Mendoza: Increase Fines for Owners Who Don't License Dogs

Officials estimate the dog population in the city of Chicago to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000

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    dog tag art/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

    Despite a threat of fine and a contest that awarded a $2,000 topaz- and ruby-encrusted dog tag, Chicago's efforts to get dog owners to register their pooches has largely been a failure.

    City Clerk Susana Mendoza pushed dog registrations during her first budget two years ago, but at a City Council budget hearing on Tuesday said owners won't feel a sense of urgency until fines -- currently between $30 and $200 -- are increased.

    "I really firmly believe that without a strong enforcement piece attached to any kind of licensing, you really just don't even do the licensing, because if people know there's no repercussions for not getting the permit, then they're not really inclined to get the permit," Mendoza said.

    The ordinance mandating owners license their dogs has been on the books for years but in 2011 had just 27,918 dogs on the rolls. Officials estimate the dog population in the city of Chicago to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000.

    During the two-year push, the city added just 11,500 registrations, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing city records, a fact that frustrates Mendoza.

    "We’re responsible for licensing. We did a tremendous job of that the year that we tackled that hard. But it was really predicated on a strong enforcement effort, which we’re not responsible for," she said. "I have not seen a crackdown that I would feel comfortable with in terms of really getting people to license their dogs. I’m very disappointed in it."

    She said the City of Chicago, with its budget woes, is failing to collect millions of dollars in fines by not enforcing the ordinance.

    Licensing a dog enhances public health efforts because the canine must be vaccinated for rabies in order to get one. Licenses for dogs who have been spayed or neutered cost just $5; otherwise, it's $50.