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Higher fees, annual licenses set for pet owners

Pet owners in Morton Grove will face higher fees for violations and need to be licensed annually as part of a new animal control ordinance passed by the village board Monday night.

The ordinance, which has been in the works since late 2010, was the result of community concern about stray pets and animal control in the village, said Trustee Shel Marcus. Some of the objectives for the new ordinance were to take care of stray animals and increase owner accountability.

The owners of any animals over six months old will be required to obtain a permit from the village and provide proof the animal has been vaccinated against rabies. The permits cost $25 and must be renewed every year. Animals must wear their permit tag at all times.

The annual licenses will be grandfathered in however. Animals registered prior to July 1 and have lifetime registration are exempt, according to the ordinance.

The extra administrative upkeep of the licensing program was a concern raised by resident and former village trustee, Georgianne Brunner, the only resident to comment at the meeting.

Teresa Hoffman-Liston, village attorney, said while it will be an added task, with improved technology they will be able to cross reference who has licenses and who has obtained rabies shots through a database.

“This whole procedure came about because of concern in the community about our animal control status,” Marcus added. “The extra administrative concerns are important, but we think in the long run it will be worth it.”

The fee for abandoning an animal was raised to $500. For animals declared dangerous or vicious by the village, owners will have to pay a $500 public safety fee and comply with certain conditions, including posting a sign on the premises where the animal is kept.

For stray animals that are impounded by the police, owners will have to pay $150 for the release of their animal. Animals not claimed after seven days may be euthanized or offered for adoption.

Trustee John Thill added an amendment to more severely punish any instances of animal fighting in the village.

Thill said the idea of pitting animals against animals is such “egregious evil” that the fee for that violation should be set to between $10,000 and $20,000. The ordinance passed with Thill’s amendment, though other trustees said they would like to research if other villages have similar provisions.

The ordinance also says the animal control officer or any officer of the law may enter private premises to enforce the animal control ordinance, make inspections or apprehend a dangerous animal, but with the following exceptions; in an emergency, with the permission of the owner, or upon attaining a warrant.

Police Chief Mark Erickson said the department recently hired Officer Shannon McMillian as a part-time animal control officer to help institute the animal control plan. McMillian has more than 12 years of experience working with dogs at kennels and training canine units around the state.

The final vote on the animal control ordinance was unanimous.

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