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Pits are safe for now: Elgin removes pit bull-specific regulations from new animal control ordinance

The city of Elgin’s council voted Wednesday night to adopt tougher animal ordinances, but without the proposed pit bull-specific rules that have recently attracted national attention.

Effective in June, any dog that is deemed dangerous by a hearing officer or court will only be allowed out in a fenced-in backyard, have to be muzzled when on city streets, and can only be walked by people age 18 or older, using nonretractable leads.

Owners of dangerous dogs will have to buy three-year licenses, microchip their dogs, and have at least $100,000 of homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance coverage. Additionally, the dog will have to be evaluated, altered, and participate in obedience classes.

Any dog that is deemed vicious will not be allowed on city streets whatsoever.

When the council voted to move the measure forward for final consideration during a meeting on Feb. 24, these rules for dangerous dogs were to automatically apply to all pit bulls. Wednesday night, after owners and advocates staged protest and circulated petitions defending the pit bull (and despite statements like the one from Courier columnist Jeff Ward vilifying the breed), the council retracted the breed-specific portion of the new ordinance to claps and cheers from the attendees.

Due to the breed's negative perception by many, pit bull owners always have to be extra vigilant. This is true now more than ever in Elgin.

"After hearing the various arguments, I have decided that for now it may be appropriate to allow pit bull owners the chance to demonstrate that they are every bit as responsible as they've assured me they are," Councilman John Prigge said at Wednesday's meeting.

I was afraid I was going to have to write about my city joining ranks with others who have passed Breed Specific Legislation (or just short of it). Instead, I'm exstatic to be able to share the good news and proud of the people who stood up for the pit and the city that listened.

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