In a close vote, Galesburg’s controversial dog ordinance was altered through amendments last week. The amendments focused on tethering dogs on private property and lengthened the leash required on public property. The ordinance which had been in final reading has been tabled until the new amendments have been added to the ordinance.
Action on the ordinance was dominated by 3rd Ward Alderman Russell Fleming. Fleming proposed three amendments to the ordinance. The first was to remove the requirement that a dog be at all times on a leash or tethered when outside in a private yard. The second amendment gave the council affirmation power over the animal control officer position. Finally the third amendment moved the leash length from 6 feet to 8 feet.
The first amendment would now state that an owner of sound body and mind has to be present with the dog when outside on private property. 2nd Ward Alderman Wayne Dennis brought up issues presented by the ordinance of being able to enjoy the dog even on public sites like Lake Story. Even former proponent, 1st Ward Alderman Ken Goad spoke that the rules on private property restraint were excessive.
7th Ward Alderman Jeremy Karlin spoke for ordinance as written stating that the issues of personal property and public safety have to be weighed and that in his estimation public safety should win. Karlin chaired the committee responsible for the ordinance. When asked later if the amendments would hurt the effectiveness, Karlin replied, “To some extent they weaken the ordinance but not fatally so.”
While this was going on Galesburg resident Dolly Sprinkle was sitting in the front row with a letter in her hand. She was visibly upset at the proposed amendments. When asked why she stated, “It started with a tragedy but so many things have come forward because of this… I saw that (forward progress) happening with these ordinances. They weren’t perfect but they were better. To take a step back and say no now.” The tragedy referred to was the death of seven year old Ryan Maxwell in March due to a dog attack.
Sprinkle tried to speak right before the vote but Mayor John Pritchard told her that it was no longer time to have a public discussion. When asked what she wanted to speak about, she said, “I had a letter from my ten year old son who was friends with Ryan and has been following this closely. I just wanted to read his letter because that is what I told him I would do.”
The vote took place and the first new amendment took an initial 4-3 affirmative vote before 4th Ward Alderman Corine Anderson changed her vote to yes. The rest of the amendments flew through with relative easy. The ordinance was then tabled until all changes could be put into writing. When asked about possibility that the ordinance could now die, Fleming responded, “I don’t think that is going to happen. I think there is too much support for some of the changes.”
Sprinkle is hopefully for other changes. “Hopefully someone will come back, maybe Jeremy Karlin, and will try and make the in your yard thing more substantial,” stated Sprinkle. The ordinance will be back on the table at the City Council meeting on November 18th at 6:30pm.