Dog attack leads to confusion over city's vicious dog ordinance and state law


Reporter - Kendall Downing

ELDORADO, Ill. - A local mother is furious a Pit Bull that killed her family's puppy, bit her teenage son, and another woman is back at home, two doors down from her house.

Shawnna Mitchell said Eldorado, Illinois officials assured her the dog couldn't come back unless improvements were made to the cage.

The attack happened July 18.

Animal control gave the dog named Memphis back to its owner on Monday. The city of Eldorado has an ordinance on the books that classifies the dog as "vicious."

But the city attorney admits now there's some confusion because state law changed after that ordinance was written.

Shawnna Mitchell said Eldorado officials told her one thing and did the opposite.

"We were promised this dog would not come back under any circumstances unless this cage had been built," said Mitchell.

Since our story last week, the owner hasn't installed a containment structure. Last Thursday, a city official told Local 6 one must be installed for the dog to return.

"The city will act accordingly as to whether we need to amend this ordinance or enforce it as it," said Marty Watson, Eldorado City Attorney.

Watson said Eldorado is asking for a legal clarification from the Illinois Attorney General's office.

The city ordinance was written in 2001, but state statute changed in 2003, and the city's ordinance is now more restrictive than state law.

Under current Illinois law, a dog can't be considered vicious just because it attacks another dog. A person has to get bitten, and their injuries must be life-threatening.

"That doesn't mean people aren't scared of it. But we're talking legality here," said Mike Henshaw, Saline County State's Attorney.

Henshaw said the county closed its vicious dog investigation on the Pit Bull.

But they are conducting a dangerous dog investigation.

Shawnna Mitchell said all the confusion, especially from the city, is troubling.

"They are responsible for their town. And when things like this happen, they should have the answers," she said.

Mitchell's already filed a small claims suit against the dog's owner. She said she's also considering filing a lawsuit against the city of Eldorado.

The dog's owner told Local 6 on Wednesday he was sorry for what happened.

There's no timeline for the dangerous dog investigation to wrap up.