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Blagojevich signs law to protect the public from vicious dogs

Press Release - Tuesday, August 19, 2003

CHICAGO - Accompanied by a Chicago-area boy who was the victim of a vicious dog attack, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed into law legislation authorizing all county boards to enact laws to protect the public from dangerous dogs and increase penalties against the dog's owner if the animal is not properly supervised.


"Too often we hear about tragedies involving dangerous dogs," Blagojevich said.  "With this legislation we are taking a stand to protect those innocent victims and hold the owners of these animals responsible for their care and supervision."


Joining the governor at a bill signing ceremony at Leyden Township Hall was 10-year-old Ryan Armstrong who was mauled by a stray dog 2 ½ years ago.  Armstrong, who was seven at the time, had gotten off his bike to pet some puppies and was confronted by a fully-grown Rottweiler.  When Armstrong attempted to pet the Rottweiler, the dog bit him, nearly severing his thumb from his hand. Ryan also was bit on his chest and arm before friends were able to chase the dog away.


Armstrong's father, Jeff, who also was present at the bill signing, lobbied Blagojevich, lawmakers and others, including the Illinois Parent Teachers Association, to support legislation to protect the public from vicious and dangerous dogs.


"Ryan and his father, Jeff, are an inspiration to us and one of the reasons this legislation now has become law," Blagojevich said.  "Jeff Armstrong has been a persistent advocate on behalf of his son, as well as, other possible victims of dangerous dogs.  The provisions included in this bill will lessen the possibility of the kind of attacks against children, like Ryan, and others that can result in serious injury and death."


Besides the attack against Ryan in February 2001, there have been others in Illinois, including the brutal attack earlier this year by two stray dogs of a woman who was killed as she jogged through Dan Ryan Woods on the south side of Chicago. More than 300,000 people a year in the United States seek treatment for dog-bite injuries in hospital emergency departments. 


The legislation signed by the governor permits county boards to pass ordinances to require that dogs and cats are implanted with a microchip to provide a permanent, positive identification, which cannot be lost, altered or intentionally removed.  This type of identification provides accountability should a dog injure or kill someone and increases chances that lost dogs and cats are returned to their owners.


The new law, which is effective immediately, also mandates that dogs found to be dangerous must be muzzled and leashed whenever in a public place or on public grounds and imposes stiffer penalties against dog owners who are in violation.  It establishes liability for a dog owner who's dog causes injuries without provocation and requires vicious dogs impounded under the law to be sprayed or neutered within 30 days. 


Additionally, the bill provides that an owner who sees his or her livestock, poultry or horse being killed or injured by a vicious, unsupervised dog, has a right to kill the dog.


House Bill 184 was sponsored by state Reps. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, R-Elmwood Park; James Brosnahan, D-Oak Lawn; Charles Morrow, D-Chicago; Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago; and Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago; and state Sens. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park; Emil Jones, D-Chicago, Edward Maloney, D-Chicago; and Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago.

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