After the tragic killing of a neighbor’s dog by Bones, the Engine 116 companion dog, acting Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Holt mas made the order for all firehouse companion dogs to be removed.
A woman who lived within a block of the Engine 116 firehouse, located at 5959 S. Ashland Ave. in Englewood, had been out on her usual walk over the weekend with her pet Shih Tzu on a leash. On seeing the small dog, Bones, the large mix-breed firehouse companion dog, had charged through the open overhead door at the front of the building and attacked the small dog. The Shih Tzu had been immediately rushed to the emergency vet following the attack, but sadly passed away as the injuries left by Bones were too severe.
Larry Langford, spokesperson for the Chicago Fire Department spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times expressing the department-wide remorse felt for this terrible incident, “This could have been a child. This could have been much more tragic than it was. We also feel very bad. This is a neighbor’s dog,” Langford said, “She lives about a block away from the firehouse. That’s also a tragedy — that she lost her beloved dog and was walking it. Doing everything right. Coming by the firehouse where she’s probably come by many times before,”
The staff of the South Side firehouse were mortified to learn of the events that had taken place. Bones had been rescued off the streets of Chicago by the people of Engine 116 a few years prior and had grown close with the workers of the firehouse during his time living with them. He is a large, muscular, mixed-breed dog, who had not done anything like this previously to the knowledge of the Engine 116 staff.
Langford also spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times about the unpredictable nature of the event, and how Bones had escaped the firehouse in order to attack the Shih Tzu, and how this implemented Holt’s decision, “One of the overhead doors on the bays was up, being serviced. Bones got on the apparatus floor … saw the other dog, charged out of the firehouse after the dog, and attacked it right there on the apron. It’s an unpredictable thing. We can’t risk that any longer.”
Following this shocking turn of events, Holt took no time in placing restrictions on all Chicago firehouses removing the permissions for any and all dogs to have access to or live inside a firehouse, putting an end to a long-standing, time-honored tradition.
Holt had written in a department memo, “Any and all prior permissions for dogs in the fire stations or on fire apparatuses are hereby revoked.” This memo also goes on to state that these changes will be effective immediately, with no exceptions.
Sadly this will mean having to find homes for all of the dogs homed in Firehouses throughout Chicago at this time.
Speaking on this topic, Langford told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We’re hoping that all the dogs that are in the firehouses — and we don’t think there are very many — will be able to go home with firefighters or paramedics and put them in a family atmosphere.”
Bones has since been spotted in a designated and secured fenced-in area just outside of Engine 116 on the afternoon of Tuesday 13th April. Following the department memo from Holt stating that the new rules will be taking place with immediate effect, it is unsure as to when Firehouses will be removing their dogs. Though time must be given to find the appropriate homes for the dogs before removing them from their current destinations.
Fire commissioner Holt took up the post of acting fire commissioner from her post as the first deputy following the mandatory retirement of Richard C. Ford II, the now-former fire commissioner, who had been named fire commissioner in 2017 after 35 years of service. Holt did not hesitate to put out the order to ban companion dogs from Chicago Firehouses following this terrible incident but had been unavailable for comment following this announcement.
Langford spoke of Holt and the difficulty of her decision during his interview, saying, “She’s a dog lover. A lot of us are. It’s something we regret we have to do. But there’s no hesitation in doing it. It’s what must be done.” Langford went on to say, “It’s done with the knowledge that you’re ending a tradition and a lot of the firehouses have dogs that are well-loved. It’s kind of sad.”
The tradition of keeping dogs in Firehouses in Chicago might be an old and deep-seated tradition but is already fading out according to a Fire Department spokesperson, and the vast majority of firehouses apparently do not have companion dogs in them anymore. Langford has estimated that around 10 of the 96 Firehouses located in Chicago still have in-house companion dogs, based on social media posts about them.
There is also a Facebook group dedicated to the love of the Firehouse dogs of Chicago named CFD Firehouse Pups. The pup-loving group is filled with members that enjoy and bond around sharing videos and images of dogs, though the group has more recently turned to discussing the choice made by Holt following the death of the Firehouse’s neighbor’s Shih Tzu.
Though according to Langford, the shift towards larger firehouses and changes in companies have meant that the time-honored tradition of Firehouse companion dogs has “started to fade away”, as not every person gets along with dogs, and this goes for firefighters and Firehouse workers, the same as it does any other person.
Langford reflected on the dogs of the Chicago Fire Department, saying, “ Many of the firehouse dogs that remained in the current day were stars in their houses. Very loved. Kids would interact with them. Neighbors would interact with them. Some of the dogs were extremely smart.” He then went on to tell the Chicago Sun-Times about one of the previous dogs kept at Engine 116, “I remember a previous dog at 116 was so smart, he would ride in apparatus and he knew the bell code for which apparatus was supposed to go. …. There’s a different code for the engine, squad, and truck. When the bell code would go off for the engine, he wouldn’t move. When the bell code would go off for the squad, he would get up, go onto the floor, get into the rig and wait.”
Though they have been advised not to speak with reporters regarding the matter, firefighters have come forward with the own opinions to make their displeasure known at the decision made by acting fire commissioner Holt.
One CFD paramedic spoke in the CFD Firehouse Pups Facebook group of how they were “saddened” by the announcement, “When you have one bad incident, you shouldn’t punish all, I’ve been around many of the dogs pictured before and they all really are great animals and very therapeutic for our members.”
Whilst a South Side Firefighter agreed with the sentiment, saying that getting rid of the Firehouse dogs is like getting rid of a family member. Whilst this firefighter agrees with some form of punishment needing to take place with Bones at Engine 116, he goes not agree with the decision by Holt which affects all Firehouses, saying, “They should just punish the house, not everybody.”
However, in favor of the decision, one firefighter spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times, explaining that he does not feel that a Firehouse is an appropriate place to keep a dog. Multiple masters combined with the commotion and overstimulation that can happen during an emergency potentially causing a dog unnecessary stress, an opinion which was echoes by multiple other firefighters in the group.
Whilst some across the CFD may disagree with the decision, it is a non-negotiable restriction to remove the canine element of Firehouses, which will be enforced across the Chicago Fire Department for the safety of the public.