GRANITE CITY, Ill. — There's never been fewer places to go than right now.
So you'd hope your backyard would still be a safe option for you and your pet.
One Granite City woman's backyard has become so dangerous for her dog she says she's afraid to use it.
It's an issue the I-Team has been looking into for three years.
Investigative reporter PJ Randhawa tells us why that woman's alderman is now avoiding her and our cameras and calls as well.
A big yard, and a loving owner...
Toby, the 4-year-old miniature pincher seems to have it all.
But his owner says this little pup can't be outside without being in danger from the gigantic half dead oak tree next door.
"We heard a noise. Toby looked up and he was running around in circles and I was trying to get him to come. But because he was in frantic mode, he saw the tree come down and it hit him across the back," said Amy Kerber, Toby's owner.
Tree vs. dog
Surveillance video from this summer shows one of the branches from the tree falling onto Toby.
In slow motion you can see it strike the little dog.
The tree branch that snapped across his small body was seven feet long and heavy to hold.
It splintered into two pieces after it hit Toby.
"He did limp a little bit. He had a bump on his back. But he is OK. The branch left a big indent on the ground. We just can't keep living in fear," said Kerber.
Over the past five years, Kerber says branches from the tree have also hit power lines and started at least two fires.
"When a [branch] fell on the electrical wires here, it electrocuted a guy downstairs while they were waterproofing the basement," said Kerber pointing to her neighbors home.
What makes this situation even sadder is that we've been here before.Three years ago, we interviewed Kerber after Toby was hurt by a falling branch. The dog had to be hospitalized and required stitches on his leg.
"He was trying to go potty and it hit him smack on the back and knocked him down," Kerber told us in 2017. "He can't keep going through this."
A lot's changed since then. Not much for the better
The Granite City property the tree is on is now in worse shape. Kerber says it's become a haven for drug users and the local homeless population. It was abandoned several years ago and its owners haven't paid any taxes on it for just as long.
"Actually as of today, someone came and robbed the place. The whole door is kicked in. So there's no door right now. We have homeless coming in. We have drug addicts coming here," said Kerber.
The Madison Avenue home is up for tax auction.
Years of battling the city and homeowner to address the tree issue has left Kerber exhausted.
On top of that, Kerber is now undergoing chemo therapy and says the stress is becoming too much to bear.
Even still, she says she's less concerned about the abandoned home, and more concerned about the tree.
The unresponsive Alderman
"We can take the property and demo the building," Dan McDowell, Granite City Ward Three Alderman told us back in 2017.
When we spoke to him then, he promised to help Kerber.
Now, despite dozens of phone calls, and text messages over the past five weeks, he has not responded to the I-Team's messages. Nor Kerber's.
We even knocked on the door to his home, but were told he wasn't there.
It appears he's avoiding us and Kerber- his own desperate constituent.
The I-Team found the home has not been condemned. A securities company purchased the tax debt three years ago, but never recorded the deed. The home is once again up for auction.
An expensive fix
Cutting down the tree would cost upwards of $20,000.
But since it's not on her property, it's not her problem to fix.
The city says she can remove the branches that hang over her property. Kerber says she's received several estimates from tree companies that tell her that would cost around $2,500. Kerber says it's more than she can afford because in addition to undergoing chemotherapy, she's also on disability.
"I can't have people over at my house, Ican't have barbecue's, we cannot enjoy the freedom of my own backyard. It's going to kill somebody, it's going to kill a human, a kid, an animal. Something has to be done. We can't continue to live like this."