The Galesburg City Council is considering several changes to the city’s animal ordinances in an effort to prevent future dog attacks in the community.
In March, 7-year-old Ryan Maxwell died of injuries he suffered when he was attacked by a pit bull in the backyard of a Galesburg home. In response, the Animal Control Working Group was formed to gather community input on vicious dogs and current animal ordinances.
The task force came up with a list of suggestions to strengthen the city’s animal control laws, and Monday evening, council members discussed the proposed changes.
Among other changes, the ordinance would set a six hour time limit for tethering animals, create a maximum leash length of six feet, increase the fine for repeat offenders within a two-year period, prohibit anyone convicted of animal cruelty from owning an animal for five years, and add a fine against the owner of a dog that bites a person.
The proposal that sparked the most debate Monday was one that would require dogs to be leashed, tethered, or within a fence — even on the owner’s property.
“I’ll not support it,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Russell Fleming. “You’re taking away a kid’s right, if a kid has a dog, or an adult for that matter, to play with that dog. You can’t throw a bone, you can’t throw a ball. He can’t go retrieve it.”
Alderman Jeremy Karlin chaired the Animal Control Working Group and said the suggestion was an attempt to strike a balance between owner’s freedom and safety.
“We’re trying to prevent the opportunity for a dog to just run out at people — acting territorial, acting like the animals that they are. Unfortunately, this does infringe a little bit on people’s rights,” Karlin said.
Galesburg resident Glen Glas owns two Jack Russell Terriers and says the change isn’t necessarily a bad idea.
“Some neighbors play ball out in their front yard with their dog, and he’s running back and forth… but if a stranger or somebody else went by, it’s possible they could get distracted and go after the person. You never know,” said Glas.
The City Council will vote on the changes to the animal ordinance at its next meeting in two weeks. Alderman Karlin said he anticipates it will pass.