Dog bites hit South and West Sides hardest — areas that lack dog parks, pet shops, other resources

By Chicago 10 Min Read

The dog bite wounds Krysten Kelly suffered over the summer have healed and serve as a painful reminder.

On an evening in late August, a woman and a man with two children and two dogs, leashed, walked past her on Sunnyside Avenue and Clark Street in Uptown. Kelly had her dog, a Chihuahua, in a shoulder bag.

The woman passed by and a dog jumped up. Kelly thought she was friendly with her until she bit her left breast. The dog lunged at her face again, which she blocked with her left arm, and was bitten again.

Then, Kelly said, the owners turned and walked away, leaving her in “complete shock” and bleeding on the sidewalk.

“I honestly thought the dog would be a friendly dog, with his arms on his shoulder because he didn’t growl. … There was nothing, no warning.

Krysten Kelly, who was bitten by a dog in the Uptown neighborhood in August, at the Ohio Place Dog Park this month.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Citywide, a total of 5,952 dog bite reports have been filed since 2019, according to a WBEZ analysis of 311 records. Complaints had decreased during the pandemic but have recently increased again; there were 1,054 complaints in 2023 through mid-October.

In Uptown, where Kelly was bitten, 127 complaints have been filed over the past four years, a higher number than all but a dozen of the city’s 77 community areas.

Dog bites have occurred throughout the city in recent years, including in communities like Uptown where there are several dog parks, but the communities with the most complaints are largely on the South and West sides, which offer fewer resources for dogs. and their owners.

Through mid-October, the Lower West Side, which includes most of Pilsen, had the most complaints with 260. Austin, on the West Side, was second highest with 252 complaints. These two communities do not have public spaces where dogs can run free and without a leash.

Austin “has been historically disadvantaged by the city of Chicago,” said Armando Tejeda, a spokesman for the city’s Animal Care and Control.

“When you compare it to places like Lake View, there’s almost a pet store on every corner, there are vets all over the area, but everyone who lives in Austin, they’re isolated from all these pet resources that have other neighborhoods,” he said.

From left, Toya Reed and Alionna Murphy watch Susan Cappello, interim executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, demonstrate dog collars at POPCourts! Community Plaza in Austin in October.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun Times

Addressing inequality in Austin

To provide more resources to pet owners in Austin, Roseland and West Lawn, ACC has partnered with Rescue Chicago to launch the Leash and Collar campaign.

Lashawna Britton, 23, who took her 6-month-old dog, Prince, to a recent event on a leash and collar to get him treats, said she wished there was a dog park or a communal dog walking group dogs in the area.

“These dogs don’t know each other,” he said.

Often, when walking the dog, the dogs don’t have a chance to stop and say hello. Sometimes, she said, dogs growl and bark at her dog as he walks. She said a communal dog space would help neighborhood dogs hang out together.

Jonathan Polich, a dog trainer at K9 University in Chicago, said dog bites often stem from fear of stimuli or the dog’s environment, but training and socialization can help prevent bad behavior .

Related What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog Chicago ranked eighth among major U.S. cities last year in mail carriers attacked by dogs

Another problem is stray dogs.

“If there’s an area where you get the most strays from and then the bites happen, I mean, there’s definitely something that needs to be addressed on our end,” Tejeda said.

According to Ald, the number of strays in the 37th Ward, where Austin is located, increased by hundreds in 2023. Emma Mitts’ office. As of October, Austin had received 454 reports of stray animals.

Other communities that saw higher numbers of strays include Roseland, which had 396, and Chicago Lawn, which had 368 in 2023, according to ACC data. In terms of dog bites, Roseland and Chicago Lawn reported 144 and 142 complaints, respectively, according to WBEZ analysis.

Mitts’ team said several residents had complained about the number of strays, a problem exacerbated by this summer’s floods, the councilor said.

“The tragic, once-in-a-lifetime and disastrous flooding that occurred in late June and early July this summer also impacted the number of dogs who were suddenly left homeless due to flooded basements and homes.” , Mitts said in a statement.

Related West Side flooding prompts deluge of complaints at budget hearing

The ACC hopes that offering free leashes and collars, as well as other pet resources, in areas without ready access to pet stores will help reduce the number of strays.

The ACC started with an outreach effort in Austin, with staff going door-to-door and asking pet owners what resources they would like to see in the area. Staff also went to CTA bus and train stops to talk to community members, Tejeda said.

Austin residents said the most helpful things would be access to collars and leashes, vaccine and microchip clinics, pet stores and community spaces where dog owners could meet.

The ACC is working with Mitts to coordinate the opening of Austin’s first dog park — a request ACC staff has received time and time again from community members.

Opening a dog park would not only give the community a space to get to know each other, but it would also help neighborhood dogs get to know each other, said A.L. Smith, a spokesman for Mitts.

“We want to be able to provide the residents of the 37th Ward some of the civic benefits that can help make their lives more peaceful and more enjoyable,” Smith said.

Alionna Murphy holds Galaxy as he is fitted with a dog collar during a leash and collar event in late October.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun Times

In the Southwest Side communities of Wentworth Park and West Lawn, organizers have successfully advocated for the creation of dog parks in their communities.

Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), who helped coordinate the opening of two dog parks, at 4233 W. 65th St. and 5625 S. Mobile Ave., in his ward this year, said he has started the process when voters said they wanted more dog-friendly spaces on the south side.

Quinn formed committees for the two parks – Woof Lawn and Wentwoof – and began knocking door to door to get public input. It was important to him to “work collaboratively” with communities, he said. Both petitions have garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

Quinn says she believes there are many more opportunities to make pet resources more equitable on the South Side.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface of opportunities to partner with local veterinarians and businesses … like pet stores that sell dog food or dog toys,” he said.

Contributors: Alden Loury and Amy Qin, WBEZ

What to do if you have been bitten by a dog

Advice on what to do if you are bitten by a dog

Get medical treatment to prevent infection Treatment is also important to document the bite in case the victim decides to file a complaint against the dog’s owner. Victims can file a complaint with Animal Control by calling 311 or file a police report at a county station. In most cases, a person’s homeowners or renter’s insurance will be responsible for damages. If you don’t know the owner’s name, you may consider filing a Doe complaint to try to identify the owner

For more information read: What to do if you have been bitten by a dog

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