Letter Sent by Elgin Resident to the Elgin, Illinois City Council Regarding BSL

By Editor
In Breed-Specific Legislation
Jul 1st, 2009
5 Comments
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Editor’s note: Following is a letter sent by an Elgin resident to the Elgin, Illinois Mayor and City Council regarding their intent to propose breed-specific legislation (BSL).  The Elgin resident was originally corresponding with Councilman John Prigge, who it sounds like is in support of BSL, but the letter was sent to the whole council.

Mr. Prigge:

I’m going to CC the rest of the council in on my response to you because there is pertinent information here that I hope they will find valuable as well.

Thank you for sending me the article about the recent dog attack in Texas.  No one would dispute the horror of a dog bite/attack, especially one resulting in a fatality.  But dog-bite-related fatalities are not limited to one breed, and again, “pit bull” is a catch-all designation that can refer to countless breeds.  Do you propose to ban or restrict ten, twenty, or thirty breeds?  Even the articles written about the incident in question refer to the dogs as both “pit bulls” and American Bulldogs.  Well which is it?  It is typical of the media and those involved in dog bites/attacks to get the breed wrong.  So how do you know these breeds are “dangerous” or “vicious” when the dogs in question are seldom ever even properly identified?  Doesn’t it worry you that you may be restricting or banning the wrong breeds?  And how do you and the Council propose to define “pit bull”? 

I am, however, grateful that you included that article in your response because that situation illustrates perfectly that irresponsible owners, not a breed or breeds, are to blame when it comes to dog attacks.  And as I’ve said to you and shown you and the council again and again, breed bans and/or breed restrictions have proven to be ineffective in preventing bites/attacks/fatalities which is why BSL is being repealed repeatedly right now.

So what would I say to the family who just lost their boy in that attack?  That the same irresponsible owners who don’t vaccinate or contain their dogs also won’t abide by the law and comply with a breed ban/restrictions…

[I]t is overly-simplistic and even prejudicial to point to a breed or breeds every time there is an attack and/or dog-bite-related fatality.  There are far too many mitigating factors to simply look at breed as causation.  Where were the dogs’ owners?  Why were the dogs free-roaming?  What was the situation?  What provoked the dogs?  Etc.

The dogs’ owner should be charged with manslaughter in my opinion.  This alone would act as a deterrent which is why I lobby for harsher penalties to punish negligent owners.  Tougher laws deter irresponsible ownership. It is also typical in dog bites/attacks (although perhaps not this one) that the dogs had prior complaints filed with Animal Control that should have been addressed and weren’t.  Again, a well-enforced leash/containment law and harsher penalties for owners of irresponsible dogs is deterrent enough to prevent tragedies like these.

It worries me too Sir that as I watched you take your oath of office and you swore to uphold the Constitution that you would go on a mere month later to get behind breed-specific legislation that has in several court venues been determined to be unconstitutional.  You say that you will do what’s best for Elgin.  Is it in citizens’ best interests that you violate their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property? (A 14th amendment civil right.)  You’ve sent me an article that you believe substantiates your argument but in actuality it proves mine: that neither Elgin, nor any other municipality, can accurately determine breed such that it is legal or constitutional to restrict specific breeds.  Passing breed-specific legislation when a dog’s breed cannot be accurately identified is an equal protection violation under the Constitution you swore an oath to uphold.

The article you sent illustrates perfectly that irresponsible ownership is not limited to one breed.  You ask if any price is too high to save someone’s life implying that Elgin should pay any price to enforce BSL and yet you seemingly ignore all evidence pointing to BSL’s ineffectiveness.  Those who gave testimony at the Elgin City Council meeting a month ago asking for a breed ban can be forgiven their ignorance.  You, however, have been informed of BSL’s ineffectiveness with the most current information, studies, and evidence (including how many cities and even countries are moving away from BSL or overturning it altogether due to its proven ineffectiveness), and cannot claim ignorance at this point, assuming you are reading all the materials being sent to you. (And I would certainly hope that you and the council are reading all the materials sent to you given the gravity of the ordinance you may propose.)

The cost for BSL in Elgin, approximately $130,000 according to the BSL calculator, is too high to pay for an ordinance that cannot be enforced, does not deter bites/attacks or negligent owners, and that violates fundamental civil rights (i.e. citizens’ constitutional rights).  Elgin cannot afford a $30,000 fireworks display and yet you would ask the council to enforce an impotent breed-specific ordinance that costs almost five times that a year?  How would you propose to fund the enforcement of a breed-specific ordinance?

“Pit bulls” are not the problem in Elgin.  They have never been the problem.  Gangs, prostitution, drug-running (Need I mention David Steeves?) these are the problems in Elgin.  BSL is a mere band-aid solution to these very real problems that put the city’s innocent citizens, including their children, at risk.  And yet BSL is the most important thing the Council must address???

