Oak Lawn Pet Owners Face New Ordinances
Village Board amends municipal animal control ordinance introducing new requirements and stiffer fines for violations.
The amendments were spurred by an incident last summer involving an Oak Lawn man who was badly bitten by a German shepherd running loose through the neighborhood. Trustees unanimously approved the changes at their first board meeting of the year on Tuesday.
“Two residents have come up to me after having been attacked by dogs,” Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) said. “From the feedback I’ve been receiving since then it seems to be a significant problem in Oak Lawn.”
Quinlan, who requested the changes, said the revised rules aren’t meant to punish responsible pet owners but to get the attention of those who don’t take care of their animals.
The ordinances also give village authorities more leeway when following up on other complaints and finding multiple animals that aren’t properly being care for or vaccinated.
In the past the maximum fine for violations of the animal control ordinance was $750. The maximum fine is now $7,500, and $10,000 for a third "vicious dog offense"--which is not breed-specific.
“The fines get people’s attention,” Quinlan said. “The village will use leeway distinguishing between a kid accidentally leaving a gate open and the dog getting out versus someone who is a constant problem.”
The most significant changes in the ordinance apply to the maximum number of dogs and cats owned, and leash laws.
Pet ownership is now limited to no more than three dogs and cats combined. Under the old ordinance, the maximum number of dogs kept was three, but did not specify requirements for cats.
Residents who currently own more than three dogs and cats will be grandfathered into the changes, but may be asked by the village to produce a letter from their vet as proof that their pets are well cared for and up to date on vaccinations..
New pet owners and new residents, however, will be required to comply with the changes right away.
“The village won’t come in and remove your animals,” Quinlan said. “The key is are you registering them with the village and getting them rabies shots.”
Dogs also will no longer be allowed to be off leash on their owners’ private property if not secured by a fence. Owners are now required to chain their dogs or keep them in a dog run or kennel if there is no fence around the yard.
Dog owners face fines between $50 and $5,000 for a first “animal at large” offense.
Quinlan said the revised ordinances are meant to protect residents walking through the neighborhood with or without their pets.
“So many people have gotten attacked by dogs, I think there are many that we’re not even made aware of,” she said.