Alderman Ed Burke, chairman of the finance committee and Alderwoman Virginia Rugai, introduced the pet overpopulation and safety ordinance. They say that dog bite incidents are the second highest cause of emergency room visits by children and that the ordinance is also a humane and taxpayer-friendly solution to Chicago's pet overpopulation, stray and animal crime problems.
After four hours of debate, City Council decided to reconvene the issue at a later date.
The "Price Is Right" game show host and renowned spay and neuter animal advocate, Barker attended Tuesday's City Council hearings to show his support of the ordinance. The ordinance will require that dogs and cats of more than six months of age be spayed or neutered.
"Since there are too many animals being born, too many cats and dogs to find homes for all of them, I think it makes complete sense to spay and neuter because that will prevent that," said Barker.
Proponents of the ordinance claim it is an aggressive and progressive tool to deal with animal overpopulation and public safety.
Burke introduced the ordinance because of a rash of pit bull attacks, including one last May when five pit bulls attacked a woman while she was walking on the Southwest Side.
In addition, the alderman says the legislation takes aim at gang members who operate dog-fighting rings. The ordinance would provide seven exemptions, including animal breeders who would be required to purchase a breeder's license.
"Bolstering the aggressiveness of certain dog breeds is crucial to those involved in the horrible new mast time, which takes place regrettably in our city, dogfighting," said Burke.
A number of aldermen, individuals and organizations oppose the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance in Chicago.
"I'm a pet owner and by choice I did that, by choice. I don't like it when government gets involved in everything to try to solve problems," said Ald. Ray Saurez, 31st Ward.
"Mandatory spay and neuter does not address the issue of irresponsible pet ownership. And that's what we need to do is find the irresponsible owners and take care of them so they can take care of their animals," said Susan Olsen, International Kennel Club of Chicago
Officials from PAWS Chicago on the North Side, one of the largest no-kill humane organizations in the city, supports the ordinance. They say that in 2007, there were 2,000 reported dog and cat bites, mostly involving children. Last year, just at Chicago's Animal Care and Control Center, close to 27,000 stray animals were collected. In 2007, close to 13,000 cats and dogs were euthanized, costing $175 per animal.
"Today, while we sat in the city council meeting, over 35 animals lost their lives. And this ordinance will help prevent that," said Rochelle Michalek, PAWS Chicago.
Exemptions in the ordinance include show dogs, guard dogs, service dogs and any dog or cat certified by a licensed veterinarian as having a valid health reason not to be sterilized.
If passed, violators of the ordinance would be issued a notice the first time and a $100 fine the second time. Further violations would result in a fine up to $500 and possible grounds for impoundment.