Lopez proposes crackdown on animal cruelty

A day after Chicago was walloped by its biggest snowstorm of the year, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) wants to strengthen the city’s animal cruelty ordinance to spell out what pet owners can and can’t do, particularly during cold weather.

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Ald. Ray Lopez holds his dog Tomas during an interview at his home in October 2019.

Ald. Ray Lopez makes no secret of his love for dogs. Here. he holds his dog Tomas during an interview at his home in 2019. Lopez is sponsoring a new ordinance to protect dogs from being left outside in cold weather.

Sun-Times file

The City Council’s resident dog lover is at it again — this time to protect dogs from being left out in the cold.

One day after Chicago was walloped by its biggest snowstorm of the year, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) wants to strengthen the city’s animal cruelty ordinance to spell out the do’s and don’ts of owning a pet, particularly in winter.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Lopez introduced an ordinance to prohibit pet owners from:

• Staking out, any dog, regardless of gender, on private property “for more than two consecutive hours.”

• Tethering any animal outdoors between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or for more than 30 minutes during the daytime when temperatures are below 45 degree Fahrenheit “or during any associated weather advisory.”

That no-tethering rule would be waived only if there is an “appropriate shelter accessible to the animal,” but it must be “just large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around.” The entrance must be “covered by a flexible, wind-proofing material or self-closing door.” And the shelter “must contain clean, dry bedding” using “insulating material that does not retain moisture, such as straw of sufficient depth for the dog to burrow.”

Violators would be fined $2,500 for each offense; at the third offense, the owner would forfeit the animal.

Lopez swung into action — again — after rescuing Duke, a German Shepherd in Chicago Lawn. Duke had been left out all night in 18-degree temperatures. When rescued, Duke had frostbitten ears and other injuries, the alderman said.

“Too often, we see instances where Animal Care and Control — as well as police — are responding. And they’re being lenient because the law is so lax in the description of what is allowable,” Lopez said.

“The changes that I’m introducing set specific parameters as far as temperature and shelter so that there will be no confusion [and] they know whether or not it’s acceptable. … Once it gets below 45 degrees overnight, animals will have to be brought in unless they’re able to be provided shelter that is ventilated and has a secure entrance to keep inclement weather out.”

Lopez acknowledged trying a similar anti-tethering ordinance in 2016, but it languished in committee.

After getting “more and more complaints” about dogs being left out in the cold, he’s ready to try again.

“We’re seeing animals tied up in the backyard for hours at a time. All of this bad behavior is just building in the neighborhoods. And we need to start correcting it,” he said.

“My hope is, by strengthening the law — by giving a more definitive description of how animals can properly be left outdoors, we’ll be able to end the practice in Chicago where animals are left out, even when it’s single-digits,” Lopez said.

Over the years, Lopez has led a series of crusades against animal cruelty and been sharply critical of the frequent turnover at Chicago’s Commission on Animal Care and Control.

He believes the time is right for the crackdown, in part because the commission is under new and stronger leadership he admires.

• Also Wednesday, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), followed through on his threat to introduce an ordinance that, he hopes, will force the removal of the 2,891 square foot sign on the 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower if Trump is “convicted of treason, sedition or subversive activities” by in his impeachment trial by the U.S. Senate or if he’s charged and convicted in court of those crimes.

Measure to deal with motorcycle gangs

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) introduced an ordinance that would raise fines and give Chicago Police officers yet another tool to crackdown on motorcycle gangs wreaking life-threatening havoc in downtown, the South Loop and Bronzeville, particularly during warm weather.

“A lot of these guys cover their license plates or don’t have license plates at all. They use shields. You can’t read ’em,” Dowell said.

“The ordinance is designed to give the police the ability to impound these vehicles. Right now, they have no impoundment power if those license plates are covered … [or] if you drive the motorcycle without a license plate. And it allows police to impound and put more focus on these dirt vehicles. It gives the police more ways to bring the problem under control.”

Last year, the Chicago Police Department vowed to use helicopters, license plate recognition cameras, noise monitors and task forces that “swarm” rally points to prevent motorcycle clubs from “goading” police into chasing them at high speeds.

Sean Loughran, commander of the special functions division for the CPD’s Bureau of Patrol, told aldermen on that day that a drag-racing “sub-culture” of motorcyclists ignores traffic laws and endangers motorists on Lake Shore Drive, Columbus Drive, Lower Wacker and in the South Loop.

Loughran accused the “niche sub-set” of motorcycle riders of trying to “goad law enforcement into chases.” He said they do it by using social media to disseminate “glamorizing” videos of their dangerous activities.

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