Galesburg It is your turn to get it right

Let there be no confusion.  The attack on young Ryan Maxwell is what Galesburg wants to protect its citizens from:
Investigators said the dog attacked at the neck area, and they were unable to save the boy.  Thomas read from the forensic autopsy that there were 49 marks on the boys body that did not include internal injuries.  “Internally he had laceration of the carotid artery and jugular vein. Very little blood in the heart ... he had bled out.”  Further, the report indicated there was a large gaping laceration of the larynx and fractures of the fifth and sixth vertebrae.  The pit crushed the boy's neck and ripped out his throat. Police reported that when they arrived, the pit bull was licking up Ryan's blood as it poured out out of him.

These are not the injuries associated with typical dog attacks and Ryan was not the only child to suffer such devastating fatal injuries this year.  No other kind of dog attacks like a pit bull or creates the amount of devastation to the body. Pit bull advocates say that any kind of dog can do this, but doctors who have to try to fix what pit bulls do disagree.  Look to the end of this post to see what doctors say.

When communities endeavor to regulate dangerous dogs they must never lose sight of this - their first priority is to protect residents from the threat of a devastating attack like this. Can this be any more clear?  Every other consideration takes a back seat to preventing these grotesque attacks and to relieving people of the threat that this could happen to them, their loved ones, or their pets.

When communities have a history of pit bull attacks as well as a general problem with dogs, the best solution is a combination of breed neutral ordinances to address all dog owners if a problem arises and specific regulation to prevent pit bull maulings and fatalities before they can happen.  When pit bulls can cause a life altering or life ending attack the first time they attack, looking at ordinances that only protect after the first attack will have no effect and make no sense.

All four of the towns (Galesburg, Macomb, Bloomington, Peoria) currently looking at their animal control and dangerous dog ordinances were prompted to do so because of pit bull and bull breed attacks. But none of the cities are looking at pit bull regulation, and so have already failed to address the most serious problem head on.

Despite the statewide ban on BSL, cities can enact BSL under home rule authority. Of the four cities currently searching to keep people safe from dangerous dogs, all but Macomb have home rule authority, and Macomb can be granted home rule authority by putting the question to a referendum vote.

According to Kory Nelson, an attorney for the city of Denver,  "'Home Rule' is the basic right of municipalities to decide matters of local concern for themselves, without the state telling them how to do it. Just like the battle over state rights, cities can fight BSL bans where such "home rule" rights exist. I know - I won a similar legal battle in Colorado. Historically, regulations over animals have been at the local level, and there is no need for state-wide uniformity. Rural or mountain towns have different needs than heavily populated urban centers."

All of the cities that have dismissed BSL as an option have cited the statewide ban on BSL when they announce that they have taken BSL off the table and this is just a cop out.  According to a 2001 report out of NIU's Center for Governmental studies, "Illinois gives the broadest and most liberal authority to cities and counties of any state in the nation."  Illinois' robust home rule authority allowed Morton Grove to become the first city in the nation to locally ban handguns.  The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the state and federal constitutionality of the ordinance.  The courts have consistently upheld home rule authority unless there is a clear benefit to having uniformity across the state such as a uniform minimum drinking age and uniform municipal employee retirement programs.

Bloomington was prompted to strengthen their dangerous and vicious dog ordinances after a couple who were delivering phone books were mauled by a pit bull that burst out of a home as the couple approached. Connie Ijams was left with permanently life altering physical and psychological injuries.

Four months after the attack Connie Ijams reported still being in constant pain with serious nerve damage to her arms.  She said, "I'm just always really nervous.  I drop things.  I shake.  I have nightmares.  I still cry.  I'm in pain constantly…"  The owner of the mauling pit bull gave the victims no aid at the scene and no financial aid in the aftermath.

The savagery of this attack and the long lasting, devastating consequences are what should have always been foremost in the city council's minds as they crafted ordinances to keep this from happening again.  Because once an attack this severe has occurred, it is already too late for the victim.

