Opinion: The Problem with Chicago’s Dog Beach and Parks

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.



10 Responses to “Opinion: The Problem with Chicago’s Dog Beach and Parks”

  1. Joan says:

    I know how you feel. Having grown up a Chicago girl, I visit every summer. One of my biggest disappointments is that It’s almost impossible to take my dogs to the beach. You managed to get more info than I did out of the park district. They have made it to restrictive. Maybe someday we will get to go.

  2. Leah says:

    I love Montrose beach and used to take my dog there a few times a week.

    I don’t think the permit is an issue. It is done for mainly health reasons. Unfortunately there are always bad apples in the bunch who do not properly care for and train their dogs. It give the rest of us responsible owners a bad name. There is the financial issue too. Someone has to maintain the parks/beach.
    But I do agree there should be a “daily Fee” for visitors. But then again, over the past two years I have been going I have never seen anyone try and enforce the permit issue. Which is sad.
    Being a responsible dog owner I travel with a copy of current vaccine records in my car, just in case…My dogs ( Dobermans) go everywhere with us and you never know when your going to run into that “overly zealous” law enforcer.

    Recently we moved to Denver. The dog park situation is much worse in Denver. (None with in Denver proper, all a 30 min drive away). But No permits or fees or vaccines required. Last week we entered a dog park with 4 different male bully breeds UN NEUTERED running around. Two of the dogs were with different owners who were both young teens, ( 13 & 15). Tell me that wasn’t a fight waiting to happen. We immediately left when we realised the issue.

    Chicago-ians have it pretty good when it comes to dog parks!

  3. Anj says:

    On a personal note, I don’t see this issue having much of a problem for the dog owners. It is even more beneficial to the dog owners and to their dogs as well. We all need a healthy and clean environment for all of us. What is wrong with having to have this permits from the vet? If we love our dogs or whatever pets we have, we also have to ensure them of their safety and they should be healthy all the time. Even to mankind, freedom is not absolute, we have to obey and recognize the laws.

  4. Montrose Beach in the city of Chicago and Evanston Dog Beach are two popular summertime spots when the weather gets steamy, and all that fur just gets to be too much. A little Frisbee in the sand and a dip in Lake Michigan helps a dog keep cool.

  5. This is also a horrible place to bring little kids. There is a people beach just across the fence. Don’t let your 2 year old run around and grab and pinch foreign dogs – it is a recipe for serious disaster.

  6. Belmont Harbor Dog Beach – This is an unofficial dog beach and it is possible to get a ticket for having your dog off leash but apparently it has been used as a dog beach for 20yrs.

  7. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

  8. I am so glad that I found your post! We’re gaining able to adopt our initial puppy and thanks to details like this I really feel confident that we’ve researched our determination. We’ve already researched the veterinarian that we are going to be going to at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital. We’ve had the opportunity to go to many from the nearby animal hospitals in Denver and we really feel terrific about our determination to go with Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital. Your posts are informative and well written, they have assisted us tremendously..

  9. Hi There Dogfriendly,
    Interesting Thoughts, Dog joint problems can show up in older canines often. There are a variety of types of joint issues dogs get, but the most common one is arthritis. Almost all people and dogs will develop joint problems later in their lives.
    Great Job!

  10. Mike says:

    I think it’s a great idea not only does it require pet owners to be responsible but it dose help with the money it cost to take care of these off leash dog parks.

    I live in LA and am origionaly from Chicago where I made a daily visit to Montrose beach from Bridgeport with my dog rain or shine. I gladly paid any fees that were requires by the city to enjoy this convienance not available in other Cities. Not only is it a social environment for the dogs I met tons of incredible people there as well that had it not been for the parks I might have never had the oppertunity to.

    In Los Angeles there are no parks on the beach for the dogs to enjoy except in Huntington Beach which is about an hour drive from everywhere. I think this is highly due to the fact that people in LA dont feel they have to pick up after there dogs which makes it very difficult to allow any type of social areas for the animals and people to enjoy together. But I am bias because I grew up in a city where the mayor went above and beyond to make sure we had a clean city to live in. I’m finding that to be the complete oppisit in most areas of LA that I’ve seen, not all, but most.

    I’ve actually started to research how to lobby the local and state governments to create parks like the ones in Chicago and was going to include fees and fines like the ones in Chicago. I really feel that with out people being held accountable for there pets actions will help everyone to be able to enjoy placess like the ones Chi-town

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