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 in Chicago. Be sure to check your city’s own leash laws as they may differ from Chicago dog leash laws.

Leash Laws On Your Own Property

If you do not have a dog fence around your yard, you must be able to keep your dog under control within your property line either by leashing them, using an electronic dog fence or some other method.

You also need to make sure 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 get over – or go through – to get to a passerby. You want a fence that provides privacy to ensure 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 and bite through it.

Be aware that just because your dog is on your property, that doesn’t protect them if an incident occurs. For example: if your dog is off its leash and jumps on a child walking into your front yard and knocks them over, you are responsible. If your dog attempts to bite someone walking past your property and makes contact – even if all four paws are within your boundaries – you are responsible.

And should your dog reach through your fence and attack and bite another dog walking by, you are responsible.

Leash Laws When You’re Not On Your Property

The law 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 if your dog causes damage to property or if they 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.

Leash Laws in Chicago’s Dog Friendly Areas

Chicago has dog parks all over the city where dogs are allowed to be off their leashes. However, your dog must be registered in the city of Chicago and have a Dog Friendly Area (DFA) 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 1 to December 31. They need to be renewed each year. So – from my understanding – if you buy your tag at the start of December 1 of 2017, it will be valid until December 31 of 2017 and you will need to buy a new tag on January 1, 2018.

In addition to your dog wearing their DFA tag, you must also have with you the permit issued with the tag at all times. If Animal Care and Control were to find you using a dog ark without the appropriate tag or permit, you could 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 in Chicago

I personally love to take my dogs out to parks and let them run off their leashes, but I do so in a respectful manner and I’m aware that I can be fined, should law enforcement choose to do so. I practice what I like to call off-leash etiquette and I’m mindful of those in my environment that are also enjoying the freedom and space that Chicago parks offer.

Here’s an example: 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 a remote collar, keeping them behind an invisible boundary to ensure they do not intrude.

For off-leash dog walks, my dogs are trained to follow in a very tight heel position and will not leave my side. And if I’m working with a new dog of mine, they would not get the same freedom as my other dogs until I know I have them completely trained and that I’m confident in the control I have over them using a remote collar.

But, 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.

Even If Your Dogs Are Well-behaved, You can Still Be Fined

I do not know anyone who has been fined for not having DFA tags or for even having their dogs off their leashes – and many people do it. However, that does not mean it can’t happen. I was 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 put my dogs on their leashes with no problem, as I did have 4 dogs with me and did not want to pay $1,200 in fines!

I believe that if you have done the work and the training, know how to utilize a remote collar and are respectful of those around you, having your dog off-leash isn’t a big problem. However, keep in mind that – should something happen – you are held liable and you can’t fuss about it because there are laws that are clearly stated.

Also note that if an incident should happen between your dog and someone else’s dog who is on a leash, your dog will be held responsible because they were not leashed, even if it wasn’t your dog’s fault.

If you’re not in Chicago, be sure to look over your own city’s dog leash laws and educate yourself on what you need to do to make sure your dog is compliant with all rules and regulations. That way, you aren’t hit with a ticket and you can enjoy the public areas for dogs that your city has to offer!

Until next time.

Canine Perspective, Inc.