RANTOUL - A proposed animal control ordinance would crack down on animal cruelty (including cockfighting), allow police to put vicious animals to sleep, require pet owners to pick up after their animals, and simplify the payment of fines.
Rantoul Police Chief Paul Dollins this week unveiled details of the latest version of Rantoul's animal control ordinance.
The Rantoul Village Board is expected to discuss the proposal at its Feb. 4 meeting.
Rantoul hasn't changed its animal control ordinance since the early 1970s, according to Dollins.
Dollins said two events led Animal Control Officer Danny Russell to recommend revising the ordinance.
Two years ago, a Rantoul senior citizen was attacked in an unprovoked way by a pit bull.
Then, 15 months ago, Rantoul police officers were serving a search warrant for a drug violation at a home on South Steffler Street. When Officer Keith Welch used force to break down the door, a pit pull latched onto Welch's thigh and continued to bite him until another officer shot the dog.
The new ordinance includes five major changes:
- Animal cruelty.
The proposed ordinance makes pet owners responsible for cruelty to animals.
"We have a lot better language to deal with those situations when people don't take care of their pets," Dollins said.
Pet owners are prohibited from making their animals sit in their own excrement; failing to protect their pets from heat, rain, cold or wind; failing to provide their animals with enough food or water; depriving their pets of proper veterinary care; torturing or poisoning their pet; performing surgery on their own pet; and keeping an animal unattended in a car when the temperature is warmer than 78 degrees.
The new ordinance for the first time prohibits cockfighting in Rantoul.
The ordinance prohibits people from causing a fight or other combat among animals or attending any such fight.
- Dangerous and vicious dogs.
The proposed ordinance allows Russell or any police officer to declare a dog dangerous or vicious. If a dog is declared vicious, it can be put to sleep.
"Every community is concerned about public safety," Dollins said. "Recently there have been incidents in the Chicago suburbs in which people were mauled by dogs. We don't want that to happen here."
Dogs can be declared dangerous if they threaten to attack someone at a public place while they are unattended by their owner.
Once a dog has been declared dangerous on three separate occasions, the dog will be declared vicious.
A dog can also be declared vicious on the first occasion if it bites a human being or another pet.
All vicious dogs will be euthanized seven business days after they have been declared vicious.
Whenever a dog is declared vicious, the animal's owner can appeal the decision to a hearing officer (to be appointed by the mayor) before the dog is put to sleep.
Dollins said he sincerely hopes he never has to put a dog to sleep.
"What I want to see are pet owners who make sure that their animal doesn't get to that third violation," Dollins said.
- Use of dogs in committing crimes.
The proposal for the first time prohibits people from using dogs in connection with criminal acts.
"Lots of drug dealers will keep vicious and mean dogs as security and attack dogs," Dollins said.
"This ordinance addresses that problem."
- Picking up after pets.
The proposed ordinance requires pet owners to pick up any excrement left by their animals outside their own property.
- Paying fines.
Under the current ordinance, all animal control violations go before a judge in court, and guilty persons must pay court costs.
Under the proposed ordinance, violators who don't wish to contest their citations may pay their fines at the Rantoul Municipal Building without having to go to court.
"We're making it very convenient so the individual violator doesn't have to take a half-day off from work, drive down to Urbana, and spend a couple of hours in court to dispose of the matter," Dollins said.
Fines will be set at $50 for a first violation, $75 for a second violation, $100 for a third ordinance, and $150 for a fourth violation.
Controversial revisions in first draft removed
RANTOUL - Rantoul's revised animal control ordinance removes many controversial proposals that were part of a first draft given to village board members in December 2001.
The first draft limited residents to no more than three pets, prohibited people from walking their dogs in parks and schoolyards, required owners of dangerous dogs to carry liability insurance and prohibited the creation of dog parks.
The village board originally planned on taking up the ordinance in January 2002, but the proposal was removed from the agenda after word of pet limitations made radio and television talk shows in Chicago and Cincinnati and even got a mention on CNN television.
Mayor Neal Williams appointed a committee of pet owners to look at the ordinance. After the committee made changes to the ordinance, it was sent to Rantoul village attorney Ken Beth, who made further revisions.
The final version now goes before the Rantoul Village Board, which will discuss it at its Feb. 4 study session.
"There is nothing left in this ordinance which I believe is controversial," Rantoul Police Chief Paul Dollins said.
Provisions removed from the first draft include:
- There are no limits on the number of pets allowed in a household.
"I would oppose any ordinance that included limiting pet owners to three dogs or cats or any combination," Williams said.
- Pet owners will still be allowed to walk their dogs in village parks and schoolyards.
"There were some concerns about controlling animals in those kinds of situations," Dollins said.
"I was supportive of keeping that provision in there, but Ken Beth felt it would be best to force the schools to put their own signs out prohibiting pets. If they put a sign out, we could cite the pet owner for trespassing."
- When the police declare a dog to be dangerous, the owner won't be required to carry liability insurance on the animal.
Dollins said the insurance provision was removed after local insurance agents informed him most insurance companies will not issue insurance policies for dangerous dogs.
"If the pet owner couldn't get insurance, we would be forced to dispose of the animal," Dollins said. "I didn't want to make that choice."
- Prohibitions on private or public dog parks have been removed from the ordinance.
Dollins said that provision was removed after Golfview Village opened its own dog park and after Rantoul Recreation Director Rich Thomas began discussions on a possible municipal dog park.