AR-News: Oak Park puts family in doggone bind

Plugnozzi at Stateline-ISP.com Plugnozzi at Stateline-ISP.com
Thu Aug 7 20:51:25 EDT 2003


From: Barb Nozzi

You can also vote on whether you agree with a two-dog limit.

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Oak Park puts family in doggone bind 
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Village and judge give mom and two kids a choice: Get rid of one of your three pooches, or get out of town

By Jodi S. Cohen
Tribune staff reporter

August 7, 2003

Susan Bailey has until October to make a tough choice: Dump one of her three dogs or move out of Oak Park.

When Bailey brought Izzy home six months ago, she thought the miniature dachshund would help her two children cope with the approaching deaths of the family's two older dogs.

She didn't expect an angry neighbor, the dog eviction deadline set Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, and a fine up to $750 a week if she fails to comply.

Oak Park said Bailey is in violation of its two-dog limit, and one dog must go. To Bailey, the number is arbitrary, and she has drafted a petition that would have limits in the 99-year-old ordinance set on a case-by-case basis. She said about 100 people have signed.

"In my case, three is not too much. Face it, I'm not going to have three dogs for too much longer," said Bailey, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her older dogs are ages 11 and 13.

Oak Park animal-control officials said they write 6 to 12 tickets a year for violating the dog-limit law. Assistant Village Atty. Jack Tibbetts prosecuted three such citations Wednesday, including Bailey's.

Laws limiting pets differ throughout the region. In Chicago, there are no limits. In Naperville, a resident can have no more than three dogs or cats, and in Morton Grove, no more than four of any one species. There's a three-pet limit in Oak Forest, except for residents adopting from an animal-rescue organization. They can have up to five dogs.

In Wilmette, where residents can have five pets but only three can be dogs or cats, corporation counsel Tim Frenzer said there have been no citations or prosecutions in at least the last decade for excessive animals.

Under the Oak Park ordinance, residents can have no more than two dogs or four indoor cats in a single-family home, and no more than one dog or two cats in an apartment or condominium. Ten animals, not including fish, are allowed in a home and five in an apartment, and only one pigeon is allowed per residence.

"It seems to me that any law that is decades old has to be reviewed to take account of changing times," said Village Trustee Galen Gockel, who plans to raise the issue at a September meeting. "It is hard to separate the number of dogs from the behavior of dogs. What if [three or four dogs] were quiet, would it be a problem?"

The original handwritten ordinance, enacted on April 21, 1904, should remain on the books, said Oak Park resident Ingo Schaefer.

"I have nothing against dogs," said Schaefer, who lives about 300 feet from Bailey and her dogs, but said he didn't file the complaint. "We live in a very, very population-dense community. It is very, very frustrating to have dogs barking in the night. The more dogs you have, the more chance you have of dogs barking."

Tibbetts said violators are asked first to remove the animals. The cases of the other offenders on Wednesday were dismissed after they complied. For violators who don't get rid of the animals, Tibbetts said he asks a judge to order a fine, typically $150 to $200, but as high as $750.

"If they don't comply, we'll seek a fine and a new case every week," he said.

"We have had people move out," Tibbetts said, rather than ditch a dog.

That was an option raised by Judge Thomas Tucker when he heard Bailey's pleas.

"I can't give up a dog," she told Tucker.

"Then you'll have to leave Oak Park," he said. "You have two choices. Abide by the law like everyone else or leave."

Bailey, who must decide by Oct. 1, was on the verge of tears as she left the courtroom. "I can't move. My children are in [Oak Park] schools," she said. She earlier said she likely would keep her two older, mixed-breed dogs, Chester and Lolo, and give the puppy to her former in-laws in New York.

Oak Park Trustee Diana Carpenter, who attended the court hearing, said if the board takes up the issue, she would vote for keeping the limits.

"We are in an urban setting, not in farmland," Carpenter said. "Two dogs is plenty. We all live so close to one another."

Oak Park animal-control supervisor John Hayley said the ordinance is enforced when there is a complaint.

"It simply is a matter of logic in numbers," he said. "The animal waste is allowed to build up, there is noise. It is a health and safety standard."

Diane Gordon, who received a citation in June, urged the Village Board at its Monday meeting to reconsider the ordinance because it "leaves people vulnerable to hostile neighbors."

"If you are a responsible owner of two dogs, you will be a responsible owner of three dogs," said Gordon, whose son took her third dog and her violation was dismissed. "If instead of this extra dog, I wanted a duck, pigeon or rabbit, I would be OK. But I can't have another dog."

Jamie Damato, a dog trainer in Oak Park and Chicago, said she knows several families with more than two dogs. "As long as the animals are well cared for and they aren't a nuisance, God bless anyone who wants to have a house full of dogs," she said.


Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune

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