However, the city council focused on regulation that does not take effect until after a first attack when, all too often, the first attack by a pit bull is fatal or life altering.  What the council came up with in response would have done nothing to prevent the attack on the Ijams couple because the attacking pit bull had not been declared dangerous.  Further, under these new ordinances, Connie Ijams would still be on the hook for a huge part of her physical and psychological medical care.

Everything Bloomington has enacted would have been moot in the Connie Ijams attack, because the pit bull's first attack was so horrifically vicious, it was put down.  A pit bull ban or regulation that required insurance, microchipping, spay and neuter, fencing and muzzles in public are what could prevent another attack like the one sustained by Connie Ijams.  While the the new regulations are a step in the right direction, zero change has been made to making it easier to get a dangerous, aggressive dog declared dangerous, which is what should have happened.  And zero containment or control measures were included.  Muzzles and strong fences are the things that would functionally save people from attack.

Sadly, Bloomington is on the verge of capitulating to a local dog rescue - whose demands should not be considered in this issue of human health and safety - to make it MORE DIFFICULT to have a dog declared dangerous or vicious.  The rescue wants to have a "behaviorist" evaluate a dog as part of the determination of dangerousness or split hairs about provocation.  The rescue is hoping to protect dangerous dog owners from having restrictions put on them.  If a dog has indisputably menaced or attacked a pet or person there is no need for a self-appointed "behaviorist" to administer a temperament test.  After all, if an animals' behavior is so difficult to read that it requires a behaviorist to interpret it, it does not belong in human communities in the first place.

In addition to published research that has documented that a significant number of shelter dogs that passed temperament tests often later show aggression in their adoptive home, earlier this year a pit bull that killed a child passed a temperament test administered after the deadly attack.  And closer to home, just a few days ago a pit bull that had been given a battery of temperament tests later escaped containment and went to a neighboring property to attack the Welsh pony in northern Illinois.

Macomb was prompted to look at vicious dog laws after a rescue pit bull attacked one dog, killed another dog, and attacked two people in their own yard in three separate attacks.  Macomb is finishing up its work on vicious dog laws and has the right idea if a breed ban is not an option.

'We're lowering the bar from the statutory level," she said. "We're not going to wait before imposing sanctions."'

"The lesser label of dangerous dog could be applied to a dog that behaves in a threatening manner or bites a person or domestic animal but does not cause serious injury."

This is an fine way to approach community safety in places where BSL is not possible, and is one of several innovative dangerous dog ordinances being implemented in Texas communities, where BSL is also banned.

This is what has to happen if a community won't or can't impose breed specific regulation.  It will, without a doubt, catch up some unintended consequences such as the hero labrador that was declared dangerous because it may have accidentally bitten the little girl it successfully saved from a pit bull attack in San Antonio.

However, this Macomb ordinance will be rendered useless if animal advocates get their way and help write and enforce the dangerous dog laws.  Again, they will attempt to find "experts" who will split hairs about provocation and perform meaningless temperament tests to tell neighbors that they only THINK they are being threatened by a dog, but the expert knows better.

A prime example of this extreme advocacy to the detriment of the community was recorded during the Galesburg public comment meetings about dangerous dog problems in Galesburg.  Sue Baker's elderly golden retriever was attacked as she was being taken for a leashed walk by a pit bull that dug out of its fence and made a bee line to the dog for the express purpose of attacking her in a persistent attack that could not be stopped until a passerby came to their aid.  The vicious and unrelenting nature of this attack that the Bakers feared would be fatal to Chloe cannot be dismissed.  It puts people in jeopardy and destroys the quality of life of a community.  Chris King of the Humane Society whose job it was to understand that and deem this dog dangerous wasn't able to understand that.

Chris King, the person charged with determining if a pit bull should be deemed dangerous, treated these citizens with juvenile contempt and disregard first at the dangerous dog hearing and then during a public meetings on the subject of the dangerous dog problem.  This is the type of "expert" whose judgment dog ownership advocates want making decisions in Bloomington and Macomb.  Chris King had no professional education and he obviously did not consider himself a protector of the community when he spoke:
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Galesburg has made some great strides in addressing their stray, aggressive and dangerous dog issues, though they have not addressed pit bulls head on.  Very importantly, they are going to assign animal control services to the police department and create one full time and one part time animal control officer.  That will greatly solve the "conflict of interests" (to put it very diplomatically) the advisory committee found in the current system which has the humane society responsible for animal control responsibilities. They are focusing on making clear, enforceable and enforced dog control reporting procedures and ordinances with appropriate penalties.  Lowering the maximum number of dogs and cats allowed, and mandatory spay and neuter for all pets will also be very effective for reducing problems with dogs.

