Does your dog have a license? If not, it might be a bad idea to take them out in public next year, at least if you live in Chicago. This week, the city proposed an ordinance that would allow police to ticket people who are out and about with their unlicensed dogs. If you don’t have a dog license, you would be subject to a penalty of $30 to $200 — per day.
That’s the same amount as the current fine for owning an unlicensed dog, only made into a daily thing instead of a one-time payment.
I can’t really speak to how things usually work in Chicago, but I do know how bureaucracies in general work. It’s hard to imagine that the city makes it easy for people to drop by and pick up a dog license in an afternoon like you were picking up some asprin from the pharmacy. Unless there’s a grace period of about a week or a month, it’s a pretty sure thing that a lot of people would get hit with multiple days of fines under this law.
Despite the dramatic increase in consequences, some in city government are insisting that it’s not really a change. While the ordinance was proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, spokeswoman Elizabeth Langdorf told the press “We are not raising fines. We are not cracking down,” and that the ordinance is only “clarifying the ordinance language — nothing more.”
Columnist John Kass of the Chicago Tribune quotes Alex Mickley of Active! Chicago Daycare and Boarding on what he thinks the real reason behind the ordinance is: “We have it hard enough trying to get people to have a driver’s license as opposed to now worry about getting licenses to walk a dog,” Mickley said. “That sounds like ‘City Revenue’ to me.”
That’s doesn’t sound like an unreasonable claim. Like a lot of cities, Chicago has been struggling with its budget. To make up for the shortfall, the city has been relying on fines from parking tickets and from traffic cameras. Other cities have been doing the same thing, but unfortunately, it’s a solution that tends to disproportionately affect the people who can’t afford the fines. If you have money, you’re more likely to park your car in a garage instead of curbing it by a parking meter. If you’re struggling with cash, registering your dog may be a low priority in your budget.
Before becoming law, the ordinance still has to go before the full city council for a vote. What do you think? Is dog registration important enough to warrant this kind of crackdown? Or is this just another scheme to make money for the city?
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