Two dog-owning aldermen took dramatically different stands Wednesday night about how Evanston should deal with dangerous dogs.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, argued for adoption of a new ordinance she said would beef up enforcement procedures, but Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said at the Human Services Committee meeting that the changes were poorly drafted and would be unlikely to properly address the issue.

Underlying the debate were questions about whether Evanston has the resources to adequately enforces its existing dangerous dog rules.

Resident Tom Okawara of 1517 Kirk St. whose complaints to Burrus in part led to the drafting of the new ordinance, said his dog was attacked last fall by an unleashed pit bull owned by a neighbor while his wife was out walking it.

He said there were serious injuries to both dogs and that the pit pull had been involved in another attack before, but the city’s animal warden refused to declare that it was dangerous.

Okawara said records he received from the city in response to a freedom of information act request showed there’ve been over 170 reports of dog bites on humans since 2006 but not a single dog had been declared dangerous during that time.

He added that the city doesn’t keep records of attacks by dogs on other dogs and claimed it isn’t enforcing the dangerous dog ordinance.

Burrus said that two years ago her dog was attacked by a pit bull on the front porch of her house as her son returned with it from a walk. She said in that case as well police took no action against the dog involved in the attack.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said the city has declared about one dog a year to be a dangerous dog, which requires the owner to provide special secure housing for it and take other precautions.

Fiske, who owns a downtown pet supply store, argued that one provision of the new ordinance would effectively let the police chief or an animal warden order a dog declared dangerous to be euthanized without having any independent animal behavioral expert evaluate the dog.

She said that many behavioral problems with animals are a result of lack of proper understanding by their owners of how manage them.

So, She suggested, more training for the owners could be more helpful in many cases in solving the problem than placing additional restrictions on the dogs.

Eddington suggest that police “are better at the control part” than the education part of addressing the problem, and he suggested that in tight budget times he was reluctant to expand the police role. He suggested expanding the city’s collaborative work with the Citizens Animal Rescue Effort, that now largely runs the city’s animal shelter.

Fiske suggested referring the issue to a committee formed by the police chief after complaints arose about how the city dealt with a ferral cat issue.

But Burrus claimed that committee doesn’t exist. She said she’d been working on the ordinance changes for six months and urged an immediate vote by the Human Services Committee to send the ordinance to the full City Council.

At the request of Alderman Fiske, the committee voted to hold the issue for further discussion at its next meeting on Aug. 1.

Top: Aldermen Colleen Burrus, 9th Ward, and Judy Fiske, 1st Ward.

Related story

City eyes tougher rules on dangerous dogs

Related documents

Draft of proposed ordinance

Existing rules: City Code 9-4-17: Dangerous Dogs

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Has the city dealt with dangerous dogs?

    According to Okawara's FOI, "there've been over 170 reports of dog bites on humans since 2006 but not a single dog had been declared dangerous during that time."

    Yet Police Chief Eddington says the "city has declared about one dog a year to be a dangerous dog."

    One of these two statements is not true.

    I wonder if the pit bull owner in Okawara's case was fined for allowing his pit bull outside unleashed. 

    I know there is a controversy with the pit bull breed and both sides have valid points. I have seen and read too many stories of vicious pit bull attacks and I stand on the side that believes pit bulls are an inherently dangerous breed with a few exceptions.

    It's better to err on the side of caution because you certainly don't want a pit bull attacking a young child outside playing. If that were to happen, and it can, you can bet the community will be pointing fingers at Chief Eddington, the animal warden and Alderman Fiske.

    One thing I know is true, if a pit bull attacks a human the damage will be serious.  

    Burrus is right on this one.

    1. Dangerous Dogs??

      @Anonymous Al,

      Al, I understand your concern over what you are all calling "dangerous dogs."  I am a former Evanstonian now living in Southern California.  We have more pit bulls and rottweillers per capita than probably anywhere on earth.  They are "gang banger" dogs, and many have pups and are left either to die, be euthanized at the pound, or IF LUCKY taken to a rescue or other shelter and held for adoption.  As a matter of fact, there are free adoptions going on now this week here in Dana Point/San Clemente.

      Here's the problem. though.  You have to understand that it is NOT the dog, it's the owner or breeder who needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  If a small dog (mini poodle, schnauzer, etc.) digs his teeth into you, you'll know it and it will be a brutal bite as well.  Obviously, the bigger the dog, the bigger the mouth AND the bite.  I think Evanston would be FAR better off to have special licensing requirements for breeds above 45 pounds or that will mature to above 45 pounds.  Someone might want to get a shelter going specifically for German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, and even Collies.  If a collie bites your bum that is gonna hurt too.   A few years back, the vicious dog "du jour" was the Doberman.  