There are other interesting ideas from progressive localities in Texas and Michigan Illinois communities might want to consider

"In January 2009, one week after the fatal mauling of 3-year old Brooklynn Millburn by a neighbor's rottweiler, Fort Worth Animal Control underwent a door-to-door sweep citing non-compliant dog owners. In just 4-days, 800 citations were issued. Code officers said they intended to knock on doors in every city neighborhood in a 90-day period. By July, the Code Compliance Administration had prepared and presented a revised animal control ordinance to city council."

Fort Worth's door-to-door sweep was impromptu, but localities in Michigan implemented "pet censuses."  Last year, Genesee county MI did a census that brought in $128,000 which more than offset the cost of hiring part time census takers and will continue to bring in funds for animal control for years to come now that dog owners and dogs are in the system.  Ottawa county, parts of Oakland county, and the city of Royal Oaks MI are doing  dog censuses this year.

Fort Worth has also "lowered the bar" for recognizing an "aggressive" dog.  "Aggressive" dogs -- animals that make repeated attempts to climb, dig or chew through fencing in order to attack or harass a person or a pet."  Lowering the bar serves to prevent attacks, rather than waiting for them to happen before regulating the owner and dog.

Garland, Texas requires 6-foot fencing for pit bulls.  Despite the ban on BSL, Garland TX requires higher fencing to provide "uniform enforcement" because pit bulls are recognized as being more muscular and able to escape standard required fencing. And San Antonio TX has created a special court for canine related crimes designed to be more favorable to dog bite victims.

Breed neutral and breed specific ordinances are not mutually exclusive and can in fact work in tandem to reduce dog bites, attacks, maimings and fatalities.  While Illinois communities are facing several dog problems such as strays, unregistered dogs, and rampant breeding, in every Illinois town and city facing terrible attacks, the attacks that prompt new ordinances in Illinois are all or in large part pit bull attacks.  But the only tool communities have available to them are breed neutral ordinances and communities are forced to effectively use a screwdriver to pound a nail. Cities all over Illinois are attempting to enact legislation that can prevent pit bull attacks and are hampered by being prohibited from using the right tool. The only way to stop these terrible attacks is to acknowledge the true nature of the problem, and once acknowledged, address it head on with pit bull regulation with penalties that force pit bull owners to be responsible. It is time to get it right and protect Illinois citizens and improve our quality of life.

$111,000 and counting: Genesee County cashing in on new dog licenses as census continues
Genesee County dog census will have fewer workers on patrol this year
Ottawa County 'dog census' begins
Oakland County dog owners need licenses by June 1
City to perform dog census in July
Aggressive Behavior in Adopted Dogs (Canis Familiaris) that Passed a Temperament Test
Pit bull that killed Toddler passed temperament test
Kendall co Rescued pit bull attacks pony on pony's property
Illinois Home Rule: A Thirty Year Assessment
Coroner's jury rules deaths of Ryan Maxwell, Isaiah Stevenson as accidental

Bloomington pit bull victim of severe pit bull mauling left with expenses
Illinois dog bite statistics

What surgeons and doctors say about pit bull attacks:

As a practicing emergency physician, I have witnessed countless dog bites. Invariably, the most vicious and brutal attacks I have seen have been from the pit bull breed. Many of the victims have been children. In a recent study from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, pit bull attacks accounted for more ER visits than all other breeds combined.

In young children, the most common part of the body injured was the face. Numerous studies have proven that the number-one cause of dog bite fatalities is the pit bull breed. I am certain that many attacks are due to owner negligence, but the fact remains that many were unpredictable and were perpetrated by formerly "loving and loyal" pets.

