Galesburg pet owners split on possible law changes

The Galesburg City Council will soon consider a list of changes to strengthen the city’s animal control laws, and pet owners in the community said they’re split on the suggestions.

The Animal Control Working Group was formed after 7-year-old Ryan Maxwell died of injuries he suffered when he was attacked by a dog in the back yard of a Galesburg home in March. Since May, the group has held several public hearings and committee meetings to gather community input on vicious dogs and current animal ordinances.

Task Force member Emily Thorn-Carlson said the largest issue has been safety.

“I think that was the root of the concern. People did not, or do not, feel safe walking in their neighborhoods, either by themselves or with their dogs. And people should feel safe when they’re walking,” said Thorn-Carlson.

A report released July 19, 2013, lists ten steps the committee thinks the city can take to make Galesburg animal control laws more effective.

“Strengthening the leash law was the thing that everybody seemed to agree needed to be done,” Thorn-Carlson said.

The recommendation would require solid leashes, no longer than 6 feet. It would also require pet owners to leash dogs, even on private property, or keep them within a fence.

Local owners mostly agreed with this proposal.

“You have to have a leash law. It’s too dangerous just to let the dogs run loose, even for the dogs themselves,” said Craig Conolly.

Other suggestions would place limits on tethering, require pets to be spayed or neutered, and lower the number of cats and dogs allowed per household from four to two.

“Two is plenty. Heck, I can barely afford to feed myself because my dogs eat better than I do, you know?” said dog owner Angela Parent.

Others, though, aren’t sold on the proposal.

“If you have a larger family, and you’ve got four dogs, and you’ve got a big backyard, it’s not a big deal. It’s how you treat the dogs, and it’s what you let them do or don’t do… it’s really not the numbers,” said Conolly.

It’s now up to the City Council to decide which ideas will become law. A special work session for the council is scheduled for Monday, July 29.