Animals and Pets

Caring for Our Pets

Providing a home and family for our pets comes with responsibilities. In addition to providing food, shelter, and love pet owners also need to follow a few rules to help ensure their pet’s safety as well as the health and well-being of other pets and people.

Outfit your dog or cat with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance your companion animal may slip out the door – an ID rag or microchip implant greatly increases the chance that your pet will be returned home safely. Most pets without tags are never reunited with their owners. You can easily purchase an ID tag at a pet supply store like Petco or PetSmart.

Spay or neuter your pet! This will keep your pet healthier and will reduce the problem of dog and cat over-population. Dogs who have this routine surgery tend to live longer, be healthier, and have fewer behavior problems (e.g. biting. running away).


Be a good neighbor, please clean up after your dog.

Dog Licenses

It’s the law! Municipal Code 7-12-140 requires all dogs four months and older be registered with the City of Chicago. Registering your dog also helps your dog be found if lost. Dogs must have a current rabies vaccination. Get your dog vaccinated at any Chicago area veterinarian clinic or other licensed provider. Your dog’s registration expires on either the registration expiration date (i.e. 1 or 3 years after purchase, depending on the length you purchase) or the expiration date of its current rabies vaccination, whichever comes first.

Dog registration is required to stay at many dog boarding and daycare service facilities and for acquiring permission to enter the Chicago Park District’s dog-friendly areas.

Purchase Dog Registration through the Office of the City Clerk.

Leash Laws, Fines, Damages

Chicago law requires dogs to always be on leashes when they are off the owner’s property. Rescue and law enforcement dogs are exempt from this law. Even the most faithful animal can run the risk of being labeled a stray, as well as become the victim of pet theft. Stray animals can become impounded by animal control, citizen complaints can be reported to animal control, and owners can be subjected to fines for an unrestrained pet.

Even without any damage to persons or property, the base fine for a violation of Chicago leash laws is $300. If your unrestrained animal damages property, the fine is between $300 and $1,000 as well as possible responsibility for damage repairs. The fine for an animal attack or bite is between $300 and $10,000, with possible incarceration or community hours required by the owner. If an animal has caused severe injury to any person or other domestic animal, contact Chicago Animal Care and Control immediately. Once declared dangerous, the dog may be euthanized or ordered to reside with the owner, subject to strict limitations, including muzzling, restraining, installing warning signs on the property, and carrying at least $100,000.00 of property insurance.

Dog Friendly Areas (DFA)

Chicago Park District facilities may include Dog Friendly Areas. These spaces are designed sections within Chicago parks or beaches where dogs are allowed to run off-leash. The owner or other responsible person bringing any dog into a dog friendly area must have a permit and tag issued by a participating veterinarian for each dog. Any owner that partakes in the off-leash areas is required to have a permit and tag for each off-leash animal. Permits are available through numerous veterinarians within the city for a fee of $5 per animal.

Fees for Unsterilized Dogs

Unsterilized dog fees are higher because thousands of dogs are euthanized annually or suffer as strays because of unwanted, unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering. Find more information about low cost spay and neuter clinics.


Pet cats should be kept indoors. This is for their own safety. Although you can train a cat to wear a leash, and they may enjoy roaming and hunting, once a cat gets a taste of the outdoors it will be difficult to dissuade them from demanding to be let out. Outdoor cats may appear in control of themselves but you can not protect them from people with cruel intentions, other animals, or from ingesting material that may be poisonous to them. To care for your pet cat, keep them inside.

As of January 1, 2020, all cat owners are required to have their pets vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian.

Stray Cats, Feral Cat Colonies

Most of the cats you see outside are best left where they are. Cats wandering outside are usually not far from their homes and are unlikely to be lost. A cat that is not injured, ill or in imminent danger is unlikely to need assistance. If you find kittens and they seem well and not in immediate danger, the best thing you can do is to leave them alone. Mother cats may leave their litters for several hours while looking for food or avoiding humans. Mom will likely return shortly, and it’s critical that the kittens remain in her care as she offers the best chance for their survival.

  • Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR): There are tens of thousands of outdoor community cats living in our neighborhoods throughout the Chicagoland area. Trap, Neuter, Return programs are also effective in helping to mitigate bird predation – reducing the number of feral cats creates a net positive impact on the small animal population of Chicago. Find more information about this program on the PAWS Chicago website.
  • Cats at Work, Alternative Placement for Feral Cats: Treehouse Animal Shelter manages the “Cats at Work” program, relocating feral cats when they cannot be returned to their original territory. Treehouse Animal Shelter works with community members to find ideal location for the cats – for example, working in local breweries. Cats at Work cats are free-roaming cats who have already gone through the trap/neuter/return process and are vaccinated against diseases like rabies. While feral cats do kill rats, often their pheromones are enough to scare rats away. To learn more, visit the Treehouse Cats at Work page.

