The vast majority of dog owners are responsible. They walk their dogs on a proper leash. If their dogs are jumpy around other pets, they take pains to avoid contact. They train their dogs humanely, and the dogs respond with loyalty.
And when there’s a hint of a potential problem, a responsible dog owner responds to warning signs. You know when you’ve got an aggressive dog; you don’t need a citation from the village after your dog has bitten a person or another pet to convince you of the problem.
And most people, once in possession of a citation would be mortified and would take pains to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
That’s why two incidents of a dog biting a human or a pet, or one incident of a serious attack, is plenty of precedent for opening a vicious dog investigation. No one deserves three strikes.
The village of Riverside is in the midst of a process to amend its law regarding vicious dogs, and the measures proposed to tighten the law are good ones.
However, resident Keith Altavilla – a victim of a dog bite himself and someone who has really pushed for tighter controls on vicious dogs – has a point about people who simply don’t seem to be able to train and socialize a dog properly and whose pets seem to be neighborhood problems.
In the most recent case last summer, two different dogs belonging to the same family had to be euthanized after repeated attacks – one of which killed a small dog. It’s remarkable enough when there’s one dangerous dog in a household. But two? That would seem to point to a different problem.
And, according to Altavilla, after the two dogs were destroyed, the same family got another dog who he said has begun showing aggressive tendencies.
Village officials and the village board’s attorney are rightly reluctant to outlaw certain breeds or to disqualify residents from owning pets despite past history.
But if that’s the case, then the village needs to make a point of closely monitoring residents with records of housing vicious dogs, and officials need to make sure that if such a resident appears incapable of properly training or caring for a dog, other residents deserve protection for themselves and their pets.
If there’s some way to try to get a court to issue an injunction, the village might want to try that route. We’re not sure how a busy court system such as Cook County’s is going to look on such cases, but dog attacks can be very serious matters. Repeated attacks by different dogs belonging to the same family are public safety issues.
While changes to the vicious dog law will give the village quicker recourse, there needs to be that extra step of making sure past offenders don’t become repeat offenders.