BUCKTOWN — Dog owners beware: letting your pup off-leash in The 606's parks may get you a ticket.
Sgt. Bob Kane, a Chicago Police spokesman, confirmed that three tickets were issued to dog owners in Churchill Park on a recent Friday afternoon.
Kane said that the Shakespeare District police officers have been "working with the community to educate them on the importance of keeping their dogs on leashes" and have issued "numerous warnings" to dog owners throughout the district.
Dog owners who allow their pets to play off leash can face a $300 fine and up to $10,000 plus jail time if an attack occurs while their animal is off leash, according to city code.
Kane said that the number of tickets issued to dog owners whose dogs were off-leash in the city this year was not readily available. But pet owners say they're seeing more enforcement.
"Historically, they have never given tickets but now they are," said a Bucktown resident who was playing with her dog inside of an enclosed dog-friendly area adjacent to an open field in Churchill Park, 1825 N. Damen Ave., on Sunday. The woman said a friend had gotten a $300 ticket the previous week while playing with his dog off leash in the field next to the dog park.
Jordan Levey, a Logan Square resident, who walks her dog in Churchill Park a few times each week, says she has seen police pull up and reprimand dog owners for having their dogs off-leash.
"I've even seen them taking photos of dog owners and threatening arrest," Levey said.
Ananda Breslof, president of the Walsh Park Advisory Council, said there have been "numerous complaints" about dogs off-leash in the park at 1722 N. Ashland Ave. Like Churchill Park, Walsh Park is also along The 606, an elevated trail that opened in June.
Breslof said people who let their dogs off-leash are showing "a lack of consideration towards the community, people who are afraid of dogs, children, dogs who are afraid of dogs and so on."
Breslof said she has heard the excuse from dog owners, "But it's only me!"
"One person leads to many others, all the time," Breslof said.
Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman, said "patrons should inform park employees of off-leash dogs" and pointed to the Chicago Park District Code, which prohibits unleashed dogs in any park areas besides "dog-friendly areas," commonly known as dog parks.
Curtis Scott owner of Curtis Scott Dog Training, 1532 N. Western Ave., said he sees five or six dogs in the area off-leash per day on the weekends, when the problem is most prevalent.
"Just because your dog is friendly, doesn't mean the dog you are approaching is. Usually when I say something [to the owner] they ignore me, or they act like, 'My dog is trained enough [to be off-leash] and why is yours not?' " Scott said.
Scott says he is "all for ticketing" and fines getting slapped on off leash dog owners.
"You have to respect the rules," Scott said.
A spokeswoman for The Trust for Public Land, The 606's partner that oversaw the construction and management of the 2.7-mile long elevated trail and five ground-level parks, said police and the park district "will be your best resources" related to asking questions about dogs off-leash in The 606's parks.
In a recent e-newsletter, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) warned of the dangers of allowing dogs to go off leash, such as "risking your pet's and others' safety" and inviting the possibility of another dog startling an off-leash dog.
Carley King, a Bucktown resident who was playing with two of her three dogs inside of an enclosed dog friendly area in Walsh Park on a recent Sunday, said that she thinks playing with a dog off-leash is OK as long as dog owners and dogs are the only ones in the park.
"If you want to keep dogs off-leash, you've got to wake up early or stay up late. Nobody is here at 6:30 a.m. I would not let my dog walk around when there are a bunch of kids in the park. I think people who let dogs off leash in this park when kids are here are a--holes," King said.
A woman named MacKenzie, who declined to share last name, was playing fetch with her Australian shepherd in Wicker Park's namesake park, 1425 N. Damen Ave., around 6:45 a.m. Monday. "I've been playing [off-leash] with my dog for two years. It has never been a problem," the woman said.
Adam Housely, president of the Wicker Park Dog Park, said that dogs off-leash is a problem "every weekend, especially in the morning." Housely said he was not aware of any stepped up enforcement efforts by police in Wicker Park.
"It's on and off whether they enforce it or not," Housely said.
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