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City dog owners rush to buy licenses

CHANEL, the dog of cyclist Shale Lapping resting on his bike in Daley Plaza as Chiciago celebrate Bike to Work Week, Friday, June 17, 2011. | John H. White~Sun-Times.

The city’s bark is apparently as good as its bite when it comes to cracking down on Chicago owners of unlicensed dogs.

More than 2,200 dog licenses have been sold – generating $20,000 in revenue – in the two weeks since reports surfaced that the city was poised to start ticketing Chicago dog owners who have been thumbing their noses at the city’s mandatory dog license for decades without consequence.

That’s a 252 percent increase over the 631 dog licenses sold and $6,000 raised during the same period a year ago. Sixty percent of the dog owners participating in the recent surge purchased their dog licenses online at chicityclerk.com.

The mere threat of receiving a $30 to $200 ticket was apparently enough to yank the regulatory leash.

“My goal is always to educate people about the law before increasing enforcement,” City Clerk Susana Mendoza said in a press release.

“I met with Animal Care and Control earlier this fall and we agreed that often, dog owners are simply not aware of the requirement to register their pet with the city. Together, we have committed to educate the public about this requirement, then increase enforcement in 2012.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that a dog-loving city that sold just 27,918 licenses last year – less than five percent of an estimated 560,000-strong dog population – was preparing to show its bite by ticketing negligent dog owners.

After ridiculing the question as trivial, Mayor Rahm Emanuel endorsed the crackdown.

“Look. We all love our individual pets. I grew up with them myself. But you can’t have some people abiding and being responsible and others not,” the mayor said then.

The crackdown will follow a 90-day education campaign spearheaded by Mendoza and Cherie Travis, executive director of the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control.

It will feature low-cost rabies vaccines at events across the city and an online dog registration contest with prizes donated by local businesses.

In order to purchase a dog license, owners must first show proof that their dogs have been vaccinated for rabies. The dog license is a sticker affixed to the metal rabies tag.

The dog license fee for neutered dogs remains a bargain at $5, compared to a non-neutered fee of $50. For senior citizens, the rates are $2.50 and $5 respectively.

On Thursday, Mendoza noted that less than 20 percent of lost dogs are returned to their owners. Those dogs that are reunited with their owners are often identified by tags, micro-chips or other “identifying features, reinforcing the advantage for owners who register their dogs,” she said.