Notes from Last Night’s Meeting of the Whole Committee in Elgin, Illinois

By Editor
In Breed-Specific Legislation
Feb 25th, 2010
5 Comments
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Editor’s update: I failed to mention, and so did council members apparently, that part of the registration requirement for so-called “vicious” and “dangerous” dogs (including “pit bulls”) is that there must be

“completion of an inspection by the city of the property where the Dangerous Dog or Vicious Dog is to be kept which confirms that the Dangerous Dog or Vicious Dog is or will be confined  in compliance with [the ordinance]…and which identifies the number and locations of the signs for a Dangerous Dog or a Vicious Dog required to be posted by the Owner as set forth in [the ordinance]…as applicable.”

How else can you describe such a requirement but as duress?  You either move, get rid of your dogs, or submit to an inspection of your home and property.  The 4th amendment guarantees,

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

While technically Elgin “pit bull” owners would be submitting to this inspection, they may have no other choice, which is why such a requirement constitutes duress and should be deemed unconstitutional.  Plus, the wording is so vague it’s hard to determine if the inspection would also include the inside of the home wherein an inspector could nail you for any other violation of the law s/he sees.

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It’s taken several days to be able to get through Elgin, Illinois’ breed-specific legislation (BSL) proposal because it’s just that muddled, vague, and confusing.  But after having gone through its pages several times, what I can conclude is that it is one of the most unreasonable, unconstitutional, and egregious pieces of legislation I have ever read.  Worse, those so forcefully pushing the ordinance don’t seem to even know what the ordinance contains.

For instance, at last night’s Meeting of the Whole Committee meeting, Elgin City Attorney William Cogley asserted that the 6-foot high fence requirement for dogs deemed dangerous, including “pit bulls,” would only be required if a person let their dog out in their yard to run.  If however, the dog were muzzled and leashed, according to Cogley, no 6-foot high fence would be required.  Yet the ordinance proposal very clearly states,

A Dangerous Dog on private premises must be kept indoors or outdoors either within an Enclosure or within a fully-fenced yard on all sides by fencing that…is at least six feet in height…

Nowhere does it say the fencing requirements aren’t required if the dog is muzzled and leashed.  So, it seems that Elgin city officials are just as baffled by their own ordinance as Elgin residents are sure to be.

Before the vote was taken to pass the ordinance proposal out of the Committee of the Whole and on to the City Council for a vote at the next city council meeting, Cogley was also certain to read out loud the definition of “gameness” as defined by the 21-year old court case Vanater v. Village of South Point.  The Vanater decision itself states that “gameness” is “not a totally clear concept,” but that fine point appeared inconsequential to those councilmen who were chomping at the bit to manhandle their fellow councilmen into a hasty vote in a very square-peg-round-hole sort of way.  Also omitted was the fact that there has been more recent legal precedence which has long since negated the “evidence” given in Vanater. (Click here for a list of pertinent but omitted case law.)

Cogley also stated that Denver’s “pit bull” ban had withstood legal scrutiny which is not true.  In the case of Denver v. Margolius (2004) Mr. Margolius proved at trial that none of Denver’s Animal Control officers could discern what was an American Pit Bull Terrier as defined by their own ordinance.  Cogley also mentioned that the city of Elgin had a supposed “rational basis” — public safety — for proposing BSL.  Yet, if the only proof that city officials can offer are two widely discredited “studies,” the one of which is a CDC study that the CDC itself has discredited and used to argue against BSL, then they haven’t a legal leg to stand on. If you want to understand how the rational basis test is a diluted legal argument that has not withstood scrutiny, please click here.

Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  That certainly seems to be the case with Elgin’s breed-specific ordinance proposal which would unfairly punish owners of “pit bulls” (whatever “breed” that is, and even the ordinance and the council members themselves don’t seem to know). An estimated 100+ people showed up to last night’s Meeting of the Whole.  The majority, excepting a handful of people, were adamantly opposed to Elgin’s breed-specific ordinance proposal (even though Councilman John Prigge continues to maintain that there is more support for BSL in Elgin than there is against it).  Mayor Schock had to bang his gavel and threaten some in the crowd with forced removal if they didn’t quiet down.  Why?  Because the audience clearly knew they were hearing lies.  The biggest groans came when Councilman Prigge, the force behind this rush to get BSL passed, claimed that he wanted to work with the citizens of Elgin.  If only I had a snapshot of the rolling eyes, the harumphs, and hisses.  What I do have is the vote tally which follows.  Be sure to jot down the names of the people you’ll be voting out of office in upcoming elections:

Voting ‘yes’ were Mayor Ed Schock and Councilmen John Prigge, Robert Gilliam,  and the Mayor’s yes man, Mike Warren.

