Ald. Ray Lopez, who has six dogs, wants a better shake for all animals in Chicago
Lopez is pushing a rooster ban and limits on livestock at residential homes in Chicago.
Ald. Ray Lopez loves dogs, especially Lily, Tomás, Oscar, Monroe, Walter and Chloe.
Those are the six dogs he currently has with his husband Hugo at their home on the far Southwest Side. These furballs all were either homeless at one time, or close to it.
“Dogs are no different to us than kids are to other people,” Hugo tells me on a recent visit.
Animal lovers will understand where they’re coming from.
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In the City Council, animals have a passionate advocate in Lopez. The 15th Ward alderman is more often in the news for taking a vocal stand against gangs and for trying to clean up one of the poorest wards in Chicago that has long been a literal dumping ground for tire shops and home remodelers.
Since his first term began in 2015, I picked up on something else about Lopez. Proposed ordinances in the City Council aimed at preventing animal cruelty have his signature on them.
Last year, the council passed an ordinance that requires animal control officers to return to their homes, free of charge, lost pets that are licensed and microchipped, if the pets are found within three miles from home. This beats going to the pound.
“If everything is in order, your baby comes home the same day,” Lopez says.
It’s tough to get ordinances related to animals passed, Lopez says, because the city has so many pressing needs. But some of his ideas, like a ban on backyard breeding, could reduce the workload for animal control officers, he says.
Lopez opposes backyard breeding because too many animals end up homeless or in dogfighting rings. He points to his two rescued Shih Tzu, poodle and Maltese mixes, Oscar and Tomás, and says they easily could have become bait dogs.
“Any time that you’re putting animals on social media for free and don’t ask questions, the potential for them being used for bad purposes grows exponentially,” he says.
Some breeds are vulnerable to genetic disorders, Lopez points out. All the more reason, he believes, for breeding to be handled by experts.
I’m with Lopez. He should go forward with an ordinance to ban backyard breeding. And the Council should pass his proposed ordinance that requires people who operate animal shelters to be licensed, as well as Lopez’s proposed rooster ban and livestock control ordinance.
The rooster ban could cut back on cockfighting, which, like dogfighting, has no place in a civilized society. To keep other farm animals, a city permit would be required along with an OK from most neighbors within 500 feet of the home. If 51% or more of nearby neighbors oppose the application, the permit wouldn’t be granted.
There would be limits on livestock, which makes sense for city dwellers. One resident in Lopez’s ward had more than 100 chickens, he says.
“Most people in the city of Chicago did not necessarily sign up to live next to a farm, and they didn’t sign up to have roosters going off at 3 in the morning,” Lopez says.
In 2020, Lopez wants to bring back free animal clinics to his ward, like those he helped to host early in his first term. He partnered with Don Levin, who owns the Chicago Wolves hockey team, and animal advocacy groups to hold the clinics for vaccinations and microchipping.
“It’s actually become part of my mission as alderman to ensure that even people who don’t have means have the opportunity to make sure that their animals are getting taken care of,” Lopez says.
Lopez and his husband have had as many as nine dogs. He’s been asked, jokingly, if he’s an animal hoarder. But hoarding is a derogatory word, usually used in connection with deplorable conditions. These dogs are well cared for. Their portraits hang in the dining room.
“Even before I was alderman, we had a house with a big yard and we wanted to just make sure that we filled it with love, basically,” he says. “And, you know, dogs are the one animal on this planet that love you unconditionally.
“Oftentimes people think that animals are just this thing that you feed, you pet, you play with, and you put in the cage and you’re done. But when you have more than two, you get to see the wide range of emotions that animals possess. They’re truly sentient beings that are capable of being loving first and foremost, but also capable of jealousy and excitement...”
Lopez’s words trail off amid barking by the dogs. They want to play. They want attention. They get it in abundance.
Marlen Garcia is a member of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.