Chicago pet owners are letting their raging dogs run wild in parks and other public property, sparking fights and threats of violence, the Animal Care and Control official said Wednesday.
With Mamadou Diakhaté, Executive Director of Animal Care and Control, testifying at City Council budget hearings, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) took the opportunity to air complaints about unleashed dogs whose owners thumb their noses at the law that requires dogs to be restrained in public.
“What we’ve seen is a serious escalation in violence between dog owners or parents – to the point where people are threatening each other with guns. Walking into our office saying they’re going to come out and shoot on someone if they see their dog there again,” Waguespack said.
“We’re accumulating broken elbows from old people getting knocked down. Kids getting bitten. All sorts of things that…have escalated since COVID….Even in CAPS meetings, we have people yelling at each other: “My dog should be off leash. It doesn’t bother anyone. And the police have to deal with these fights as well as we do.”
Waguespack said he has the scars to prove it’s like the Wild West out there.
“Having been someone who was bitten last year by a dog owner, hit. … I’m at the point where I’d like to see a coordinated effort with everyone to fix this problem,” said Wavepack.
Diakhaté said he maintains a “line of communication” with Chicago Park District supervisors and often dispatches animal control officers to parks in response to complaints about loose dogs.
“Just having a city animal control truck with our officer is a deterrent most of the time. … We try as much as possible to make sure we’re seen there,” the director said. .
The haphazard approach was not enough to appease Waguespack, who said he wanted a “serious and concerted effort” to educate dog owners “about the safety aspect” of dogs on the loose.
“What I’m looking for more is more communications, public relations, talking to dog owners when they leave, when they get a permit. … How we should not only treat the animals, but also treat the neighbors” , did he declare.
“Some type of public relations campaign has to be undertaken because we leave it to you, to a member of staff who may or may not arrive on time or to a police officer,” he said.
Waguespack also suggested uniform wording on the panels to replace the panels which vary widely. Now some say “brake your dog” while others say “leave your dog”.
Budget Chairman Pat Dowell (3rd) thanked Waguespack for raising the issue.
“Many of us have this concern with off-leash dogs in parks – especially parks that aren’t always supervised by Park District staff. It’s something we hope you’ll follow and even use. your clinics to get information to people about leashing their dogs and what the city ordinance says,” Dowell told Diakhaté.
Aldus. Felix Cardona Jr. (31st) joined the chorus.
“We have dogs roaming the park. But we also have dogs that roam around the neighborhood off leash. And then sometimes they’re off leash and end up attacking another dog,” said Cardona said.
Loose dogs weren’t the only complaint aired at Wednesday’s hearing.
Aldus. Jeanette Taylor (20th) dwelt on dog owners who refuse to pick up their pets and squirrels, possums and raccoons who seem to be getting bigger and “more aggressive”.
“I have neighbors who feed them. They’re really huge. They’re the size of 3- and 4-year-olds,” Taylor said.
Diakhate said the problem is the people feeding them.
“We can’t just feed the wildlife. Wildlife knows how to find food. The more you feed them, the more they come, because they are territorial,” he said.
Mayoral aspirant Ray Lopez (15), the Council’s resident dog lover, closed the hearing with a poignant story about the crisis he endured two weeks ago.
One of his seven dogs fell “deadly ill” over the weekend. Luckily, Lopez had the means to find emergency veterinary care for her sick dog. Not everyone can afford it.
That’s why Lopez asked Diakhaté to explore creating an emergency clinic to give Chicagoans who have valid pet tags a place to go if their dogs or cats become seriously ill on the weekend. when no other affordable care is available.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like for a Chicagoan to see their dog or cat die in the living room or the dining room, knowing they have nowhere to go,” Lopez said.