Taking a Bite Out of Animal Issues

By: Laura Gibbs
By: Laura Gibbs

Winnebago County Animal Services is trying to tighten the leash on a whole mess of dog problems. Winnebago County Animal services deals with about 65 percent of the problems in Rockford. During the summer the shelter is at or near capacity since they house about 220 animals. There is a steady cycle of repeat offenders but there is only so much animal services can do.

Many eyes were open when Winnebago County Animal Services disclosed 2005 statistics for the first time. The numbers show that it's not only happening in one area of Rockford. In fact there is an even divide. Animal bites are happening in every zip code. Thanks to a relatively new data collection system, you can see that in 2005 there were 415 dog bites.

Here is a break down by zip code:

61101 - 76
61103 - 66
61107 - 41
61109 - 56
61102 - 45
61104 - 64
61108 - 47
61114 - 19
61111 – 1

The largest number of bites took place in the 61101 zip code and the lowest amount took place in 61111. By breed the most common bites reported are from pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Animal services also received almost 14,000 field service calls in 2005. From that about 4,000 just dealt with stray dogs.

Winnebago County Animal Services Director Gary Longanecker says, “Under current law we can do nothing in terms of impounding of repeated reports of barking. Same thing with running at large. We can issue a citation take them to court but it will really stop there.”

Big dogs are causing big problems and costing the City big bucks. It was Rockford Aldermen who wanted an explanation of tax payer dollars. Rockford Aldermen called for a meeting with Winnebago County Animal Services. Aldermen want to know why the department is off track. Before the city had to fork over about $300,000 now the city will be billed $500,000.

Dogs on the run, loud and constant barking and dog bites continue to be a growing problem. Each time Animal Services has to make a house call it costs taxpayers about $58 a call. Another concern is the lack of money coming in from violators. Only about 28 percent of the fines are being collected.

Alderman Jeff Holt says, "I made a proposal tonight that we possibly send those fines through a codes hearing process. We could better track the type of violations and hopefully have a higher success rate collecting on fines that are assessed."

Residents at the meeting were concerned about talk of banning breeds, but many were reassured because under Illinois law it's illegal for any specific breed to be outlawed.


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