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updated: 2/25/2010 5:09 AM

Elgin city council puts a tight leash on pit bulls

Restrictions move but divide council

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Elgin residents who own pit bulls are in for a whole new set of rules come this summer if a city council majority holds.

By a 4-3 vote, the council on Wednesday advanced a measure that would declare all pit bulls a "dangerous" breed, requiring their owners to obtain $500,000 insurance, muzzle their dogs when they are walked, erect a 6-foot-high fence if the dogs are outside, pay $100 for a three-year license and put signs on their homes warning of a dangerous dog or face fines starting at $1,000.

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"Something needs to be done," said Councilman John Prigge, who was joined by fellow council members Robert Gilliam, Mike Warren, and Mayor Ed Schock. "This is the best plan for Elgin and its safety. It treats the cause and effect. It targets the owner and punishes them for bad behavior."

Council members David Kaptain, Richard Dunne and John Steffen voted against the law, which is part of the city's first full-scale revision of its animal control ordinance since 1986.

The three council members supported new rules but had concerns about muzzles, that fence heights would be incompatible with historic districts and new subdivision covenants, and the logistics of requiring people driving through town with their pit bulls to obtain permits from the police department.

The trio tried to table the measure until the next city council meeting on March 10 so the city staff could offer other suggestions.

Instead, that date is when a final vote could be taken. If so, the law will go into effect June 1 and pit bull owners have until July 1 to register their dogs.

Over the past nine months, residents have lobbied both for and against a ban on pit bulls.

Wednesday was no different, as nine people spoke out against the new rules and one supported it. More than 100 people attended the meeting to protest.

"The gangbangers, the drug dealers, those are the people who should be targeted and not allowed to have these animals," said Elgin resident Debbi Powless. "It's the owner, not the dog."

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