Voting ‘no’ were Councilmen David Kaptain, John Steffen, and Richard Dunne.

I leave you with the quote in its entirety from Joseph Goebbels.  Take from it what you will:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Read more about it:

Pit bull crackdown ‘like racism against dogs’

5 Responses to “Notes from Last Night’s Meeting of the Whole Committee in Elgin, Illinois”

  1. madelginman says:

    I attended the meeting last night and am still left with many questions.

    1. How do I know if my dog or dogs is subject to the dangerous dog provisions?

    2. If my dog is subject to the provisions where should I take my dog for city certified training?

    3. If my dog is subject to the provisions, do I need to erect a fence if so what materials should the fence be built from and is there an approved contractor list for said fence.

    4. If my dog is subject to the provisions, is there a list of suppliers or 2 foot by 2 foot signs that is approved by the city.

    5. If my dog is subject to the provisions, what type of muzzle must I purchase there are many types from fabric to leather to a combination of materials.

    In my opinion the law is vague and difficult if not impossible to conform to as written.

  2. street king 4 ever SK4E says:

    just 4 all americans to know that the breed is amazing…bred 4 their loyalty the pit isnt worse than any other dog out there…the dog is just subjected to much more media attention…check this link out 4 example: http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/mpr/misc/bsl.html

    this shows my exact point about how the media doesnt target the non-pit breeds and its been proven that the most popular dog is known to have the most bites…
    another example: http://www.defendingdog.com/id5.html

  3. jiggaboofiftytwo says:

    i agree with SK4E…

  4. EmilyS says:

    The only part of the Denver BSL that the Colorado SC actually overturned was the part requiring a transit permit to drive through the city. The blatant unconstitutionality (interstate commerce and all that) was too much even for the dimwits on the court who held that Denver could indeed have its own stupid laws if it chose to. There’s no way that part of Elgin’s law can hold up (though of course none of it should)

  5. Melody Kelso says:

    I wrote the following letter to the council of Elgin.

    City of Elgin:

    I know that my efforts to address the council are still warranted although I realize that there was a time limit of 5:00PM today. I hope that I can offer you some valid perspectives and that a true final decision has not been made.

    To quantify my statements, I would like to introduce myself, my name is Melody Kelso. I have been working in the animal profession since 1993 and I have been an animal trainer, caretaker, and rehabilitator all of my life. Currently, I oversee the operations of a low cost veterinarian hospital, spay/neuter clinic, adoption center, and obedience/behavioral center. Since my childhood, I have worked in many vet clinics, on farms and ranches, with livestock, wildlife, and domestic pets. I have far surpassed the number of having over thousands of pets who lived in my own residence as I trained, fostered, and studied certain breeds, dogs/cats with certain types of behavioral problems, and dogs/cats with certain training deficits. The number one problem with the dog today is the fact that the general public does not really understand much about them. With that said, I urge you to seek out the professionals in the field. I see about 300-800 pets per month in my current opportunity. For the last 15 years I have rehabilitated and cared for pit bulls, pit types, and many other breeds including many border collies, red heelers, blue heelers, cocker spaniels, variety of purebred small breeds, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Labradors, etc….There are HUGE differences between one breed to the next in ways that could or could not be dangerous. The reality of the matter is a family pet that is treated and cared for well will genuinely be of no harm to anyone that is not causing that family or that family’s property harm.

    I took a tour of your website. Your mission indicates that you are a family oriented city, a place that we would all want to move to. Your animal control page is even friendly. It asks for people to tell stories about their pets so they can be considered for pet of the Quarter. I almost wanted to get a false residency so that you might consider one of mine. This approach towards a certain breed in your community is not friendly or fair. This pit bull plus amenities is exactly like having a pit bull ban. It forces many people in your community to now consider hardship or give up the family pet. Many times the people in your community aren’t really given much of a choice depending on the individual situation. In America, millions of pets die every year, but for what reason I’m not sure. I never thought that I would be asking city governments to please, please do not take people’s loved, well behaved, non law breaking dogs or make it impossible for them to own them. The more you restrict, the more the bad person rebels. Regardless, the family is what is harmed in these cases. I have seen people shed real tears of pain and tragedy. I can’t imagine if you outlawed red heelers how I would respond. Take a look at your family pet. Really dig into your memory banks and try to re discover what you really know about dogs and not what you think the media told you. It is imperative to the well being of your citizens experiencing a heart wrenching grief when they are forced by economics and design to lose what they most value.

