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Owner Cited In Dog Attack; Alderman Suggests Pit Bull Ban

Updated 1/3/12 - 4:18 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As a man fights for his life after being attacked by two pit bulls, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) says it is time for the City Council again to consider banning the breed.

As WBBM Newsradio's John Cody reports, Fioretti says he has heard "nothing but bad" results from the ownership of pit bulls, "no matter whether you're in the South Side or West Side or North Side."

Fioretti says something has to be done.

"Maybe it is something the city council should take a good hard look at," in terms of what's happening in our neighborhoods and with the control of these type of animals," he said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's John Cody reports


Fioretti says anyone whose pit bull bites a person should get jail time, not a mere ticket.

Joseph Finley, 62, was jogging on the Lakefront Path near 77th Street in South Shore, when two pit bulls attacked him.

Police said the dogs came out of nowhere, grabbed Finley by the foot and dragged him to the ground, biting him on the arms, legs and face.

When a nearby resident heard the victim's screams, he ran outside to try to intervene.

"I heard somebody saying 'Help me, help me.' So I looked out the window, I couldn't see him, but I seen two dogs, so I came out and came around. It was two pit bulls mauling this man, he was on the ground," said South Shore resident Stanley Lee, who witnessed the attack. "So I went back into the house, I got a bat and I came back out. I started whacking the dogs with the bat, but they wouldn't let up."

At one point, Lee said the dogs turned on him, so he swung at the dogs with his bat. The dogs then continued mauling Finley until police showed up. Officers fatally shot the animals.

Finley was taken to Stroger Hospital of Cook County in critical condition and underwent surgery. He was recovering on Tuesday, but his condition was not available.

As CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports, Finley's brother was speaking out about the dogs, which neighbors described as "vicious."

"I was floored and, basically what I think is that there needs to be some stronger laws concerning vicious attacks by dogs; strong laws that apply to the owner of the dog, you know, because they must be held accountable for the action of the dog," Gregory Finley said.

The owner of the pit bulls, Jimmy Johnson, 57, received two citations from Animal Control for having unlicensed dogs and two citations for not leashing his dogs. Those infractions carry fines of up to $10,000, but offenders usually pay much less.

In the South Shore neighborhood where he lives, plenty of people know about the dogs and some believe the penalties for dog attacks are simply too light.

In the duplex where Johnson lives, neighbors knew and feared his pit bulls.

"When we first moved here, man, they was just innocent little puppies, but as they got older, man, you know dogs, man. They learn their evil side. They get vicious," Valentino Jackson said. "We couldn't even take out our trash without them coming at us."

The dogs were named Uno and Bullet and, even though they were aggressive, Jackson said he is surprised they got out of the back yard.

"This gate is really strong, it is really heavy. That's why we don't understand how these dogs got out, because it takes a lot of muscle just to pull this gate open and closed," Jackson said.

But Jackson said Uno was capable of climbing up a ledge in the back yard and jumping the rear fence.

Another neighbor said Uno had gone after her before.

"I went out to take the garbage out one day and I stuck my foot out the door, because that was the first day that I met the dog. And I stuck my foot out the door and he went and grabbed for it," Regine White said. "I knew right then and there he was a vicious dog.

Fioretti said the city needs get tougher with owners of dangerous dogs.

"This situation and the severity that happened here; we need to hold owners responsible. We need to increase the penalties," Fioretti said.

Are Pit Bulls Always Dangerous? Some Say No

While many lawmakers and everyday people regard pit bulls as dangerous, others say the issue is not the breed, but how the dogs are trained.

Retired Chicago Police Officer Jim Sak, who now lives in Aurelia, Iowa, had has service dog taken away because of a ban on pit bulls in the town. Sak had a stroke more than three years ago, and said he needed the dog, Snickers.

After a judge's ruling last week, Sak got Snickers back.

"As soon as they talk about pit bulls, the first thing comes out of their mouth is 'They maul the person,'" Sak said last week. "What about the ones that are good? And the ones that help people? Not the ones that have been trained how to fight."

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