Dogs Banned from Chicago Fire Stations After One Kills a Smaller Pet

firehouse dog
Rufus lets out a howl from the top of Engine 57 on a fire call on March 17, 1977. The Dalmatian, a breed traditionally associated with fire departments, is slowly giving way to other breeds, usually Shepherds and more aggressive watchdogs. (David Nystrom / Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Charles J. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

(TNS)

CHICAGO — The Chicago Fire Department will no longer allow dogs at firehouses after a firehouse dog killed a family pet near an Englewood fire station.

A dog named Bones — believed by the Fire Department to be a mixed-breed stray taken off the street — was living at Engine 116 at 60th Street and Ashland Avenue when it got out and killed a small breed dog being walked in the area.

“Any and all prior permissions for dogs in the fire stations or on fire apparatuses are hereby revoked,” acting Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt wrote in a department memo. The order is effective immediately and without exception, the memo says.

The vast majority of firehouses have not had dogs, according to a department spokesperson.

The decision sparked an outpouring of criticism on the CFD Firehouse Pups Facebook page. Larry Langford, the chief Fire Department spokesman, also weighed in on the page.

“I am as sad to see the dogs go as anyone. I live near 116 and was well aware of Bones and the longtime king of the house Salty,” Langford wrote. “I also feel the pain of the neighbor who watched as Bones attacked and killed her dog while she walked it past the firehouse over the weekend.

“We hope they can all find good homes with members. In many ways some will do better in a home than in the firehouse. Rocco, the longtime dog of Engine 117 was a great example. He was a source of concern at the firehouse but I am told he did a great turnabout after being taken in by one member. I will miss Bones as we all miss the pups but it must be done. I would hate to see another pup or worse a child attacked by one of our own.”

Department officials will check with firehouses to ensure dogs have been removed, a department spokesman told WMAQ-Ch. 5. Some on the Facebook page are trying to find a permanent home for Bones.

“Our hearts go out to the dog that passed away,” said Jim Tracy, president of the union that represents Chicago firefighters. “But our men and women deal with death every day. They deal with some of the most heartbreaking things you can possibly imagine. When you go on a run that might not have gone the right way — it might not be a comfort dog with all the papers, but it’s a comfort for them. It goes a long way.”

Tracy said most of Chicago firehouse dogs are strays that get picked up and brought to firefighters by the public. The fire crews and paramedics care for the dogs, train them, feed them and get them inoculated and spayed or neutered, then ask formal permission to keep the dogs on-site. Usually, it’s been granted, Tracy said, and many firehouse dogs might otherwise face being euthanized.

“Technically, it’s her call,” Tracy said, referring to Nance-Holt, “but there’s definitely a lot of firefighters that are trying to get her to change her mind and do it on a case-by-case basis. … This is the first tragedy that I’ve heard of in the 25 years that I’ve been on.”

“I hope we somehow find a way to get this decision reversed. To those who will be taking these pups into their homes please continue to share your pictures and stories with us,” one Firehouse Pups group admin wrote.

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