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Cruisin' Canines

Whether you’re new to Chicago or just got a dog, you may not be aware of all the regulations, policies, and laws that apply to pet ownership in the city. You likely already know that animal cruelty is against the law, but there are other, more specific laws and ordinances regarding dog and pet ownership in general that are helpful to know and must be followed. Read on to learn more about your responsibilities as a dog owner in the city of Chicago.

Owner Duties

“Owner duties” refers to the responsibilities for each pet owner to provide for their animals: sufficient quantity of good quality, wholesome food and water; adequate shelter and protection from the weather; veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering; and humane care and treatment. Failure to meet these conditions is a class C misdemeanor, and those convicted are punishable with up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500.00.

Cruel Treatment

This law states that no person may beat, cruelly treat, torment, starve, overwork, or otherwise abuse any animal. They also may not abandon any animal where it may become a public charge, or where it may suffer injury, hunger, or exposure. Failure to comply with this law is also punishable – anyone found guilty of violating these laws is guilty of up to a Class C misdemeanor. A second conviction is a Class B misdemeanor, and a third/subsequent conviction is a Class A misdemeanor.

Aggravated Cruelty

Aggravated cruelty law states that no person may intentionally commit an act that causes a companion animal to suffer serious injury or death. This does not include euthanasia through recognized methods approved by the Department of Agriculture.  Being found guilty of violating this is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 1 year in jail.

Confinement in a Motor Vehicle

This law states that no pet owner or person may confine an animal in a motor vehicle in such a manner that places the animal’s life or health in danger—for instance, in very hot or very cold conditions, or in a car with no ventilation. Violating is a petty offense, but a second or subsequent conviction is a Class C misdemeanor.

Chicago Dog Ordinances

These ordinances are specific to Chicago, although many may apply to Chicago’s surrounding suburbs. If you live in or near Chicago, it’s best to familiarize yourself with your municipality’s specific set of guidelines.  Any person caught violating any of the following ordinances in Chicago may be fined up to $200 per offense.


Dog owners are required to have all dogs over the age of six months vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. This not only protects the dog against contracting the disease, but also prevents the spread of it to other dogs and the public.

Dog Licenses

Pet owners must register their dogs with the city. Licenses expire every year on April 30th, and all dogs over six months old should be licensed and should wear their tags at all times for easy identification. Licensing fees vary based on whether the animal is spayed or neutered, as well.

Chicago Dog Leash Laws for Animal Restraints

Pet owners must restrain animals when in public spaces, either with a leash, crate, cage, or vehicle, or confined on the owner’s premises (in a fenced-in yard, not roaming free). This helps ensures the safety of both the pet and people.

Waste Pick-Up

Pet owners must not take their pets onto public or private property (unless with property owner’s consent) unless the pet’s owner has means to remove any waste left by the dog. This does not, however, apply to blind pet owners using guide dogs.

Chicago Dog Bite Law

The owner of any animal, which has bitten another animal or a human, is responsible for reporting the bite to the Commission of Animal Care and Control. Then, if the animal is to be impounded, the owner is responsible for surrendering the animal within 24 hours to be checked for rabies vaccination records. The impoundment or euthanasia of such an animal will not be required until the dog is examined by a veterinarian.  It is also not legal to give away the animal or take the animal out of the city as a way to avoid being examined.

This last ordinance seems to be not as strictly followed as the text would make you believe – these terms are typically worked out between the biting-dog’s owner and the owner of the other animal that was bitten or the person who was bitten. There are many important laws to follow, and laws related to dog ownership are no exception.

Still, if your dog has to be impounded, you are required to pay for housing the animal at the Animal Control Center, and prior to release of the animal, vaccination and license certificates must be presented, so it is always recommended to keep your pet up to date on everything.

Learn About Other Responsibilities and Pet Ownership Laws in Chicago

For more information on dog ownership responsibilities, review the IL Humane Care for Animals Act.


14 Responses

  1. Hello,

    We are very responsible when it comes to our dog and his waste removal and rarely ever forget to leave the house without a bag. In the one instance I did, I drove back to the spot he used with a bag and picked up after him.

    Unfortunately, I am continuously being harassed by a neighbor on the corner when I walk my dog past his house. He demands that I put my dog’s waste bag in the black (vs blue bin) if I’m going to dispose of it there and is now saying that the bag must be tied, that it’s the law. I can’t seem to find any laws regarding this besides that you can be fined for not picking up your dog’s waste at all. Is there something I am missing?

    Thank you!


    1. Blue bins in the city are generally recycling, so please don’t dispose of dog waste there! Not sure about laws with tying, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Spare the garbage men that pick it up from accidentally handling un-contained poo, right?
      Tricia, Cruisin’ Canines

  2. As a new resident in Chicago, I wasn’t too familiar with the dog park laws in the Wicker Park area or how much the best Chicago dog walking companies would cost. One day I walked to the nearby dog park and asked a Wicker Park dog walker what the average Chicago dog walking service was. She told me it’s about $25, which is not bad! She also noticed that my dog didn’t have a tag on.

    It turns out that in order to use most dog parks in Chicago that I need to buy a specific tag that’s separate from the general dog license. Luckily, she said that it only costs about $7. Are there certain guidelines for buying a permit for the year?

  3. Hi, can someone here tell me how many dogs as pets are legal to have for one owner on a rental flat. I saw some info while trying to research but all I can find is a post from 2009. Declaring that I can have no mpre than five.
    Please write me asap.

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      It depends on your rental and your lease. Best to talk with your landlord to see what their restrictions may be.

  4. My wife and I are looking at getting a dog, so I appreciated the reminders you gave on what laws are applicable. I especially appreciated your reminder that a dog must be restrained with a leash or other means when outside the owner’s premise. I’ll definitely keep that in mind so I can stay legally compliant.

  5. Thank you for this!!

    Just wondering: is it legal for me to go to the city and rescue stray animals then take back to lake county suburbs for vetting?

    1. All strays need to do a “stray hold” before being taken into rescue to ensure no family is out there looking for them!

  6. Hello,

    I am moving to Chicago from Seattle and I own a pit bull. I was looking into laws surrounding this breed. Can you legally own a pit bull in chicago?


  7. We just bought an adorable golden retriever puppy that is 4 months old. I really appreciate your information that we will need to take him to an animal hospital for a rabies vaccination when he is 6 months old. My husband and I will start looking into veterinarians that offer this service.

  8. Awesome article. I also bought a pet with the help of the Barkbox Promo Code and this is the best way to buy a pet with a discount. A Pet Supplies might give you all this without any expectation…without the interest of the self where humans might fail. Discount pet supplies can provide you with all the pleasures that a pet has to offer to you. These suppliers have all the resources that you need to buy a pet.

  9. You make an excellent point that it is important for us to choose a qualified animal hospital for our pets.
    My wife and I would like to have our dogs checked. I will look into reliable hospital for our pets.

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