The Kankakee County Board approved a reckless dog ordinance at its monthly meeting held this week at the county administration building.
The ordinance came on the unanimous recommendation of the board’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. The board approved the ordinance by a 25-0 vote.
“We’re trying to protect not only the dogs but the residents as well,” said board member Tinker Parker, who is the chairwoman of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. “We’ve worked very hard the past three years, and we are just asking that this ordinance pass to protect many.”
The ordinance defines a reckless dog owner as “an individual who has committed three or more violations of Chapter 10 relating to dogs within a 36-month period; has committed one or more violations of this chapter relating to dogs after having a dog owned by him or her declared to be dangerous or potentially dangerous; or has committed one of more violations relating to dogs after have a dog owned by him or her declared to be vicious.”
Chapter 10 of the Kankakee County Municipal Code deals with animals, and violations of the section are not limited to animal bites and impoundment of dogs; inhumane or cruel treatment and animal nuisances and trespasses.
“We want to make sure that the dogs that are abused are protected by the county,” Parker said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to prevent those owners from having a dog or harboring a dog once they’ve been fined or charged with violations of this code.”
The ordinance also defines a violation as “a conviction, including a judicial finding of guilt for any reason of the offenses under chapter 10 relating to dogs; a guilty plea, entered in judicial court to any of the offenses; any impoundment of any dog; multiple offenses on the same day at the same time for the same owner will only count as one violation. The violations need not involve the same dog.”
Parker said the animal control administrator will conduct an investigation supported by witnesses statements, photographs, animal control records and other evidence once it has been notified. Then the owner would be notified by certified mail of the violations, and a hearing by criminal justice committee would be held to determine if the person is guilty.
The criminal justice committee can impose of fine of not less than $250 nor more than $750 and order that all dogs in the owner’s possession be impounded by animal control.
“I was big on due process on this,” Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said. “I didn’t want one appointed official to be able to deem somebody a reckless dog owner.”
Any dog impounded, the animal control administrator will determine if and when dogs can be returned to the owner. The owner has a right to appeal.
Parker said she was very passionate about the measure and worked with the State’s Attorney’s office to write the ordinance.
“We don’t want dogs that have been abused to go back into that environment,” Parker said. “We’re protecting the dog, but also giving the owner the right to appeal and maybe change their behavior. It is protecting the animal.”
The ordinance only applies to areas in the county not governed by a city, town or village that has its own animal ordinances.