Hazel Park bans pit bulls

Exceptions for those already licensed or in vet/shelter care

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 16, 2011


HAZEL PARK — As of Feb. 1, 2012, new pit bulls will be banned from Hazel Park.

Unless they are already licensed with the City Clerk’s office by that date, or are with a qualified shelter, rescue or vet, it will be illegal to “own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport or sell within the city any pit bull,” reads an animal control amendment passed by City Council last month.

Breaking the new law can result in fines and court costs, as well as the pit bull being impounded and put down. This follows a previous amendment in August that addressed an increase in dog attacks by raising the fines for mismanagement of one’s pet from $100 to $500.

Pit bulls, in particular, are required to be kept in a confined area enclosed by a secure 6-foot fence and gate, and muzzled and leashed while out of that area. City Attorney Jan Drumm says the move didn’t seem to have an impact, however, as dog attacks continued to happen in the months that followed, and pit bulls were most often the culprit.

“I’ve had more prosecutions for animal attacks this year than I have had in the 15 years combined previously,” Drumm said. “With 40-foot lots in a built-out city, it’s very difficult when you have one animal, let alone the allowed three — cats, dogs or a combination. What we see is people going over the allotted amount … and not being responsible owners.”

One incident still fresh in Drumm’s mind happened in October when a woman left her two pit bulls unattended with her neighbor’s 6-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl in the backyard of the flat where they live. As the woman checked something on the stove upstairs, she heard the girl scream one of the pit bulls was going to attack the boy.

When she ran outside, she found one dog, an unregistered male, pinning the boy to the ground, biting at him. The 6-year-old had his skull fractured and wound up in plastic surgery for six hours, requiring hundreds of stitches.

In an earlier incident, a pit bull jumped over the fence around its yard and killed a cat while a kid nearby watched and screamed in horror. Yet another incident involved another dog — an Alaskan sheepherder, not a pit bull — bite a 2-year-old boy’s arm as he rode his scooter up the sidewalk, causing permanent nerve damage and requiring a skin graft. The mother was also injured as she tried to wrestle the dog away.

“We’ve had some pretty severe and savage attacks against people in Hazel Park,” said City Manager Ed Klobucher. “We’re going to protect our people from vicious dogs.”

The city manager went on to say that he’s a huge animal lover and sympathetic to pet owners, but he’s also sensitive to the fact that children, adults and other animals have been seriously hurt.

“I’m sure there are wonderful pit bull dogs and wonderful pit bull owners, and we don’t want to deprive owners of pets they’ve already bonded with,” Klobucher said. “On the other hand, there are so many of these attacks that an improperly controlled pit bull can present a great danger to human beings and animals around it. And based on the number of attacks and the severity of those attacks, council acted and did what they felt was in the best interest of the city to protect the resident.”

Those who want to keep the pit bull they currently have need to make sure it’s registered with the City Clerk’s office by Feb. 1. They must apply for and receive an annual pit bull license before that time, and follow all safety regulations, such as keeping the dog in an enclosure with 6-foot fences and muzzling/leashing the dog while out walking.

“We’re very serious about this,” Klobucher said. “We are really committed to making sure that people in Hazel Park can walk down the street and do so free from worrying about stray dogs.”