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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 03:07 pm

Letters to the editor

In and around Springfield

We welcome letters, but please include your full name, address, and daytime telephone number. We edit all letters for libel, length, and clarity. Send letters to Letters, Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705; fax 217-753-3958; e-mail editor@illinoistimes.com.

TO BE POOR AND SICK Through a series of events, at age 49, I am in that category that Joan Villa describes as below the poverty line [“State of the poor,” Feb. 2]. This year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and in some ironic way I was lucky. If you have breast cancer there is an Illinois treatment-specific, government-funded program that pays for just about all medical expenses for women with breast cancer. If that program was not out there, I literally would be dying. The cancer, which at first barely indicated a need for further (and very expensive) testing, turned out to be deadly and invasive. I was able to proceed with these tests thanks to a coordinated effort of local programs. I am very grateful that the funding was there for this type of cancer and for Capitol Community Health care, Logan County Breast and Cervical Program, and the Illinois treatment-specific program. With these programs women do have some hope, as long as the funding is there. I feel sad and frightened for anyone below the poverty line who has a life-threatening illness that is not covered by this program. For them, they must literally choose between living or being haunted by a series of massive medical bills, as well as being denied access to drugs that could save their lives. That is a very harsh statement about the state of our Union. We did it for breast cancer; why not for other life-threatening illness? Name withheld by request Springfield

LET’S BAN BASEBALL BATS In the midst of your story about dangerous dogs in Springfield, there was a sidebar that stated: “The Humane Society, the ASPCA, and a host of other experts say that pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds and similar large dogs get a bad rap. Judge the deed, not the breed, they say.” The reply to this was: “However, records at the Sangamon County Animal Control Shelter show that toy poodles aren’t the ones getting in trouble” [see Bruce Rushton, “A dog’s life,” Feb. 2]. That reply was misguided, downright irresponsible, and obviously intended to elicit an erroneous conclusion. The reader is supposed to look at the statistics given and conclude that certain breeds of dogs are more aggressive and dangerous than others. The human element of the problem doesn’t warrant mention in the sidebar.
Sure, toy poodles aren’t getting in trouble. The thing is, I doubt very seriously that people are buying toy poodles and training them to guard their property. I doubt that people are training Pomeranians to attack people. Furthermore, I doubt that actual attacks by small dogs such as toy poodles and the like are reported. Just about anyone can tell you that small dogs are just as likely to bite or act aggressively toward humans. Also, how can a pit bull or a rottweiler be held responsible for what its owner trained it to do? For some reason, dogs and guns are the only things held to that standard. Someone gets attacked by a pit bull, they blame the dog instead of the owner that trained it. Someone gets shot, they blame the gun that was fired by the owner. Strange, isn’t it? You don’t see anyone outlawing baseball bats, even though they’re used to kill people all the time. Once again we’re blaming the wrong ones for the problem. Illinois Times would have been better off doing a story on the owners of the dogs that have attacked people. They’re the ones responsible for the dogs’ behavior, whether it’s by actual training or how they treated the dog. Kevin Johnson Chatham

RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERSHIP As a proud “pit bull of some sorts” owner, I read with interest the articles by Bruce Rushton about Lucky, Muddy, Brandy, and Blackie. His writings told a behind-the-scenes story about how our laws are quite lax and there seems to be no accountability of the dogs and, most important, the owners of these dogs. The stories about Muddy, the rottweiler that attacked Brandy, are just prime examples of what happens when these dogs are not properly trained and socialized with the community and their surroundings. I also appreciated Lucky’s viewpoint, but he, too, is a victim of circumstances. I hope that the community does not have the impression that rottweilers and pit bulls are vicious dogs. They are not. The dogs in the stories are merely puppets in the lame world of poor dog ownership. These dogs ultimately may pay the price. Until dog owners own up to being responsible about dog ownership, we will continue to have these ongoing problems. Breed-specific legislation is not the answer. That idea is just as bad as outlawing handguns. All dogs are capable of attacking and biting people and animals, period. I was shocked to read that basically if a dog bites or kills, nothing is done. I agree that a dog who attacks a person or pet without provocation should be put down. I do believe that those persons who have been attacked and or bitten and their pets maimed or killed should be compensated. Dog owners, ask yourself: Does my dog show aggression toward people and animals? Does my dog ignore my commands when off-leash? Does my dog think that it is the alpha in our family? If you answered yes to any of these, you have a problem on your hands. Lon Penman Springfield

VICIOUS DOGS NEAR SCHOOL After reading the article “A dog’s life,” I was deeply disturbed by the fact that Lucky, a vicious dog, could be so close to children. Another potentially dangerous situation exists near the Springfield public school my son attends, located on South Lincoln Street. Adjacent to the schoolyard is a house where dogs are raised to fight. My son has reported seeing the owner taunt the dogs by putting on a leather wrist strap and lunging at them until they bite. The owner often hangs a dummy dog by a rope on a tree and drops it low enough for the dog to attack it viciously. The dogs even run free in front of the school, held back only by a weight they are forced to pull by the chain on their necks. All of this is occurring while the students are outside playing merely 5 feet away.   How is it that we can keep drug dealers hundreds of feet away from our children’s schools but an animal that could cause severe injuries or potentially a child’s death can live right next door? Name withheld by request Springfield

BYBEE IS FINE BY ME I truly enjoy Doug Bybee’s column in Illinois Times [see “Good Poet! Bad Poet!” Feb. 2]. His writing is just wonderful, and I like his sense of humor. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading. Judy Burgess Springfield

TWO BILLS WITH SAME GOAL There are two bills currently in the Legislature that would convert vendor positions for registered nurses in the Illinois Department of Corrections to state positions. The bills are SB 2237 in the Senate and HB 4291 in the House. What these bills would do, when passed and signed, would convert those positions currently held contract companies to state positions. Currently vendor nurses are not required to have as much experience as they would need to have if they applied for state employment. Also, these vendor nurses are held to a lower standard by their employers than current state nurses are. Additionally, the turnover rate for these vendor nurses is much higher than that of state nurses, and often positions go unfilled for long periods of time, creating unsafe situations due to understaffing. With the use of vendors, the contracts are up for bids every so often. Also, as we saw not so long ago in the case of one company that had a contract with the state, the state can cancel the contract for nonperformance. I would encourage any vendor nurses out there who work for a vendor at any of the IDOC facilities to contact your legislators and ask them to support these two very important pieces of legislation. With state service there is a little better chance of job security and pretty good benefits. Joseph P. Williams, R.N. Buffalo
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