©2011 Galesburg Broadcasting Co.
|Dog Task Force Attempts Tackling Sensitive Issues
|It was decided during March 18th's Galesburg City Council meeting that a canine task-force would be developed to better track vicious animals and prevent future attacks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 800-thousand Americans seek medical attention each year for dog bites; half of them being children. Three individuals addressed the City Council to express concerns over the current state of City ordinance, or lack thereof, and pushed the council to do something about it.
Mayor Sal Garza made a commitment at the meeting to start the task-force with the goal of reviewing the City's current policies and recommending updates. Garza tells WGIL that it's crucial to prevent a knee-jerk reaction on such an emotional issue.
"Part of the motivation for this task-force is to assess what we currently do have in terms of local ordinances and also what the enforcement activity has been," says Garza. "There's a number of other areas in terms of how we execute going out and applying these ordinances as well as administrative functions."
Embedded in the debate is a nature/nurture argument that seeks to define vicious animals by how they are raised or treated.
The Residents who came before the council, discussed a first hand account of the pit-bull attack on a Galesburg 7-year-old. Ryan Maxwell was tragically attacked before being taken to Galesburg Cottage Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Erin Buckmaster is a full-time volunteer with the Knox County Animal Shelter and tells the WGIL evening news that any large dog that isn't under control can be a problem.
"Anyone that has a pet needs to be more responsible," says Buckmaster. "Part of that includes caring for the pet, having it under control when you have it out in public, making sure it's fed and making sure you're a good pet owner. With a good pet owner [the Maxwell incident] would not have happened."
Buckmaster says she would like to see stricter spay/neuter ordinances as well as time limits that dogs can be outside. The task force was appointed by Mayor Garza recently, which contains: 7th Ward Alderman Jeremy Karlin, City Manager Todd Thompson, City Clerk Kelli Bennewitz, and Police Chief Dave Christensen. It has reportedly been discussed that developing an information campaign that community residents can use to their advantage, such as: how to handle loose animals, and the quantity of dog issues in each neighborhood, is considered crucial.
Garza says that the goal of the task force is to bring forward items that bring about an understanding that prevent future tragedies from happening again which will include input from professional animal handlers. He tells WGIL that it will be subjective when trying to define what makes a dangerous dog.
"There's been concern expressed to us, to the council and to the community, that it really isn't enough," says Garza. "The determination is being made by, and the discretion is being left to the animal control officer, and that has come under, of course, scrutiny."
The Galesburg City Council will make the final decision with respect to the recommendations made by the task force.
Galesburg has few ordinances for dealing with animal attacks, but the City has reported receiving many phone calls asking how well current laws are being enforced. Opinions are already beginning to surface on what Aldermen would like to see recommended. 6th Ward Alderman Wayne Allen tells WGIL responsibility is key.
"I hope they bring to the council a more people oriented ordinance that makes people responsible for the pets that they own," says Allen.
Memorials were held for 7-year-old Maxwell with classmates leaving teddy-bears on his desk at Nielsen Elementary following the incident.
Those present at March 18th's City Council meeting said they were tired from living in fear of a loose dog or possible dog attack. Members at large will be part of task force discussion, including members of Ryan Maxwell's family. Garza says he would like to see a first ordinance proposal in the next three months with a task-force completion in the next 6 or 7 months.
|03 30 13 by Newsroom
Click here for the WGIL News Archive
Click here for national news
The following provision applies to all visitors (which shall include persons and representatives of legal entities, whether such representatives are persons or digital engines of a kind that crawls, indexes, scrapes, copies, stores or transmits digital content). By accessing this Web site or digital service, you specifically acknowledge and agree that: (i) Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium; (ii) No Associated Press materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use; (iii) The Associated Press will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing; (iv) The Associated Press is an intended third party beneficiary of these terms and conditions and it may exercise all rights and remedies available to it; and (v) The Associated Press reserves the right to audit possible unauthorized commercial use of AP materials or any portion thereof at any time.