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An Open Letter To 19th Ward Alderman Virginia Rugai

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 1, 2005 6:12PM

Dear Alderman Rugai,

Let's begin by stating that while Chicagoist would find it flattering that a member of the City Council took time out of his or her busy schedule to read this weblog (or "blog", in the parlance of our time) we also would find it a bit presumptuous. So we hope that this somehow gets to you, possibly by a staff member in your office killing time. This particular member of the Chicagoist staff is also a big fan of your 19th Ward, having spent time down there agitating ill-humored White Sox fans at the Cork & Kerry wearing a Cubs bucket hat; drinking yards of Guinness and Red Stripe at a Jamaican restaurant on 103rd and Western whose name eludes us right now- and might no longer be in business; hiking the Dan Ryan Woods; and a refusal to wear green to the South Side Irish Parade (completely justified: we're of Greek, English, and German descent). Maybe you remember in 2002 there was this guy who hitched a ride with the Shriners down the parade route so he could get to Keegan's and wore a sweatshirt that read "Don't serve the 'Irish': They can't keep their beer down."

That was us.

To summarize we've had balls-out fun in your ward, Alderman Rugai. We know that being an alderman can be a sometimes thankless task and that your job entails you look out for the residents of and visitors to your ward.

But we have a small bone to pick with you.

We'd like you to take a look at the photo on the right.

The dog to your right was given the name Emmylou, after the singer Emmylou Harris. We call her "Emmy" around these parts for short. She shakes hands, can jump into our arms from a sitting position, fetches a ball for hours, doesn't whine when she needs to go out, snatches treats from an outstretched hand, and raises on her hind legs to give us a kiss when she's happy. She has the emotional composition of a lap dog and, depending on the time of day, is the smartest mammal in this house. This writer adopted her in February on a one-week trial basis. Yet from the moment we met her we knew that the trial was going to become a permanent placement. We weren't even looking for a dog- the Bridgeport Bureau only agreed to meet Emmy as a favor for a friend. But we're glad we did.

Emmy's a pit bull, Alderman Rugai. Doesn't look like one, does she? You see, we were wary of pit bulls, what with the glut of news items about how they're nothing more than vicious killing machines that can't be tamed once they succumb to the Blood Lust. Really, how could we not be influenced by what we read or saw on the evening news? And, referring to what we wrote a few paragraphs back, we know that the pit bull ban you've long been championing in City Council stems from a series of maulings- one fatal- in Dan Ryan Woods two years ago. Before we adopted Emmy, we may have agreed with you.

Before we adopted Emmy.

With the news of recent maulings still fresh in our collective memory- and with an apparent loophole found under the city's home rule powers that allows it to ignore a state Animal Control Act amendment banning breed specific legislation- it looks as though your pit bull ban may finally have the needed traction to become law. This comes four months after Chicago was named the most dog-friendly city in the country. The subject has also gained the interest of Tribune dog-trainer (pun intended) columnists John Kass (who wisely advocated against breed specific legislation, noting that all dogs bite) and Eric Zorn (a FOC [Friend of Chicagoist] who sided with you on the issue. The Bridgeport Bureau assumes it was merely to fill weblog quota).

What we do know is that there are no easy answers to this question. Your proposal carries a grandfather clause allowing owners of pit bulls prior to the legislation becoming law the right to keep their dogs. So much for small favors. And in a City Council that has to sift through legislation both valid and inane, your pit bull ban falls somewhere in between. We feel that the pit bull ban leaves you open to criticism not just from pit bull owners, but from people who say that you might be unfairly targeting minority pet owners. We also understand that you're thinking in the best interest of the residents of this city. We're reminded of a bit of fortune cookie wisdom we read the other day: "Think for yourself or think for no one."

If you insist on going forward with a ban on pit bulls within the city limits, however, we offer an alternative. Since behavior is a learned trait why don't we just enforce laws currently on the books that allow for the prosecution of abusive dog owners. You know, the ones who train these dogs to be vicious then get rid of them once they become uncontrollable?

Emmy would really appreciate it. Until that happens we'll have no choice but to contact our alderman (James Balcer, maybe you're reading this?) and ask that he vote against the ban.


Charles Sudo
Staff Member, Chicagoist