The mere threat of a $30 to $200 ticket was enough to prompt a surge in dog registrations in Chicago. Now, City Hall is about to find out whether the carrot is as good as the stick.
City Clerk Susana Mendoza is kicking off a crackdown on the estimated 470,000 Chicago owners of unlicensed dogs with a contest to name the city’s first-ever search “Dog of Distinction.”
It will start with a 90-day registration campaign, with all dogs licensed by March 31 automatically entered in the doggie pageant. Two days later, five dogs will be randomly chosen to compete for the title. That will be followed by online voting to choose the dog who best exemplifies “Chicago’s spirit.”
Finalists will receive prizes donated by Chicago businesses. The title-winning dog will get the biggest booty, including: a custom-designed $2,000 dog tag in the shape of the Chicago flag – with real rubies and topazes – designed by Goldsmith Jewelers, a weekend stay at the Palmer House Hilton, a photo shoot at Urban Out Sitters and a story in Chicagoland Tails magazine.
Finalists will get two tickets on a dog-friendly Shoreline Architectural cruise, a ticket to the Dog Tea Party at the Palmer House, an Urban Out Sitter gift bag stuffed with dog treats and accessories and a Chicagoland Tails gift package.
After all of the carrots are distributed, the stick will come out, when the city begins ticketing owners of unlicensed dogs. Many have been thumbing their noses at the city’s dog-license requirement for decades. But, first things first: education.
“I don’t think it’s fair to ticket people who are not even aware of the legal obligation,” Mendoza said. “First, we’ll educate, then follow up with a strong enforcement campaign.”
Asked how the ordinance would be enforced, Mendoza said she expects the crackdown to be “complaint-driven.”
“We’re not gonna go out there in mass droves and try to stop people legally walking their pet, but there are plenty of other opportunties,” she said. “When you see dogs running on beaches, it’s fair to go up to those individual [owners] and ask if their dogs are licensed. If not, you’ll be subject to a ticket. People can also call it in like they do with city sticker [scofflaws].”
Chicago’s dog population stands at roughly 500,000 dogs, but fewer than 30,000 of them are licensed.