"Reckless dog owner" proposals discussed at forum

By Beau Ebenezer

October 2, 2013 Updated Oct 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Recent dog attacks in Peoria have city officials looking to change the rules for dog owners.

While the owners are the ones who would be punished, city officials also have the option to put an outright ban on a dog breed.

At-Large Councilwoman, Beth Akeson presented the public with a proposal Wednesday night that would put more responsibility on dog owners.

The ordinance would create a "reckless owner" designation, which labels a person as "reckless" if he or she violates animal control ordinances three or more times in three years.

"We want to create conditions where dogs don't bite," said Akeson. "We want to make sure that people know what it means to be a responsible dog owner. I think if we can achieve that, we will be going down the right path."

Another possible change would prohibit chaining a dog to a property without the owner being present.

For Peoria Dog owner, Phil Reardon, he said the language in the tethering proposal initially concerned him, but it was cleared up at the forum.

"If the dog is out for 15 to 30 minutes, it shouldn't be a problem," said Reardon. "We are not the type of owners to let our dog live in the backyard. She loves being in the house, and we're fine with that."

During the meeting, Akeson brought up the "pitbull" breed several times saying owners need to be more educated on the the dangers associated with the breed, specifically.

"Pitbulls, when they do attack, they deliver an injury that is completely different than other dog bites, and that is a fact," said Akeson. "We have to do more to collect this data and make sure we are quantifying it the right way. "

Animal Shelter Director, Lauren Malmberg said she does not agree with Akeson on the subject, and neither did another dog owner at the forum.

"It's really not a breed issue," said Kimberly Brown. "I believe it is not a pitbull issue. I think it is just more dog responsible ownership."

Akeson added that the city has the option of banning specific breeds altogether if they believe they are too much of a safety risk.

However, that idea has not been put on the table.

Akeson said she hopes to have a discussion on the council floor by next year.

Another public forum is scheduled for Thursday night at 5:30 in the community room at Neighborhood House in Peoria.