Dr. Chagnon has every right to leave our town as she claims she will if pit bulls are banned, just like every one of her patients has the right not to attend her clinic where she brings her pit bulls. I applaud Mayor Pro Tem Joanne Sanders for bringing this issue to the forefront. In the interest of public safety, I recommend we enforce a spay/neuter requirement on pit bulls while reviewing and revamping all of our policies relating to animal bites.


DAVID E. BLOCKER, BS, MD, Dog Bite Rates and Biting Dog Breeds in Texas, 1995-1997

PETER ANTEVY, pediatric E.R. physician, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital
Dr Antvey sees at least five dog-bite victims a month in his emergency room. Unfortunately, he said, "the biggest offender is the pit bull."

HORSWELL BB, CHAHINE CJ, oral surgeons

Dr RICHARD SATTIN, chief of unintentional-injuries section of the Centers of Disease Control
We're trying to focus public attention on this greatly underestimated public hazard.

In 1979, pit bulls accounted for 20 percent of fatal attacks by dogs. That figure had risen to 62 percent by 1988. 

Nobody knows the dog population of the United States or the exact breakdown by breed. 
We do not believe that pit bulls represent anywhere near 42% percent of dogs in the United States. Therefor, we believe that the pit bull excess in deaths is real and growing.

Dr. EDGAR JOGANIK (after trying to reattach scalp and ear to a pit bull victim)
Pit bull attacks are typically the most severe, and in about one-third of all attacks, the animals are family pets or belong to close friends.
That should be the message, that these dogs should not be around children, adults are just as likely to be victims.
Everyone should be extremely cautious.

When a Pit Bull is involved the bites are worse. When they bite, they bite and lock and they don't let go... they bite lock and they rip and they don't let go.
Bites from pit bulls inflict much more damage, multiple deep bites and ripping of flesh and are unlike any other domestic animal I've encountered. Their bites are devastating - close to what a wildcat or shark would do.

DR. PATRICK BYRNE, Johns Hopkins Hospital
I can't think of a single injury of this nature that was incurred by any other species other than a pit bull or a rottweiler.

A ten-year, two-institution review of pediatric dog attacks: Advocating for a nationwide prohibition of dangerous dogs
Affectionately referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, dog attacks in the pediatric population often test this analogy. Pediatric dog attacks are a significant public health issue that negatively affects the psychological well-being of a child. We performed analysis of our cumulative two-institution pediatric dog attack data, present representative cases and offer evidence to support a nationwide prohibition of dangerous dogs.
A retrospective review was performed at two urban Children’s hospitals from 1996-2005 of all dog attacks presenting to the plastic surgery service. Charts were reviewed with analysis of patient demographics, injury site, operative intervention, and dog-specific data.
109 patients were included for review, with 83% of attacks occurring in the facial region. Mean age was 3.9 years (range 2-18 years). 67% of attacks involved multiple anatomic sites, 95% required surgical intervention with 30% requiring a skin graft or flap reconstruction. 88% of dogs were known to the victim, 46% of attacks were provoked, 73% of dogs were euthanized and 57% of dogs were deemed to be of a dangerous breed (Pit Bill or Rottweiler). Mean hospital duration was 4.7 days and 27% required additional reconstructive plastic surgery. Figures below illustrate a representative case of a 4-year old female attacked by her aunt's dog, resulting in a complete nasal amputation, preoperatively (upper), at time of forehead flap reconstruction (middle), and five years post-operatively (lower), with an acceptable functional and aesthetic reconstruction.
Dog attacks in the pediatric population produce significant costs including physical morbidity, psychological disability, and financial strains. A majority of attacks were by a known dog, in the facial region, by dogs which we define as of a dangerous breed. Much of the injury patterns are unique to children and these injuries and associated costs can be significantly diminished, as the problem is often preventable. Our cases present the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as our cases only represented consultations directed to Plastic Surgery. The Province of Ontario, Canada has banned Pit Bulls since 2004, as have several American cities. We describe the scope of the problem, preventative guidelines, and outline why organizational advocacy in plastic surgery should be directed towards a national prohibition of dangerous dogs.