CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago is holding a "Dogs of Distinction" contest before cracking down on owners of unlicensed dogs as it tries to boost the city's dog licensing level above the current 5 percent rate.
The contest is the carrot in a carrot-and-stick effort by City Clerk Susana Mendoza to get more dog owners to register their pets. Mendoza heralded the "Dogs of Distinction" contest as she said that fewer than 30,000 of Chicago's nearly 500,000 dogs are properly registered. Licenses cost $5 for neutered dogs and $50 for un-neutered dogs.
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A license also requires the owner to show proof of rabies vaccination.
The city clerk's office will launch a 90-day dog registration campaign, with all dogs registered by March 31 entered in the contest.
"Anyone who registers their dog with chicityclerk.com, or by coming into any one of our satellite offices, or City Hall – from now until the end of March – will be automatically entered into the 'Dogs of Distinction' campaign," Mendoza said.
That will be followed by Internet voting for five dogs chosen at random from the entries in the "Dogs of Distinction" contest, with the winner to get a $2,000 ruby and topaz-encrusted dog tag in the shape of the Chicago flag. Voters will be asked to pick the dog that best exemplifies "Chicago's spirit."
In addition to the $2,000 dog tag, the winning owner will get a weekend stay at the Palmer House Hilton, a photo shoot at Urban Out Sitters, a story in Chicagoland Tails magazine and a TV ad on WCIU-TV.
Finalists will also get prizes, including a reservation to a "Dog Tea Party" at the Palmer House in the spring, two tickets for a dog-friendly Shoreline architectural cruise, a gift package of dog treats and accessories from Urban Out Sitters, and a Chicagoland Tails gift package.
After the contest will come the stick. Mendoza said that, in the summer, a ticketing campaign would start on Chicago's beaches and parks, targeting owners of unlicensed dogs. But she said she doubted police officers would be assigned specifically to hand out the tickets, with fines between $30 and $200.
"We'll be targeting the beaches, we'll be targeting the park districts, we'll be targeting any individual who is reported to our office, or to 311, or to the police," Mendoza said.
But before breaking out the stick, the city will educate pet owners about the requirement to register their dogs, to make sure they know they need to register their pet.
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