Vicious attacks by two pit bull-type dogs in a Chicago forest preserve that left one woman dead and another seriously injured have helped propel an amended animal control law through the state legislature. The bill would toughen penalties for owners of dangerous dogs and would allow counties to mandate microchipping for all cats and dogs.
The proposed legislation, H.B. 184, was introduced by Rep. Angelo Saviano two days after the attack. Saviano said he had drafted the legislation prior to the forest preserve attacks, in response to the concerns of a constituent. His son had been mauled by a Rottweiler while riding his bike and he was unsatisfied with the charges the dog's owner faced. Since the bill was introduced, more than two dozen representatives have signed on as co-sponsors.
Additionally, several groups have voiced their support for the bill, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; American Veterinary Identification Devices, a microchip manufacturer; the Cook County States Attorney's Office; the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police; and Illinois Parent Teacher Association.
The bill increases penalties for the owners of dogs who have a history of aggression, and attack a human or domestic animal. Depending on the circumstances, the penalties could be a misdemeanor or a felony. The bill requires that dangerous dogs that are impounded be neutered or spayed and kept restrained at all times. An amendment to the bill—recommended by animal welfare groups—gives Illinois counties permission to require owners to microchip their cats and dogs and would require counties to provide periodic low-cost microchipping clinics.
To view the bill or track its progress, visit www.legis.state.il.us/legislation/ and select H.B. 184.
Illinois may be the first state to propose microchipping all pet dogs and cats other states have proposed legislation that would require microchipping only for dogs that are identified as dangerous.
Representative Saviano said overall, he has gotten a positive response from the public about the bill. He said that while some people had concerns about privacy, many people he had spoken with already microchip their pets.
Critics of the bill have questioned how it would be enforced and whether the program would be too costly for counties already dealing with tight animal control budgets. Representative Saviano, however, said the bill could reduce the costs to animal control by allowing lost pets to be quickly reunited with owners and helping authorities to track down irresponsible owners.
"It may have a positive impact on local municipalities," he said.