Dog parks are also important to help dogs socialize with others, said Veronica Magdaleno. She volunteers for the Woof Lawn Dog Park, a dog park that opened this summer in the West Lawn neighborhood. She said she gently steps in if people aren’t following the rules at the park, like picking up after their dogs. She also has a plan if things turn aggressive.
“I would take pictures, I would call 311,” Magdaleno said. “I will speak with the other people to let them know like, ‘Hey, do you want me to take action? Or can you take care of it yourself?’ And see if there’s any way that we can work through it.”
Before the dog park opened in her community she had to travel to the McKinley Park dog park. Leaving the neighborhood is not easily accessible to all dog owners.
According to a WBEZ analysis of 311 data, the communities with the highest number of dog bite complaints since 2019 are largely on the West Side of the city.
The Lower West Side, which includes most of Pilsen, has the highest number of 311 dog bite complaints, more than 250. Austin was second highest with 245 complaints. Those two communities don’t have many spaces where dogs can run free and unleashed.
Eddie Guillen, a community organizer and volunteer at Woof Lawn, said dog parks can be a place to educate other dog owners about regulations and overall safety.
“We’re not here to police anything. We’re volunteers,” Guillen said. “But what can we do to help out?”
He said he understands sometimes access to veterinarians can be challenging, but dog park volunteers are there to help bridge that gap and help people understand their responsibilities as dog owners.
Adriana Cardona-Maguigad is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZCuriousCity and @AdrianaCardMag. Amy Qin contributed data analysis.