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Dog Off Leash Complaints Soar

Animal control on lookout for canine owner offenders in area parks.

A woman on roller blades is injured when a “friendly” off leash dog jumps on her, causing her to fall; an elderly man is hurt when another “friendly” off leash dog knocks him over. 

These are but two recent examples of incidents in Northbrook parks where dog owners failed to keep their dogs leashed, and as a result, there were injuries.

Northbrook hasn’t made headlines like Chicago, where last month a 62-year-old jogger was attacked and nearly killed by two unleashed pit bulls. However, as long as village dog owners let their dogs run free where they shouldn’t, injuries are likely to follow. And within the past nine months, complaints have spiked, according to Gina Manski, Northbrook's animal control officer.

“I can tell you from my own knowledge, the complaints used to ebb and flow and are now pretty much constant,” she said. “Not only have complaints been from walkers, joggers and bikers but from other, responsible, dog walkers who have their dog on a leash and other off leash dogs approach them. Not all dogs are ‘dog friendly.’”

Village ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash at all times unless on their owner’s property, or the private property of another with that person’s permission. The has a separate ordinance prohibiting dogs from running off leash in village parks and banning them from golf courses altogether.

According to Manski, it’s mostly the same owners who let their dogs run free, and they know the few places in area parks where animal control officers can hide. So they don’t let their dogs off of their leashes until they know an officer is not present.

“I have caught some repeat offenders twice. Hopefully, after being ticketed twice, people will comply,” Manski said. 

has by far the most dog-related complaints, while on Sanders Road is second, according to Manski.

Some of those who have been the least happy at Techny Park are actually other dog owners who abide by the law and keep their dogs restrained. Last week, Manski observed an off-leash Yellow Lab that from its owner and began circling a man who had his dog on leash.

“When the lab owner finally got control of her dog, the ‘on leash’ dog owner who had just arrived at the park turned around and left,” she said. “I saw it from the other side of the basin and cited the offending dog owner when I made contact with her.”

Scofflaw St. Bernards. Law-breaking Labradors. Fine-risking Golden Retrievers. They all face penalties. Violators of the park district’s ordinance against dogs off leash can be fined $10, while the village also fines violators anywhere in Northbrook $25 for the first offense, $30 for second, $50 for third and $150 for the fourth. If offenses continue, the fines may climb higher, or an officer may issue a court date. Citations are the sole responsibility of the police department.

Last Monday afternoon, in blustery, gray weather, three people were observed with dogs near Techny basin. One of them, a young man in a hoodie, walked his medium-sized mixed breed dog on a leash. But the other two dog walkers allowed their four legged companions to roam leash free, this despite the fact that the park has signs putting dog owners on notice to leash, curb and clean up after their pets. 

On Tuesday, a woman who allowed her golden retriever to run free around Techy basin leashed her dog only before walking the last hundred feet or so out of the park. 

In addition to the problem with dogs off leash, Manski said there is ample evidence in the area around Techny basin that some dog walkers are not following local ordinances on pet waste. Dog owners are required to carry the clean up after their pets, and bags are provided at the park, free. When someone doesn’t do their duty, Manski hears about it.

“People aren’t picking up poo!” said a woman named Alice, who declined to give her last name. Walking her Jack Russell terrier, “Button,” on the basin path Wednesday morning, Alice said she seldom returns from the park these days without some of it on her shoes. She said she used to walk her dog off leash fairly often, but has stopped doing so, in part because of stepped up enforcement, in part because of other dogs being off leash, and in part because other park visitors appreciate it.

“Sometimes I’d walk him off [leash] on the Trail Through Time,” she said. “One time I put him on a leash and someone saw it and thanked me.”

Jogger Sam Onbreyt, who runs in Techny Park and Prairie with his granddaughter’s dog, Elsie, said he keeps Elsie on her leash and has not had a problem in the area with unleashed dogs. 

Another Techny Park user, Dave Flinn, said he walks his Cavalier King Charles spaniels in the park, mainly in summer, and wouldn’t trust his dogs off of their leashes even if it was legal.

“We walk the circle, and the Trail Through Time, always on leash,” Flinn said. “Charlie and I got skunked on the Trail Through Time.”  

As for Manski, with the complaints also comes gratitude: “I have a lot of people stop me when I’m out there, tell me of their negative encounters and thank me for my presence and citing offenders,” she said. 

