerous dog” laws wouldn’t be so strict.

Guess what? She was surprised to learn the city of Danville and Vermilion County have laws that are almost as tough. If she had found an owner in the city or county, she would have had to get permission from those agencies first.

The city and county animal regulation codes are similar, both based on state law.

Shane Boyer, director of the Vermilion County Department of Animal Regulation, said a pet owner can avoid problems simply by being responsible and keeping an animal confined.

“It’s best for people to take responsibility for their animal,” he said. “If a dog gets out, you need to go find him. He could get into trouble.”

When there is an attack, Boyer’s officers investigate the matter thoroughly before taking action. They gather all the facts, talk to witnesses and do an evaluation. There are three sides, he said: the victim’s account, the owner’s version and the actual truth.

Once the facts are gathered, the county decides whether to write a citation; the owner will receive a notice to appear in court. If he pleads guilty, he pays a fine; if not guilty, it goes to trial and a judge decides.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into declaring a dog vicious or dangerous,” Boyer said. “Some are open-and-shut cases.”

Others need a lot of research to determine if the attack is an isolated incident or whether the animal has a history of aggressive behavior. A dog that attacks a trespasser or who defends himself from an abusive person, for example, is protected under the code.

Resources are tight at both the city and county shelters.

Boyer had some suggestions on how people can help him and his officers do their jobs better:

— Take responsibility for your animal. Keep it confined; make sure it has its tags and is up to date with shots.

— Be willing to write statements, speak up or testify when animal control officers ask for help while investigating cases. If you witnessed an attack, for example, you have a responsibility to share that knowledge.

— Make sure your dogs and cats are properly identified. If a dog is severely injured and doesn’t have tags, animal control has the authority to euthanize it.

— Get your pets spayed and neutered. Neutered male dogs are less likely to wander away and are less aggressive. When a female is in heat, unneutered males are going to fight over that dog.

JoAnn Adams, director of the Danville Humane Society, said her agency enforces the city ordinance. Once a dog is declared dangerous, the owner has to follow several rules and regulations.

“You reach the point … it’s the same people over and over and over,” she said. “Some of these people don’t need dogs — period.”

Although I’ve owned dogs in Danville all of my adult life, I didn’t realize the extent of our laws until now. It’s not a bad idea for every owner to become familiar with the code.

Quast never expected sweet Colby to get a rap sheet. Who knows when one of us will be in a similar situation?

FYI

To view the Illinois Animal Control Act, which city and county codes are based upon, visit the following Web sites:

— Illinois Department of Agriculture at http://www.agr.state.il.us/AnimalHW/awflaws.html

— Illinois General Assembly at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/

Click on “compiled statutes” at the left, scroll down to “husbandry” and click on “Chapter 510 Animals,” then go to 510 ILCS 5/ Animal Control Act.

Contact Mary Wicoff at 477-5161, send an e-mail to mwicoff@dancomnews.com or write to Commercial-News, 17 W. North, Danville, IL 61832.

Recommended for you