City of Chicago’s Leash Laws
Last week’s blog covering “What To Do When An Aggressive Off-Leash Dog Approaches” got a lot of attention so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what the Leash Laws are. Be sure to check your city’s own leash laws as they may differ from Chicagos. You can find Chicago’s laws by clicking here.
On Your Property:
If you do not have a fenced yard then you must be able to keep your dog under control within your property line either by leashing them, electronic fence, or by other means. This includes making sure that your fence meets your specific dog’s needs in terms of height and construction. If you are aware that your dog has a heightened sense of territorial behavior you would not want a chain link or bar type fence as it is very easy for your dog to reach over, or through, to get to a passerby. You want a privacy fence to ensure that the dog cannot make contact. I suggest taking the added precaution of lining your privacy fence with an electronic one set just within the perimeter to keep the dog from digging and creating a hole where he or she can escape or reach under to bite through.
Be aware that just because your dog is on your property doesn’t protect them if an incident occurs. For example, knocking over a child walking into your front yard. If your dog is off leash and jumps on a child, knocking them over, you are responsible. If your dog bites someone walking past your property and makes contact, even if all four paws are within your boundaries, you are responsible. Having a fence does not protect your dog either. Should your dog reach through your fence, bite and attack another dog walking by, you are responsible.
Off Your Property:
The law is clear and states that your dog should always be on a leash when outside your property line. There is a fine of $300 per off-leash dog under your care. This fine is for not having your dog leashed so if you are at a public park running your dog in a game of fetch, it is possible to be ticketed. Your dog does not need to harm anyone in order for you to be fined.
There are larger fines should your dog cause damage to property or if they were to bite another person or dog. The fines start at $300 and go up to $1,000 and $10,000 respectively. You will also be held responsible for covering the cost of damages with the possibility of incarceration time.
In Dog Friendly Areas:
Chicago does have Dog Parks all over the city where dogs are allowed to be off-leash. However, your dog is to be registered in the city of Chicago and have a Dog Friendly Area dog tag that you can purchase from participating veterinarians. The tags run $5 for spayed/neutered dogs and $50 for intact dogs. The DFA dog tags are annual and cover the year from January 1st to December 31st and need to be renewed each new year. So, from my understanding, if you buy your tag at the start of December 1st of 2017, it will only be valid until December 31st of 2017 and you will need to purchase a new tag come January 1st of 2018.
In addition to your dog wearing their tag you must also have the permit issued with it with you at all times. If Animal Care and Control were to find you in use of a Dog Park without the appropriate tags or permit, you can be fined upwards of $500 per dog. You can find more information on the Dog Friendly Area tags and Chicago Dog Registration as follows:
My Opinion On Off-Leash Dogs:
I personally love to take my dogs out to parks and let them run off-leash, but I do so in a respectful manner and am aware that I can be fined should law enforcement choose to do so. I practice what I like to call Off-Leash Etiquette and am mindful of those in my environment that are also enjoying the freedom and space that Chicago parks offer. An example being, if I am running my dogs off-leash and I see another family enjoying a picnic, I will keep my dogs away from their space by about 15 to 20 feet. Should my dogs make any movement or show any interest in their direction, I will address them with the remote collar to ensure they do not intrude, keeping them behind an invisible boundary.
While walking my dogs off-leash, my dogs are trained to follow in a very tight Heel position and will not leave my side. If I were to be working with a new dog of mine, that dog would not get the freedom that my current dogs do until I know I have them completely trained and am confident in the control I have over them through remote collar. Even with my dogs being highly trained I am still able to be fined $300 because the laws require that dogs have a physical leash and training does not exclude me from this.
I have not known of anyone who was fined for not having DFA tags or for even having their dogs off-leash as many people do it, however, it does not mean it can’t happen. I have been stopped and threatened with a ticket per dog one time a few years ago for walking my dogs off-leash. Knowing I was in the wrong, I did leash my dogs up with no problem as I did have 4 dogs with me and did not want to pay $1,200 in dog fines!
I believe that if you have done the work, have the training, utilize remote collar, and are being respectful of those around you, that having your dog off-leash isn’t a big problem. However, just keep in mind should something happen, you are held liable and you can’t fuss about it being as there are laws that are clearly stated. If an incident should happen between your dog and someone’s dog who is on-leash, your dog will be held responsible because they were not leashed. Even if it wasn’t your dog’s fault.
Be sure to look over your own city’s laws and educate yourself on what you need for your dog so that you aren’t hit with a ticket and can enjoy what your city has to offer!
Until next time.