      Listen to the woman who has the pet store.  Don't euthanize an animal until you have had an animal behaviorist look at the poor thing.  You may discover that the police need to get a behavior specialist for the owner.  I would even bet that some of these popular big dogs are being TRAiNED to be vicious (for dog fighting, no doubt.)

      There are a lot of better solutions than that tired old mantra "kill the beast."  Good luck

      1. the right to bear pit bulls


        Dogs don't kill people, people kill people – and if we outlaw dangerous pit bulls, only outlaws will have dangerous  pit bulls. 

  2. Conflict of interest regarding dog regulations?

    It seems ethically suspect for an alderman who has a personal financial interest in how her industry is regulated to vote and deliberate on such regulations.

    It is not surprising that Ald. Fiske is against sensible public safety restrictions on dog ownership since any restrictions could hurt her bottom line.

    Ald. Burrus routinely recuses herself when issues pertaining to Northwestern are voted on because of the conflict of interest.  Why isn't Fiske doing the same?

    1. Dog regulation

      "Ald. Burrus routinely recuses herself when issues pertaining to Northwestern are voted on because of the conflict of interest.  Why isn't Fiske doing the same?"


      My thoughts exactly.   Why isn't Fiske recusing herself?  Enquiring minds want to know.

    2. Conflict of interest???

      Does Fiske's store sell dog fighting equipment? Unless the city is trying to ban all dogs, not sure why this is a conflict. Actually, her opinion seems to lend more weight. I would think someone in the industry would have more valuable information than a "victim" of these menaces to society. Pitbulls and Tilted Kilt … This city is on the highway to Hell!!

    3. Maybe you don’t really get it?

      Just because dogs are part of the topic doesn't mean Fiske has a conflict of interest.  I don't see how this relates in any way to her business.  Nice try troll…

  3. More on dogs

    Do you think that perhaps the child outiside playing would prefer to be bitten by a different breed?  A bite is  a bite.  Dogs are animals and they can get hot, irritated, annoyed, thirsty, and ALL DOGS SHOULD HAVE TO BE LEASHED.  No leash?  Fine the owner BIG BIG BIG

  4. Another ordinance to not enforce….

    Someone should look at the amount of time the council spends debating ordinances that will never be enforced.  How many leaf blower tickets are given out every year?  Has anyone ever been cited for breaking the "chairs and blankets only" rule for saving spots for the 4th parade?  Driving down Central St. on July 1, 2, or 3 makes it clear the city isn't enforcing that rule.  They could have raised thousands in revenue if they did, since the majority of space holders use something other than blankets/chairs (including me).  I don't care how people save their spots, but I care that the council wasted considerable time (money) debating these things and the end result is some words on paper that mean nothing, just like this dog ordinance will end up. 

    Also, I'm fine with the Chief of Police or an animal warden declaring a dog "dangerous" and taking care of it.  Independent animal behavior expert?  C'mon, it's a dog, not a person. 

    Then again, what would the council do if they stopped wasting time?  They need to justify their existence somehow.

    1. Dangerous dogs

      Yes Q … Most reputable places that deal with dogs (shelters, rescues, ASPCA) have people who are trained in temperament testing to evaluate the dogs. If the person who makes the ultimate decision on whether or not to kill the dog does not have this training, how is the determination made whether or not the dog is a problem? 

      "C'mon, it's a dog, not a person" ….. That's what the defenders of Michael Vick said too!!

  5. Dangerous dogs

    Al … Please provide the readers with more of your extensive knowledge on pit bulls .. I'm quite interested to learn how you determined they are an "inherently vicious breed". Can you also list which breeds are OK? That way the city can ban all other breeds. After they ban pitbulls, can you also elaborate on exactly how the breed will be determined by the city? If the dog is a mix breed, how much pitbull would be needed in the DNA ? Is the city going to have to do DNA tests on dogs to make sure?? One final question … For this determination of a dangerous dog label the suggestion is to let one person, who to my knowledge, is not a qualified dog behavior examiner decide whether or not to kill a dog. Do you see any problems here?? Maybe the city can hire Michael Vick to help with "disposing" of these horrible dogs.

    1. What is the city going to do about dangerous dogs?

      First, Burrus wants to put more teeth (pun intended) into the enforcement procedures of dangerous dog ordinance.


      Yes, I mentioned pit bulls in my rant but I know other types of dogs can be dangerous. Having said that, consider:

      1) The cities of Miami, Denver and Ontario Canada have banned pit bulls or dogs that have substantial physical characteristics and appearance of a pit bull. Ohio has declared all pit bull-type dogs to be legally "vicious.

      2) Some airlines have put restrictions on air travel for pit bulls or pit bull-type dogs for health and safety reasons. These airlines include British Airways and Continental Airlines.

      3) Pit bulls are popular breeds for dog fighting. Gee, I wonder why?

