March 10, 2009
By Fran Spielman, Sun-Times News Group
After adding tamer language to appease opponents, the Chicago City Council's most powerful alderman said Monday he has the votes to require dog and cat owners to spay or neuter their pets.
Virtually all dogs and cats older than six months would have to be sterilized under the proposal.
But Ald. Edward Burke (14th) has agreed to drop mandatory impoundment of pets as a penalty against three-time violators and cut the fine against those owners from $500 to $100 per month.
The burden on breeders also would be reduced. No longer would they be required to turn over to the city's Commission on Animal Care and Control the name, address and telephone number of new owners of animals within five days of the sale or transfer.
Language prohibiting animals from being sold or adopted until they've been immunized against common disease also has been stricken. The new version simply requires "accompanying documentation providing the dates of any inoculations and medical treatments."
With the changes, Burke said he now has the 26 council votes he needs to win approval of the controversial ordinance, which aims to reduce animal aggression and Chicago's stray population.
The watered-down version is expected to be approved by the council's license committee Thursday and considered by the full council as early as next week. Dogs and cats exempted from sterilization would include animals used in shows, as service animals, in professional guard services, for breeding or for law enforcement.
Burke introduced the ordinance in response to a savage attack by a pack of pit bulls that seriously injured a Southwest Side woman.
But he acknowledged that the passions on display at a July 2008 hearing that starred legendary game show host Bob Barker would be reignited.
"I was actually surprised by the vehement objections raised by so many people. I thought it would be a simple, easy proposal. But that's not the case. People are very passionate about their pets and about animals," Burke said.
The changes made by Burke did nothing to appease the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, which remains adamantly opposed to the ordinance, calling it "bad legislation" that would usher in "a new era of unprecedented oversight of pet health care."