Chicago has a number of off-leash areas plus a dog beach (Montrose Beach). Up until a few years ago these areas were free to all dogs and served the purpose of allowing dogs an area to go off-leash without bothering the non-dog people of the city. A few years ago Chicago started requiring a permit to use the areas. To get the permit you must go to a Chicago Veterinarian for an exam, and show proof of:
a) Current dog license issued by the City of Chicago, or proof that the dog has a current rabies vaccination.
b) Examination within the past year for any communicable diseases including an examination of a stool specimen for internal parasites.
c) Current vaccination or titer if possible for Distemper, Hepatitis, Para-influenza, Parvovirus, and Bordatella (kennel cough) unless an exemption to this requirement has been granted by the Administrator upon the written recommendation from the Owner’s veterinarian
There is a $500 fine for using these areas without a permit.
The problem with all of this is that it is clearly not practical for out of town visitors to get these permits if they are staying for a few days or even a week. Additionally, local dog owners who, for whatever reason, don’t have permits will no doubt decide that the fine is just as great in the dog area as outside of it. Where do you think they’ll let their dog run?
We are not sure if the primary purpose of this permit system is to raise revenue or for ensuring that no dog gets sick from other dogs. If it is for financial reasons, then they should do like many other cities do and allow you to pay even $5 (an annual fee for each day that it is used) at the dog park. Cities such as Indianapolis do this. If it is for health reasons, it should be considered that to walk to the dog park the dogs will be passing all the same viruses anyway as the “infected” dog will still be walked. Also, virtually no other place in the country has this type of regulation and we are not aware of any difference in disease rates. According to most vets that we have talked to Parvo, Distemper and the like are “everywhere” and your dog will run across them regularly if they leave your yard often. Many vets are not actively suggesting to their clients all of these vaccines and some actually discourage the use of some of them. It is also not clear what the word “current” vaccination means. Does the dog need the vaccine annually (which is quickly going out of common practice), every three years or once or twice in its life? All of these are options with various vets.
But for now the Montrose Beach and the off-leash areas of Chicago are practically off limits to out of town visitors.
The city permit information is at this link.