Chicago - When state Rep. Michael Tryon proposed legislation last month to control pit bulls, he quickly learned that some dog owners could be as difficult to handle as their pets.
The evening after Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) proposed a law that would let municipalities ban specific breeds, his fax machine started whirring non-stop. It finally jammed after spitting out nearly 500 protest letters, some from as far as California.
As the momentum to control dangerous dogs swells across Illinois and nationwide, dog owners have emerged as a well-organized and loud group of activists.
Nationwide, roughly 230 cities in 32 states have pit bull legislation either passed or proposed, said Alan Beck, a professor at the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University.
So Tryon is not alone, Beck said.
"It's not like there is just this huge groundswell of pit bull people," said Beck, who has testified in Canada in support of a pit bull ban and has been on the receiving end of hate mail from dog owners. "They are just organized and noisy."
In Illinois, about 10 dangerous-dog bills or amendments are being discussed, most of them from politicians in districts where pit bull attacks have occurred.
Tryon acted in response to a Nov. 5 attack near Cary in which two children and four adults were severely injured by three pit bulls that escaped from their owner's home.
"In Illinois our laws are all about the animals and not the people," Tryon said. "Every time we try to do something about this, the lobbyists for [animal-welfare groups] get 5,000 people to jam our fax machines."
Pit Bull Problem Statements and BSL