I ask you Sir, what are the costs of not addressing the REAL problems Elgin faces?  And what do you tell the parents of youths like David Steeves who didn’t have to die and yet did because Elgin denied that there was a gang and drug problem here???  Dog attacks are often a symptom of a larger societal problem like gangs.  We certainly have that problem in Elgin.  Why not address these very real issues that your constituents face?  Elgin residents, myself included, have had to deal with too many drivebys, gang graffiti, and violence to believe that we, our children in particular, are not in danger of the very real threat gang warfare poses.  So why not address these problems instead of the band-aid solution that BSL proposes to be?

Elgin prides itself on being progressive.  BSL is not progressive.  It is prejudicial, and worse, masks the real problems faced by the community.  People are hurting right now due to the economy, which means crime is on the rise.  Why not propose legislation that works with the community instead of proposing ineffective legislation that punishes the innocent?

5 Responses to “Letter Sent by Elgin Resident to the Elgin, Illinois City Council Regarding BSL”

  1. Elgin Res says:

    The Elgin city council should concentrate on the important issues facing our city and should work at being fiscally responsible. Many of the new council members ran on the platform of being smart with the city’s money and we are watching them like hawks to see how they plan to spend the dwindling city coffers.

    Singling out specific breeds is a waste of time and money and it doesn’t work.

  2. Michelle says:

    There is an ongoing discussion on this issue, by both sides, at the “Elginite” blog.

    http://elginite.org/blog/2009/07/01/elgin-considers-pit-bull-measures/

    Every point made in this letter to the council is valid and sound, especially the argument for more focus on the gangs, crime, and serious issues that are the real problems.

  3. Julia says:

    It concerns me that Council Member Prigge used a newspaper article from Texas to illustrate the need for a breed ban in Elgin, because he has pledged that “any correspondence from anyone not living or working in Elgin to me on this issue is being completely disregarded – on both sides of the issue.” If he is disregarding correspondence, he should not be relying on newspaper articles from other cities or states. The one thing that I will give Council Member Prigge credit for, is that he is the only City Council Member, including the mayor, who has given me the courtesy of a response to my correspondence. He advises that the plan he is supporting is one where all responsible pit bull owners will support because it initially addresses irresponsible pit bull owners. I would prefer that he support a plan that all DOG owners will support because it holds irresponsible DOG owners responsible for their pets. He also lamented that “it seems we never hear from responsible pit bull owners trying to address animals and owners that give their dogs a bad name…”. In my opinion, responsible owners are hesitant to speak up because they often feel that they are not listened to with a critical ear, and instead are summarily dismissed as those people who own those dogs. They may also be concerned with placing a target on themselves and their dogs, ensuring that their doors will be some of the first knocked upon by animal control if BSL prevails.

    I am also concerned that Mayor Schock has expressed support for breed bans in the past for dogs other than German Shepard Dogs, as he owns one.

    As informed by Elgin Animal Control Officer James Rog, there were 369 reports involving animal bites in the city from 2006 through Aug. 31 of this year. 90 percent of those bites are attributed to dogs, with 71 of those involving dogs identified as pit bulls. How many of those 71 dogs were misidentified as pit bulls? http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html. What about the other 298 reported bites? How will restrictions on a specific type of dog protect the majority of bite victims? Why isn’t anyone concerned that 80% of reported dog bites in Elgin are caused by dogs other than pit bulls?

    It is well documented that BSL has failed to decrease dog bites and improve public safety. It is also expensive to enforce. The city of Highland Park, Illinois considered BSL this summer, and opted for a non- breed specific solution. I am urging Elgin’s City Council to pay attention to the Highland Park ordinance, which place the responsibility where it belong – with irresponsible dog owners.

    Reading between the lines, some Elgin residents are concerned with changes in demographics that are attributed to increases in crime. If crime, gang and drug activity are the problem, than address those problems. Banning a specific dog is not the solution as criminals will simply replace pit bulls type dogs with another non banned breed.

    To those of you who support BSL due to misinformation, stereotypes, ignorance and fear, you are treading on a slippery slope. It may be someone else’s dog at risk now, but your dog could be next.

  4. Patricia Rice says:

    You will sure be hearing from responsible owners now. My stand is, and always has been, make the iresponsible owners pay. Bad dog? no such thing. Bad owners……yes.

  5. Katherine Minard says:

    Why not inforce the animal control ordinances that are and have been in place for years? The city has been lax for a long time enforcing the laws that are in effect. So, when the “straw breaks the camel’s back” as was the case last weekend we need stricter laws? You can’t or won’t enforce the laws already in place how will you be able to enforce additional restrictions?

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