May 15, 2012 Bloomington pit bull attack prompts City to Look at Rules for Dogs

BLOOMINGTON – Aldermen may revisit tougher rules for dangerous pit bulls and their owners after a recent attack on Bloomington’s west side.

Kelly Uszcienski says a still-unidentified pit bull attacked her Giant Schnauzer, Cameron, near Livingston and Graham streets while they were on a walk May 1.
She says she feared for her own safety before a neighbor stopped the attack.

“I’ve never seen a dog come running so fast. There was nothing I could do. I was just paralyzed,” Uszcienski said. “I really feel like Cameron took the brunt of it for me. He protected me. Otherwise, it could’ve been me (that was injured).”

Cameron’s leg was injured, but he survived. Kelly’s husband, Bernie Uszcienski, reached out to aldermen in an email, and the Bloomington City Council on Monday night asked city staff to report back in the coming weeks on how common dog attacks are, and whether ordinance changes are needed.

The council looked at breed-specific ordinances – for pit bulls – back in 2006. Owners of pit bulls objected, arguing that such a law punishes the dog rather than the irresponsible owner. Instead, aldermen passed an ordinance requiring all dogs to be registered with the county, and giving Bloomington police the authority to seize any dog which did not display dog tags.

Police say the pit bull in the May 1 attack has never been found. That incident happened in Alderman Steven Purcell’s Ward 7.

Purcell was first to raise the issue Monday night. He said he wants the city to examine how many attacks there have been in recent years, in which neighborhoods are they occurring most often, and whether police have any leads on potential dog-fighting operations. But he stressed that a pit bull ban was not imminent.

“I don’t want to get people all worked up and saying, ‘Well, they’re gonna ban the dogs,’” Purcell said. “Well, let’s look at all the data. Let’s look at what we can do, and what we have. What we put in (place) in 2006 – is it working?”

Bernie Uszcienski said it’s time for the city to consider stiffer penalties for vicious dog owners. He said he’s observed more pit bulls – and more of them controlled by irresponsible owners – in his neighborhood and citywide.

“I feel bad for the ones that are certainly responsible owners,” Uszcienski said. “But in my opinion, they are certainly far in the minority.”

Ward 6 Karen Schmidt said she wants to know if the 2006 change has made a difference, and what the impact has been in other communities that have banned pit bulls, such as Denver. (That ban was upheld in court, city officials say.)

When it comes to dangerous dogs, “we do need to be responsible about this,” she said.

“Is there anything else we should be doing to prevent this in the future?” Schmidt said.

No police data was immediately available Monday on the number of animal bite reports in recent years, or the number of dogs seized or owners fined since 2006.

Ryan Denham can be reached at

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