Dozens debate Galesburg dog laws

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It was a full house in Galesburg, Illinois, Wednesday night, as residents spoke out about dog attacks and animal ordinances in the city.

The public meeting was organized by the city's newly-formed animal control task force in an effort to prevent future attacks like the one that killed 7-year-old Ryan Maxwell. On March 2nd, Maxwell died of injuries he suffered when a pitbull attacked him at a Galesburg home.

In response, the city formed a committee to look into the problem of dog attacks in the community and to see if current city laws are tough enough. The committee, made up of city staff, concerned citizens, and elected officials, will then report its findings and offer suggestions to the city council.

Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, group chairman Jeremy Karlin issued this statement: "It is not our task to decide what the solution is. Rather, we are to investigate and provide options for the City Council's deliberation. Given the diversity on our committee, agreement is neither necessary nor may be possible. We will, however, make sure the Council hears all sides of the debate."

It was standing-room only at Wednesday's meeting. The debate focused largely on problems residents have had with dogs in the community.

"I can't walk him now, because we've been confronted [by other dogs] and everything. It's just not safe for either one of us really," said Gary Woolsey with his service dog.

Other community members spoke in defense of dogs in the area, especially breeds that that have been singled out as being vicious.

"It's never a family pet; it's always a resident dog who's tied up outside and mistreated or neglected. It's not just the breed, it's the people that own the breed," said Liz Ellis.

Residents raised ideas Wednesday including anti-tethering laws, spay and neuter laws, and even rules requiring soft muzzles for dogs. One thing folks could agree upon, though, was that changes need to be made to prevent any more attacks from happening.

A second meeting will be held on May 16th at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The task force has asked the public to attend the meetings and speak about their experiences with dogs in the community, good and bad.

The committee is expected to complete its work over the next three months.