    I am concerned about the lack of humanity the pet laws have aspired to and would encourage you to lean towards the opposite ends. Put more stringent rules on dogs that have proven dangerous behaviors, especially when it is clear the owners have not taken their duty to confine seriously. I am all in favor of not allowing unpredictably or seriously aggressive dogs to roam about or maybe even to be owned in some cases. However, some owners are more than capable of containing, confining, and responsibly housing a pet who may not be good with the general public. It’s silly to make a requirement that they can’t do it at all. I just find it almost preposterous that we allow so many other things to occur that are far more dangerous than owning a certain breed and yet…….we are going to put these restrictions on a dog. People in our community can own a pet alligator for goodness sakes.

    There are many veterinarians, behavioral consultants, and organizations that support efforts to make sure that pet laws are not subjective. Breeds are not common knowledge, not even in the animal sheltering market. I wish I could tell you how many purebred miniature pinchers I’ve received that were 8 weeks old and more along the lines of Rottweiler Puppy, that’s sometimes 90 pounds difference. At this point in time, if the Rottweiler was being eradicated at the same rate as the Pit Bull, min pins, American Cockers, Dobermans, and many other black and tan breeds would be rounded up and included to help us not be afraid. Becoming informed will keep us from being afraid. Every day I get to expose my community to well behaved, loving, pit or pit type dogs. They say they are afraid and so this response is socially induced. Individuals do not know who the vice president is, but they know that pit bulls are dangerous. If you ask them why they know, it’s because they saw it on Channel 9. Some people who agree with the ban, think that it only targets the criminally minded. Soooo… individuals with dogs who have appropriate behaviors and temperaments would not even be subject to adhere to the law even if the dog just happened to be that exact breed.

    There are a million reasons why restricting just a pit bull type dog in a community is logically illogical. There are a million reasons why making it harder for people to own them does not make sense. Even if I didn’t like dogs, I would make you prove to me that this dog in our community is really a nuisance and/or a problem before I would want to spend an ounce of my tax dollars to get rid of it. I never want a single $ of mine to go to removing loved, wanted, and cared for pets from their homes. If I could be convinced they were posing a risk, I would not be against it. Although I rally against the death and killing of pets on a continuous basis, I advocate the euthanasia of pets who have unpredictable, out of control, or dangerous aggression towards people. I don’t find that most pets have that sort of problem, but in the event that they do, then I put them to sleep. I realize that my first responsibility is to be providing people with pets who will be safe within certain perimeters. Your first responsibility is to be providing people the responsibility to choose their own pets, to trust that most people are going to want a safe family dog. You can increase the probabilities of having social, trained pets by providing and/or requiring certain forms of study, licensing, or classes for the citizens in your area.

    This policy that you are proposing leads you into a great deal of liability. Unless you are going to provide DNA tests to all dogs that are subject to profiling, then the identifying process is subjective. You will end up housing and harboring without compensation many dogs of pit bull like traits that simply are not pit bulls. Is this really a necessary expense with the challenges and demands of meeting a daily budget?

    The truth of the matter is, we have all grown up with pit bulls. We, as Americans, should love pit bulls and dogs in general. Dogs do exactly what your mission says: it makes us feel proud of our history, our diversity, and our culture. All dogs. All dogs make us feel amazing, that is why we own them. I’m sorry if you are not a pet lover as they have so many wonderful things to give to us. Even not being a pet owner, I would never want to take something of such value away from people in my community when it is of little consequence to me. And this is the important juncture, it is your job and duty to decide if the danger and the fear is a real danger and fear or if it is only perceived. We cannot make a judgment, law, or policy based on perception. Then your job is to educate and inform your citizens so that a more cost effective, humane, and logical outcome about dangerous pets can be obtained. This is the only role you can take. Everyone really is reacting out of this desire to feel and be safe. The only way to edge closer to the goal and become safer is to be evaluating options from a highly informed stand point.

    Please do some more research about this topic. I will always plan to live in a city who protects and services all life within its perimeters: to me, life is the most precious of our gifts and should never be trampled on lightly. There is this expectancy within me that we will act in favor of the good that is in us. I have been disappointed in us at our willingness to be so barbaric to a dog that is so beautiful, sturdy, loyal, and kind. They bring laughter and love to these families, please do not take that away. There has to be a really good reason for such intrusion and I’m doubtful that we have one.

    Melody Kelso
    Mission, KS
    The Pet Connection
    http://www.thepetconnection.net
    913-671-PETS
    Founding Director

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