10/26/2011 09:37 am ET | Updated Dec 26, 2011

Chicago Dog License Crackdown: Pay Up For Your Pooch Or Face A Ticket

Chicago dogs who may have been living under the radar will soon have to be licensed, or their owners may find themselves slammed with tickets and fines.

The licenses are meant to ensure that Chicago dogs have been vaccinated for rabies, but for years the city had not enforced the ordinance. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that City Clerk Susana Mendoza is organizing a 90-day education campaign, which will include low-cost rabies vaccines and a dog registration contest. The crackdown will not begin until next year.

"Probably about half a million [dog owners] are not aware of the requirement to have their dogs licensed," Cherie Travis, the Executive Dir., Chicago Animal Care & Control, told NBC Chicago. "We're giving them plenty of notice. The goal is compliance, not enforcement. But enforcement will come at some point."

As of now, only about five percent of Chicago's total dog population is licensed. The city sold 27,918 last year, but the actual population is estimated at about 560,000, the Sun-Times reports. Licenses for neutered dogs are $5, and $50 for non-neutered pets. Senior citizens pay $2.50 and $5, respectively. Owners must provide proof that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies to receive a license.

“If there’s a complaint [or] if somebody was walking a dog and a police officer or animal control officer said, ‘I want to see the license’ . . . they could ask for it," Travis said, reiterating their plans for enforcement.

Travis acknowledged that the ordinance has not been enforced in the past, but insisted that the department would make it work this time around. Some aldermen, however, questioned whether the city's limited police force would spend its time ticketing dog owners.

“It hasn’t been an enforcement priority in the past. So, we’ll see. Obviously, our inspectors and our police officers are spread awfully thin with other code enforcement issues,” Ald. Brendan Reilly said, according to the Sun-Times.

Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza said last week that the crackdown will help increase city revenue.