      4) The U.S. Marines and U.S. Army have enacted outright bans on the possession of pit bull-type dogs to restrictions and conditions on pit bull ownership. The U.S. Marines!!!

      This proposed ordinance amendment is not breed specific. But I would support an ordinance that requires owners of pit bulls, pit bull-type dogs or any dog the city deems dangerous to take special training or have their dogs pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test at their expense. Other requirements might include requiring owners to restrict their pit bulls or other declared dangerous dogs with muzzles, chains, or enclosures.

      What is alarming to me is it appears the city is not adequately enforcing the existing dangerous dog rules. That is a dangerous precedent because there are irresponsible dog owners and the city should be all over them if they have dangerous dogs.

      You do understand there are dangerous dogs in Evanston, including some pit bulls. Just ask Mr. Okawara and his wife.

      This is not an issue to be trifled with.


      1. Pitbulls

        I do not argue there are dangerous dogs everywhere. However, to brand one type of dog as vicious, dangerous, etc., based solely on breed is crazy. Any dog can become vicious if it is abused and trained to be. Just because morons think owning a pitbull makes them cool, or a man, and have given them bad names is no reason to ban the breed. Stereotyping anything is not good. Just as in people, there are jerks in every corner of the globe. As far as cities that have banned them …. OK …. So? I think cats are dangerous too! They kill other animals, bite people …. Maybe Evanston could be a trend setter and ban cats … Miami, Ohio, and Canada can follow suit!

        All the things you state about pitbulls are true. They are great fighting dogs. Just ask Michael Vick. I will also say that some dogs are so "broken" that they can not be rehabilitated and for everyone's best interest should be put down. 

        The problem I have is that if a dog "fits" the criteria, they can be killed at the whim of the Animal Warden or the Chief of Police. The other problem I have is picking out pitbulls as a target for the argument. That only furthers the stereotype. 

        Deal with vicious dogs – YES …. Deal with irresponsible owners – YES. Lets just stir ourselves into a frenzy and enact another stupid law.

  6. a dog bite in Villa Park, 1950’s

    a trip down memory lane

    When I was a kid in Villa Park in the 1950's (living on a block loaded with children) there was a family with a German Shepard that allowed him to run loose when their kids were outside. I don't recall if there was a leash law.

    One winter, when I was about 8 years old, we kids were throwing snowballs and the dog would chase them. I was not able to get a snowball thrown in time and the dog bit me in the thigh, most likely to get me to drop the snowball – I did!

    The bite broke the skin so off to the doctor's office I went and the dog was impounded. The police came to look at my bite.

    The dog came up clean in a check for rabies but the dog owners had to get rid of it. It didn't have to be put down, but they weren't allowed to keep it. My impression was it was automatic.

    I think it amounted to a simple calculation: big dog on the loose and lots of little kids = bad combination – too much of a risk to depend upon an owner pledge to use a leash in the future. I suspect parents in the neighborhood forced the owners to send Fido away.

    In contrast – during the same period in Ft. Smith, Arkansas where my grandparents lived, packs of dogs, all kinds, all sizes, ran freely through the neighborhood while we kids played without a thought about it. Occasionally the dog catcher would do a roundup and then before long, a new pack would show up. In that warm climate, dogs could get through the winter on the loose.

    Just thought I'd give you a little human/canine interest story as a break from anonymous posters being rude to each other…  : )



    1. Thanks. We ‘the people’ do


      We 'the people' do seem to want to control everything these days, don't we?

      A little less control and a lot more common sense could go a long way.

  7. Why don’t we just give these

    Why don't we just give these dangerous dogs a punch card worth 10 visits to the dog beach?

  8. Evanston has a dog fighting

    Evanston has a dog fighting problem that has not been widely publicized.  i do not condone the fighting in any way shape or form.  because we have a population that finds sport in this, does not mean that certain dog breeds should be singled out.  CARE has a lot of pitbulls and other "vicious" breeds for adoption, and many good, kind people have adopted these dogs whose pasts may have been very tough and vicious–giving them a second, and better, chance at life.  i see these dogs being walked while i am out walking my dog.  they appear gentle and loving pets owned by caring and loving owners.  horrible people can make a prissy toy poodle vicious.  i am sorry to hear about the dogs and people who have been bitten.  i was bitten by my own dog, while trying to move his leg which had gotten caught in my deck.  many dogs who bite have been teased, or hurt by that "adorable" child who either deliberately or accidentally hurt a dog.  this is a people problem…..a dog develops it's personality from it's owners.  we need to address the unsavory issues in our town and population.  let's stop putting the blame in the wrong place.  it's not the dog, it's the PEOPLE, people.

  9. I agree about the dog fighting

    There is a problem with dog fighting in Evanston and I wish more people knew about it.  Evanstonnow posted a story on September 16th about this kind of thing.  Nobody responds.  Nobody cares!  I wish I could do more about it, because I would. 

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