01/05/2012 09:58 am ET

Chicago Announces 'Dog Of Distinction' Contest, Registration Campaign

After recently announcing that the city would crack down on enforcement of Chicago dog licensing requirements in the new year, City Clerk Susana Mendoza unveiled a new campaign aimed at increasing city dog registration -- with a new added perk.

The city's brand new campaign [PDF] will enter all dogs registering with the City Clerk's Office through the end of March into a contest where, on April 2, five dogs and their owners will be chosen at random to compete for the crown of Chicago's first-ever Dog of Distinction.

The public will be able to vote online in April for the dog they feel "best exemplifies Chicago's spirit." Dogs previously registered with the city dating back to when Mendoza took office in May will also be entered in the competition.

All finalists will receive a package of prizes donated from area businesses, while the Dog of Distinction will be granted a custom-designed dog tag, an appearance on a television ad, a weekend stay at the Palmer House Hilton, a photo shoot at Urban Out Sitters and a feature story in Chicagoland Tails magazine. All prizes, Mendoza said, were donated to the cause by participating businesses.

Clerk Mendoza noted that, given Chicago is estimated to be home to nearly a half million dogs but only 30,000 are registered with the city, it's likely many people "are simply not aware of the requirement to register your dog with the city," according to a statement announcing the campaign.

"Clearly we have work to do to raise those registration numbers," Mendoza continued. "It's not just a matter of complying with the law. Registration aids in public health and reunites stray dogs with their owners."

In October, Clerk Mendoza announced that her office planned to undergo a 90-day education campaign, also including low-cost rabies vaccinations, in order to spread the word about the requirement before upping enforcement. Licenses for neutered dogs cost $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.

In the two weeks that followed that announcement, Chicago dog owners, likely fearing being hit with fines ranging from $30 to $200, purchased more than 2,000 new licenses and raised $20,000 in city revenue -- a 252 percent surge over registrations during the same period the previous year.

Licenses can be purchased on the City Clerk's website, over the phone by calling 412-744-DOGS or by visiting one of the clerk's office locations: 121 N. LaSalle St., 5674 S. Archer Ave. or 5430 W. Gale St.