Friday, July 17, 2009

Il- Effingham County Committee discusses fines for loose dogs

Committee discusses fines for loose dogs

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

Effingham County officials are considering changes to the county’s animal control ordinance.

“It’s been brought up quite a bit over the past year,” said State’s Attorney Ed Deters at Monday’s meeting of the Legislative Committee of the county board.

The current county ordinance allows a $35 fine for those who let their dogs run loose. Deters said he wasn’t sure an increase in fines would make a difference.

“I question whether raising fines would make dog owners more responsive,” he said. “Fines should serve as an incentive to keep dogs chained or fenced. But I question whether the amount of the fine would have the desired effect.”

Deters said the key conflict was between dog owners who are accustomed to have their canines run free and athletic types — such as joggers and cyclists — who are increasingly taking to rural roads for their workouts.

“We are a rural community where a lot of people have dogs in the country and don’t necessarily keep them fenced in,” he said. “But we have a growing bicycling crowd, as well.”

Board member Mark Percival said the growth of rural subdivisions is also a factor in increased dog-human interaction.

“Where you have people, dogs and roads, there’s a conflict,” Percival said.

Deters said one thing the new ordinance should have is some sort of incentive for pet owners to spay and neuter their dogs. Nick Antonacci, an intern in Deters’ office, said his study showed most dog bites are caused by male dogs who have not been neutered.

Deters said any increase should be in the form of a range. For example, he noted Fulton County fines its animal control offenders anywhere from $50 to $500.

Other options include mandatory microchipping of dogs for identification purposes.

Deters said he would report back to the board by the Sept. 21 meeting. Board Chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg said there would likely be a public informational meeting before the board took any action.

Also Monday, the committee recommended signing a letter of intent with the Effingham Water Authority to lease a plot of land at the corner of Beach and Marina roads in the Lake Sara area of rural Effingham. The land would be the new home of the county’s Dive-Rescue Team.

The committee also agreed to recommend ratification of contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. FOP represents sheriff’s deputies, while AFSCME represents other sheriff’s department personnel.

Sheriff John Monnet said both contracts would provide union members with 3 percent annual raises. The FOP deal is for three years, while the AFSCME deal is for two.

Also Monday, the committee recommended appointment of board members Percival, Larry Vahling and Jim Reeves to the county’s new Economic Development Committee. Several non-board members will be appointed later.

The committee also recommended more board members serve on the county’s Tax & Finance Committee. Tax & Finance Chairman Vahling said he’d like to see up to five board members on that committee.

“We just feel we need more board involvement to provide more oversight to the committee,” he said.

The Legislative Committee also recommended a number of appointments Monday, including William McClain, Effingham Civic Foundation; Dr. Henry Poterucha, Andrew Grunloh, Shirley Muchow and Dorothy Behrns to the Health Department Board; and Barb Utz to the 708 Mental Health Board.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or

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