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Cruisin' Canines

Talk to some dog owners in Chicago, and you’ll probably find out that one of the most irritating things to deal with can be loose dogs in parks that are meant to be on-leash parks. Alternatively, other dog owners believe that the most annoying thing is having to listen to another dog owner complain about off-leash dogs in fenced in parks. Whatever side of the debate you’re on, one thing is for sure—Chicago takes its dog leash laws very seriously.

If you’re new to Chicago, new to dog ownership, or simply want a refresher course, you’re in the right place. Here’s what you need to know about Chicago leash laws in order to keep you and your dog as safe as possible.

On-Leash: Always?

Chicago’s Municipal Code Chapter 7-12 lays out all of the regulations and laws for Animal Care and Control in Chicago. Perhaps the biggest one to note is that unless an animal is being used as a rescue or law enforcement service animal, pet owners in Chicago are required to keep their dogs on leash when outside of their property lines. The only loophole to this is that your dog can be in a crate, cage, or vehicle and off-leash.

Dogs are allowed to be off-leash on private property, but only if an established boundary exists, such as a fence. If the dog can freely leave the yard, for instance, the dog should be leashed for safety.

What About In the Parks?

Chicago Park District has strict regulations that, again, require all animals to be leashed at all times. However, there are some designated dog-friendly areas at some parks, as well as designated dog parks all over the city, where dogs can run freely. It’s important to note, though, that if you wish to take your dog to an off-leash park, you’re required to have a permit and tag for each animal you’ll have off-leash. Dogs are also required to be up to date on rabies shots if they are visiting public dog parks. Permits for your pups are available at a variety of veterinarians’ offices within the city for $5.

As for the beaches, there are specific beaches where dogs are allowed to be off-leash, but for the most part, beaches are leash-on areas. If you’re going to an off-leash beach, the same rules apply—a permit and tag are required materials.

What Happens If Your Dog Gets Away?

One of the reasons leash laws are so stressed in Chicago is because of how many strays there are at any given time. It only takes a second for your dog to dart away from you, and without a leash, the chances of getting the dog back are smaller. Off-leash animals can become strays or get stolen in an instant, so it’s best to keep your dog leashed for its own safety. Beyond your dog running off, there are other, financial risks to letting your dog off leash.

Fines and Penalties Associated with Unlawful Off-Leash Dogs

The base fine for a dog being off leash in Chicago is $300—and that doesn’t cover the costs of any damage or bites. If an unrestrained pup causes property damage, the fine can be between $300 and $1,000, plus financial responsibility for the damages caused. Fines for an animal attack or bite range from $300 to $10,000, and can also lead to incarceration and the animal being put down.

In other words: it pays keep your dog leashed!

If you’re having trouble finding ways to get enough exercise for your dog, hiring a dog walker in Chicago to stop by a few times a week or every day to take your dog out and about can be a great option. They’ll be able to get some fresh air and walk off some energy, and you’ll feel stress-free knowing that your dog’s having fun and getting exercise.


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Cruisin' Canines logo of a white dog with an orange background