Letter prompts pet law outline

By Michael McVey

When walking along a city sidewalk or bicycle trail, be aware that all dogs must be on leashes.

A little caution won’t hurt, however. According to an anonymous note attached to a dead opossum last weekend, a dog owner’s disregard of the leash law was responsible for the opossum’s death at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 18. A large dog allegedly attacked and killed the opossum.

The owner, who was walking the dog along the Kishwaukee Kiwanis Trail east of Anderson Hall, did not have the dog on a leash, according to the note. Police were contacted, but said all they could do was ask the owner to keep the dog on a leash. The note alleged there were no local leash laws.

City Attorney Ron Matekaitis disagreed, and cited several animal-control ordinances. He said there is a city ordinance requiring all dogs to be on leashes or chains at all times. The only exception is if the owner’s property is fenced in and the dog is in the fenced-in area.

There are several other laws pertaining to the keeping of pets within the city, although Matekaitis said NIU laws take over on university property.

No resident of DeKalb may have more than three dogs, three cats or a combination of dogs and cats adding to more than three, Matekaitis said. This would make keeping two dogs and two cats a violation of the ordinance.

Keeping farm animals such as horses, chickens, goats and pigs is illegal within the city limits, Matekaitis said.

Keeping domesticated wild animals, such as bees, homing pigeons or potbellied pigs or dangerous animals or reptiles also is illegal. Snakes must be less than six feet in length and not dangerous.

According to Matekaitis, DeKalb also has laws against abusing pets or injuring wild animals. For example, it would be illegal to shoot or throw stones at birds or squirrels.

A sign at the Sycamore Road entrance to Hopkins Park also cites several regulations on animals. Dogs and other domestic pets must be on a leash at all times, the sign stated. The leash must not be longer than six feet, and the pet must be under the owner’s command at all times.

A pet owner must have utensils to dispose of pet excrement whenever the pet is on park property. The owner must dispose of all pet excrement immediately and in a sanitary manner. Violations of these regulations could result in fines and kennel fees, according to the sign.

David Emanuelson, director of DeKalb Park District, said a domestic pet is defined as any household pet. Emanuelson also said the bicycle trails are considered park property along with Hopkins Park.

Willard Draper, assistant housing director, cited more stringent pet regulations in the residence halls. He said only aquatic pets, such as tropical fish, may be kept in the residence halls.

Since most students live in residence halls or apartments, and many landlords forbid pets, not many students are likely to have pets. However, the leash law may be worth knowing if confronted by a loose dog seeking human prey.