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Uptown in the News  

August 3, 2005
Dog owners growling over $35 permit fee for city dog parks
County imposes fee starting Sept. 15
By Angela Caputo, staff writer

Stop your barking, is the message a top county official sent last week to North Side dog owners angry over stricter, county-imposed regulations for using the city Park District’s dog parks.

Beginning Sept. 15, Cook County is requiring dog owners to have a permit before their dogs can run unleashed in any of the District’s nine dog-friendly areas. To obtain the permit, dog owners will have to pay a $35 fee and prove that their pooches are up-to-date with distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvoviris shots, along with a rabies vaccination, which is already required by the city.

Dog owners will also have to sign a waiver assuming responsibility for any injuries incurred at the city’s dog parks or in surrounding areas before obtaining a permit.

“We are just working to meet regulations,” Judy Martinez, with the Park District’s Intergovernmental Affairs office, told a group of frustrated dog owners at a public hearing, Wednesday, July 27, at the Margate Park Field House, 4921 Marine Dr.

A group of riled-up dog owners didn’t hold back their frustration with city and county officials over the new regulations that many see as little more than a grab for money.

“People, including me, are tired of paying the piper”, Uptown resident Ellie Pieri told officials at the hearing. “We think we pay enough and now we have to pay more.”

And for those who can’t pay, Dr. Sheldon Rubin on the Chicago Veterinary Association said, “You’re going to cut out a certain part of the population that can’t afford the fees.”

But Dan Parmer, director of the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control Department, said that the extensive shots are essential in protecting animals from spreading disease.

Reminding dog owners that unleashed dog parks are “a privilege and not a right,” Parmer said, “Either you (get permits) or you don’t have a dog park. It’s the law.”

His approach didn’t go over well with dog owners who shot back that if he’s looking to control rabid dogs, he’s probably looking in the wrong place.

Contending that dog park patrons are among the most mindful dog owners around, Uptown resident Pam Mevema said instead of cracking down on neglectful dog owners, “He’s going after the easiest target. It’s like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.”

After hearing out concerns, a Park District spokeswoman said officials are considering reducing the fee but have yet to settle on a figure.

Initially the District had proposed charging $35 for the first dog and $15 for each additional pooch. Of the fees, $15 was proposed to go back to the dog parks, which are currently maintained by volunteers who do their own fundraising for cleaning and supplies.

Under the advisement of dog owners, Park District officials are also looking into streamlining the park permits with the city‘s dog licensing process. More than 18,000 dog licenses were issued by the city last year for a $5 fee for each spayed or neutered dog, and $10 for all others.

The Park District has yet to discuss the option with the city, said the clerk’s office. “We wouldn’t be averse to exploring it,’ she added.

While many questions about the new Park District permits remain unanswered, one thing is for certain, Parmer said. The new rules will go into effect mid-September and the penalty for taking non-permitted dogs into the parks could result in a $500 fine. Officers from the County’s Animal Control Department will be enforcing the policy but will start slowly in the beginning. “We are not tyrants or stupid,” Parmer said. “We’re not going to go out and browbeat people. We’re going to be flexible.”

Despite the pat on the head, dog owners are still barking that the policy doesn’t measure up to the title of the most dog friendly city to visit, recently bestowed by www.dogfriendly.com

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