Eldorado City Council has contended with issues of dangerous dogs in town over the past several years and even after adopting an ordinance banning pit bulls there continue to be problems.
Shawna Mitchell and her son, Jonathan, told council Tuesday night they live in constant fear because of their neighbor's two pit bulls and want the city to adopt more strict rules to protect the public.
The Mitchell family lives at State Street and Benton Street. Shawna Mitchell said about a year ago neighbors moved in with the animals that they keep in outdoor pen consisting of three sides and the exterior wall of their house.
Jonathan Mitchell told a harrowing tale of walking the family's Shih Tzu July 18 when the neighbor's dog escaped the fence.
"It ran when it saw Charlie, got under the fence and got Charlie," he said.
He said he tried to pry the dog away from his dog, but was unsuccessful. He took a piece of guttering and beat the dog, but was also unsuccessful.
Jonathan received a bite on the arm. This incident was just prior to a school ball game and there were many people driving past to reach the school. One woman stopped to help and the pit bull bit her on the finger. Both received medical treatment for their bites.
The pit bull's owner came out and pried the dog off of the Shih Tzu and took the pit bull back inside, he said.
Eldorado Police arrived and impounded the dog for 10 days at Saline County Animal Control since the owner did not have paperwork proving the dog had had a rabies shot. The dog remains in impoundment.
Police cited the owner on a charge of animal running at large.
Police Chief Shannon Deuel has spoken to the owner twice this week about the need to repair the fencing and is prepared to enforce on the owner a need for more secure fencing.
The city's ordinance requires dogs deemed to be vicious must be kept in secure fencing on all sides and ceiling, the fencing must be on a concrete pad and animals must be muzzled and on a 3-foot lead any time they are outside the fencing.
City Attorney C. Mart Watson said just because the dog has a documented history of violence — another neighbor, Daniel Kinsey, was also bitten by the dog earlier this year — it cannot automatically be declared vicious by the village.
Watson said Illinois law requires reports of biting must be taken to the Saline County Animal Control Administrator — Cliff Morris — who must then present the information to Saline County State's Attorney Mike Henshaw.
When Henshaw completes his work declaring the animal vicious, then the city can enforce the additional pen, muzzling and leash requirements.
Page 2 of 2 - Deuel said he has two police reports completed and will deliver them to the Saline County Animal Control Administrator immediately.
If the dog is deemed vicious before the 10-day impoundment period is over, the owner may have to have the concrete pad and pen in place prior to returning the dog home. Saline County Animal Control also has a policy of keeping a dog at the pound only 10 days before euthanizing it, it was stated at the meeting.
Deuel said the owner has asked him if keeping the dog indoors would meet the requirement of housing a vicious animal. Watson said it would not because a dog could escape through windows.
Council members told the Mitchells to call police any time they see the neighbor's pit bulls unleashed, outside their pen and off the owner's property.
Council members encouraged Mitchell to bring her concerns about the issue to State Rep. Brandon Phelps and State Senator Gary Forby to try to pass more strict legislation as other states have done. Mitchell said in Texas owners of a vicious pit bull that bites someone can face a 10-year prison term and owners of a vicious dog that kills someone face a 20-year term.
In previous years council tried to enforce a ban on pit bulls, but was unsuccessful. When dog owners were taken to court they declared the dogs were of a different breed and DNA testing each problem dog was not practical for the city, so it lost its cases.
Council approved three appointments to the city's auxiliary police force: Garrett Brown, Michelle Dickey and Tim Paschel.
Mayor Rocky James said 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 there is a meeting at the SIC Foundation Center regarding changes to the Saline County Flood Map that affect Eldorado. James said the most recent map shows less of Eldorado as being flood prone that previous maps, but he hopes to have the entire city out of the flood zone. New structures being built in a flood zone have extra flood mitigation requirements.
"Because Eldorado does not flood and I think we've lost some population over that," James said.
"One map tried to show water over Fourth Street Bridge. I've talked to people 80 years old who have never seen it over that."