Service Animals

Assistance Animals are animals that do work, perform tasks, assist, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Importantly, assistance animals are not considered pets and housing providers may not impose fees or deposits that are required for pets. Since 2010, the definition of service animal has been limited to a dog.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released revised guidance for housing providers assessing the needs of individuals seeking to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes it illegal to discriminate in housing based on disability. A person with a disability may seek a “reasonable accommodation” from a housing provider so that they may have an equal opportunity as an able-bodied person to use and enjoy a dwelling. Note: This is best practices guidance and not a law.

Lost Pets

If you lose a pet:

  1. Check your home and surrounding vicinity (cats may have found a clever place to hide)
  2. Leave out water and bedding for your dog
  3. If you have lost your dog, call our Chicago Animal Care and Control at 312-744-DOGS with your registration number (on your dog’s tag).
  4. Post flyers in your neighborhood. Be sure to write, “PLEASE DO NOT chase, call, or whistle as this may cause them to run in fear and into danger.”
  5. Post on social media,, Craig’s List, and contact us to include a message in our weekly newsletter.

If you find a stray:

If you find a stray animal, you can take it to a vet clinic or Chicago Animal Care and Control to check for a microchip and try to find the owner. Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) can assist with scanning for microchips daily between 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. without an appointment.

Please consider fostering the animal to give the owner time to find the pet. Lost pets typically stay close to home so fostering them where they are found helps get pets home. In addition, you can help to find the pet’s owner via social media by posting flyers on or other community sites.

Animal Nuisance Complaints

If you are having an issue with a neighbors pet, please contact our office for help mediating the issue. We prefer to have issues handled through mediation first; if necessary we can escalate an issue. Chicago Animal Care and Control will only address dangerous animals – if your neighbor’s dog barking is getting on your nerves, they can not assist you. If you have a complaint, our office can file it for you.

Rodent Control

Please see our page on Street and Alley Maintenance to learn about Rodent Control.

Wildlife Issues

We may see wild animals in urban areas: bats, rabbits, hawks, deer, raccoons, opossums, foxes and sometimes coyote. Wild animals should never be approached or fed. If you see an animal that may be a danger to itself or others, or a dead animal, call 3-1-1 to report it. Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) provides assistance when wildlife is considered to be a threat to safety and/or a nuisance.

Wildlife and Nature Preserves

West Ridge Natural Area is located within West Ridge Nature Park and contains over 20 acres of woodland, wetland, and lagoon habitat. This natural area offers meandering pathways, boardwalks, and fishing areas. A multi-purpose trail loops throughout the park, including boardwalks that cross over environmentally sensitive areas. Please note – no dogs are allowed within the park. Explore other green spaces and parks.

Bird Watching

Chicago Park District nature areas are excellent sites to spot native and migrating bird species. is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that allows bird watchers to contribute their bird sightings to help build a world-wide resource for research, conservation and education. You can explore regions and species, search photos and sounds, and share your bird sightings!

Bird Safety, Bird Rescue

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) is a non-profit volunteer project within the Chicago Audubon Society. If you find an injured bird, call them for help at (773) 988-1867. You can also visit:

Do not attempt to rescue a raptor (hawk, owl, falcon) or large wading bird (heron, egret, bittern) on your own. These birds can inflict serious injuries with their beaks or talons. Call the CBCM hotline, (773) 988-1867, or a wildlife rehabilitation center.

  • Make windows safer for birds: Birds will try to fly through transparent glass that they cannot detect. Birds will fly towards reflective glass that mirrors sky, plants or their own reflection. Window decals, shades, blinds, and turning lights off at night can help.
  • Lights Out Chicago: Join light reduction efforts to make Chicago a safer place for migrating birds! Encourage your office or building management to support light reduction in downtown and lakefront areas by turning off all bright display lighting on the top of your building in the downtown area or along the lakefront from 11:00 p.m. until sunrise during spring migration (March 15 to June 15) and fall migration (August 15 to November 15).

311 City Service Requests

Contact the 40th Ward Office

Our office works to ensure you feel supported, connected, and valued. Please reach out with any questions or concerns you may have—we are here to help!