Colleen Holohan February 13, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Yes it's very important to keep dogs on leash for their safety and for the safety of others. We really do need to somehow create a fenced area for dogs and their owners where the dogs can be exercised and can socialize . I know I can speak for hundreds of dog owners in our town. We're waiting patiently for our village leaders to respond. Why not some of the new land recently purchased adjacent to Techny Prarie Park?
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) February 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Great suggestion, Colleen. Last I heard, a dog park is one of the No. 1 requests the park district has gotten when it's done community surveys in the past.
mpadon February 13, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Northbrook dog owners need a place to let their dogs off-leash. For almost 15 years I know of people trying to secure a dog park, only to brushed off by park district officials. The majority of people who let their dogs off leash are responsible. Occasionally there may be an incident where there is a problem. It is the select few who tarnish it for the rest, just as there are a select few who won't pick up after their dog and ruin it for those who are responsible. In any situation, whether at a home, a dog park, or a back yard there may be instances where dogs have a "personality conflict" with another dog, that is normal dog behavior establishing a pecking order. To comment that it is major issue with off-leash dogs is inaccurate and irresponsible.
Steve February 13, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I used to let my dog off the leash all the time. She was able to socialize with other dogs (as well as other people). Never once in 11 years did I get a complaint. I always picked up after her and I never caused any problems with anybody. Constantly leashing your dog is the reason why your dog goes nuts when it gets a chance to be off the leash! If your dog learns that it will get many chances to run free, it won't act out when it does get those chances!
Deb February 13, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Yes, I agree with 'mpadon' above. My dogs are great off leash, but I leash them because of the coyotes. I can't tell you how many people don't pick up after their dogs on the bike path, also. There should be a dog park in Northbrook. Every other surrounding village and town has one. Northbrook residents can't use them, because you have to be a resident to park at them. Here's a thought...open a dog park somewhere in Northbrook!
Garry Manes February 14, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Northbook Pet Owners, ACO Manski is 100% correct in her finding of Wood Oaks & Techny parks. Denise Handler, (did I give you citations?) Handler is correct. It's not a liability issue. It's a fight of land, cost to build & clean.. Now, If Northbrook Village Government wanted to help pet owners - Give space to the pet owners there is a space owned by the Village of Northbrook. Vacant lot betwen Cedar Lane - Metra Tracks ,north side of Cherry Ln. Pet owners, your Animal Control Officer has to be neutral. press for a vote on local elections. Me? Been there in Officer Manski boots (1975-2002) Pet owner's help your ACO, follow the laws.... Help other pet owners secure a "pet park" for 30 years "you" wanted it, Press a vote. Garry Manes ACO Northbrook 1975-2002
Missy Wilson Taki February 14, 2012 at 07:08 AM
Thank you for this article. Although I think the people responsible for the problems probably won't read it. I'm a dog-walker in Northbrook & Glenview. I'm also a Northbrook resident with three dogs of my own. I always pick up after my dogs and client's dogs. Being a dog-walker, I always have extra bags with me just in case I come across someone who "forgot" to bring one of their own. I've heard people say, "Gee, my dog doesn't usually poop on our walks." Well, the one time he does, you need to have a bag with you. As for off-leash dogs, I've had people tell me their dog is fine with other dogs. Well, one of mine is not fine with other dogs. And some of my client's dogs aren't either. People can be really clueless about the nature of dog behavior. Even a dog who is very social with other dogs can become protective/aggressive when suddenly approached by a strange dog running toward him. I'm personally not a fan of off-leash dog parks. but if one opened up in Northbrook, I might check it out.
Melissa Morreale February 14, 2012 at 03:44 PM
As the owner of a dog-walking company and someone who walks approx. 15 dogs a day this problem is also not limited to the parks. I have seen owners walking their dogs in neighborhoods off leash. I know of 2 dogs who were killed by cars because they ran into the street when seeing another dog. I have been charged by off leash dogs while walking my leashed clients. It is your responsibility as a dog owner to keep your dog safe. The only way to guarantee that safety is to leash your dog when out in public or near traffic. And I agree with the other comments, the park district needs to deal with he fact that a dog park is more important to Northbrook residents that building another gym or upgrading facilities already in place.
Ed60062 February 14, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Once chickens are allowed in Northbrook the problem will lessen. They eat less, take up less space and make less noise than dogs. If they are off-leash they don't go far, are easier to catch, and their poo is less offensive. Further, you can eat their eggs. If you get tired of a chicken you can eat it where eating your dog is offensive to many people. Chickens make better pets, almost as good as goldfish.
Jason November 14, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Unreal. Dogs MUST BE leashed, unless you are in an "off leash" park! Done. No further consideration. I have been attacked twice by unleashed dogs - both of which the owner were surprised - that doesn't cut it. I now carry pepper spray when I jog, and spray anyone with an unleashed dog. Enjoy!

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