Q: I know you're aware that Elgin, Ill., a community just outside Chicago, wants to ban pit bulls. I live here, and while I don't have a pit bull, I'm concerned that my breed might be next, or my dog might be mistaken for a pit bull. Any thoughts?
-- C.S., Elgin, IL
A: The City of Elgin is not planning to ban pit bulls, or at least that's what local officials are saying. Instead, if a proposed city ordinance is passed, all pit bulls (or dogs the city calls pit bulls) will automatically be deemed "dangerous" dogs. All owners will be required to carry $500,000 of insurance, and each owner's yard would have to have a 6-foot-high fence with locks. Their dogs would have to be spayed/neutered and microchipped, and wear muzzles in public.
The problem is, you can no more get $500,000 in insurance for a dog deemed "dangerous" than you can get health insurance if you have a long list of pre-existing conditions. If by some miracle, an owner could find an insurance carrier, the cost would be prohibitive. And many subdivisions in Elgin apparently don't allow 6-foot fencing. Local officials may not call this a "breed ban" but that's exactly what it is.
The fervor was first precipitated by bad guys with bad dogs, including dogfighters, in Elgin. An Elgin caller named Carlos, who owns a pit bull, phoned in to my WLS Radio show in Chicago recently. Carlos said he was a U.S. veteran with a disability. He told me he felt he was being treated like a dogfighter and an irresponsible dog owner, yet his dog was friendly and well-behaved.
I understand your concern about your own dog. No pit bull ban has ever made a community safer. I do endorse strong dangerous-dog legislation for all dogs -- who should be judged as individuals and not profiled. Hopefully, officials in Elgin will reconsider the ordinance.