Joliet approves new animal control ordinance, agreement with township

Brock A. Stein | 5/4/2016, 1:49 p.m.
The new ordinance and agreement with Joliet Township will close some of the loopholes governing vicious dog attacks in the ...
Joliet has revamped its ordinance and drafted a new agreement with the township regarding vicious animals. Photo by Brock A. Stein

The Joliet city council on Tuesday approved a change to the ordinance that oversees the way that vicious and dangerous dog incidents are handled.

In addition to the change in the city ordinance, the council also approved a revised intergovernmental agreement with Joliet Township Animal Control.

The changes were prompted following several attacks on humans and other dogs in the city said attorney Martin Shanahan.

Shanahan told the council Monday during the pre-council meeting that the original intergovernmental agreement dealt only with stray animals.

“It didn’t deal with dangerous and vicious dogs” which lead to a “communication gap,” said Shanahan.

The reworked ordinance and agreement with the township will “address not just strays but more than that,” he said.

Under the new rules, a dog found to be vicious during a hearing won’t be returned to the owner. In the event of an attack, the new ordinance will also give the city the option of taking an animal in to custody “while the case is pending” said Shanahan.

Shanahan said that a dangerous dog is defined as one that displays an aggressive posture while the definition of a vicious dog is one that has attacked a person or other animal causing serious physical injury.

It would be up to a hearing officer to determine the status of the animal.

The intergovernmental agreement with Joliet Township Animal Control will foster more cooperation and communication between the two governmental bodies he said.

The city will pay just over $157,000 annually for the township service with a 3% increase each year.

For calls made to animal control for vicious or dangerous stray animals the response time is expected within 1 hour according to the agreement.

City Manager Jim Hock said that the city staff would monitor the response times to “make sure that we’re getting the service that we’re paying for” and to ensure that the service meets the needs of residents.

The new rules will also include a mechanism for victims of an attack to seek financial restitution.

Though the revamped ordinance won’t help her now, Joliet resident Stewart Warren said that she was glad to see the city take action on the issue.

Warren’s 9-pound Yorkie, Rally, was severely injured in an attack by a stray pit bull in February.

The dog that attacked her was finally taken in to custody in April after failing to show proof of it being vaccinated, neutered and microchipped.

Since February, Warren thus far has racked up $4300 in veterinary bills and had to spend another $2500 to have a fence installed at her home because she no longer feels safe walking her dogs.

“What I’m really concerned about is enforcement,” said Warren Monday night.

“Please enforce it very strictly,” she said of the new rules, “these animals are dangerous.”

Councilman Larry Hug complemented the “tightened” language of the ordinance but still wants to explore the option of the city hiring its own animal enforcement officer perhaps on a part-time basis to start.

City Manager Jim Hock said that the job was being considered as the city continues talks with the AFSCME union which represents its parking lot employees.

Both council members Jan Quillman and Pat Mudron noted that the recent issues with dog attacks doesn’t stem from the animals themselves or a particular breed.

“It’s not a dog problem but an owner problem,” said Mudron.