Licensing Dog Owners, Not the Dogs: Maybe Not Such a Bad Idea


As an outcome of the recent attack by two Pit Bull-type dogs in Chicago, Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd ward) has offered an interesting idea – licensing dog owners.

I actually believe the idea is brilliant – or at least a start. The city can better enforce; most municipalities (including Chicago)  license dogs. That’s not very enforceable. And so few are compliant. While Chicago’s previous City Clerk Miguel DelValle worked diligently to increase the number licensed, most dog owners still do not. And current City Clerk Susana Mendoza clearly also wants to do what is right.

In a brief conversation with  Alderman Fioretti, he says he is not interested in ‘double dipping,’ licensing both dogs as well as dog owners. No dollar amount has (to my knowledge) been discussed. And the Alderman understand it must be affordable, since pets mean as much to people with little income as to millionaires, and as much to seniors as to single moms.

I am all for lessening the number of severe dog attacks and dog bites in general. However, keep in mind dog attacks which leave someone seriously mauled are rare events. Shootings leaving people injured or killed, for example, are not rare events. The overwhelming majority of dogs are not dangerous weapons. In fact (and it is a fact) dogs do a great deal to benefit society. Simply put, no one forces Americans to live with dogs – yet many millions do; overall there are more pets in America than children.

To their credit the  Chicago Aldermen seem to understand that one breed (or combination of breeds – such as Pit Bull-looking dogs – whatever that means) aren’t the issue – it’s irresponsible and reckless dog owners who are the problem. I can’t possibly explain or defend why the owner of the two dogs who attacked jogger Joseph Finley on January 2 weren’t more seriously fined or charged with a stronger offense. Reportedly, these dogs had been running unsupervised and threatened people previously – and if reports are are true, were even complained about in the past.

Also, pediatric mandatory spay/neuter  is being discussed as a solution by some – that is a BAD idea….Here are just a few reasons: Veterinary visits will decline (people fear the veterinarians will ‘turn them in’) and then rabies vaccines decline (a public health issue) and the pets suffer by not seeing the vet; the presumption that in-tact male dogs are more dangerous is simply (based on science) not true; some dogs are actually more susceptible to certain types of cancers if spay/neutered early in life; and finally the philosophical issue of who needs government interfering with our medical decisions for our pets?  Then one sentence would simply do the trick: Mandated pediatric spay/neuter has not helped anywhere in America, why would it in Chicago? Even the one national organization which was previously supportive has seemed to back off.

I do strongly support educational programs, which would include participation from the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association – who has offered to participate as well myself.

Here’s Fran Spielman’s Chicago Sun Times piece. This is my WGN Radio Petcast with Ald. Fioretti and Dr. J.B. Bruederle.