Kathleen Huttner, by her own admission, is a rule follower.

So much so that when the Oak Park condo dweller decided to get a companion puppy for her Schnauzer, Freya, Huttner went straight to the village ordinance on pet ownership.

That’s when Huttner learned that to get a friend for little Freya would put her at odds with the Village of Oak Park.

The ordinance explicitly forbids Oak Parkers who live in such buildings from owning more than one pup, according to her interpretation.

According to the ordinance, residents of single-family homes and townhomes may own no more than three dogs; residents of two- or three-flat residential buildings may own no more than two dogs; and residents of multi-family buildings containing four or more dwelling units may own only one dog.

“If there’s a rule, Oak Park probably has it,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “The worst thing would be to get a second dog and be forced to get rid of it.”

Oak Park Health Director Mike Charley confirmed that Oak Park has rules on pet ownership not just for dogs, but also for cats, rabbits, gerbils, birds, and even pigs.

According to village code, Oak Parker residents may own no more than one pigeon and no more than two rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils or fowl of any kind.

The ordinance also specifies that those in single-family homes, where cats are allowed to roam outside, may own no more than two cats. Those in multi-family buildings, where cats are not allowed outside, may also own two cats. Residents of single-family dwellings where cats are not allowed outside can own four cats.

The village limits the total number of animals allowed in a single dwelling, not including fish, to 10 in a single-family residence and five in a multi-family residence.

Animals residents are not allowed to own in the village include: pigs; swine; sheep; cattle; horses; goats or similar animals; or any naturally wild animals, except for birds or fish.

Zoological parks, performing animal exhibitions, educational institutions, veterinary hospitals and animal shelters are excluded from the prohibited animals rule.

Charley noted that the question of the pet ownership limits was recently referred to the Department of Health for review.

Trustee Simone Boutet, who requested the review, said she believes the limits are too restrictive. “Your landlord can limit the number of pets and so can the condo association,” she said.

Huttner said she’s been trying since early May to get the village to discuss the issue. In the meantime, she’s been taking Freya to her parents’ home a few days a week to play with their dog, Molly. “I think it would be nice to have another dog,” she lamented.

The ordinance was last changed in September 2004, when trustees voted to allow those in single-family residences to own three dogs, according to a Chicago Tribune article.

That rule came after Oak Parker Susan Bailey filed a lawsuit challenging the limit to two dogs in single-family homes. Bailey wanted three.

The story notes that Bailey “brought home a miniature dachshund to help her two children cope with the approaching deaths of her family’s two older dogs …”

She launched a petition drive to challenge the ordinance, according to the Tribune. “I’m incredibly relieved,” Bailey told the Tribune, following the update of the village’s 100-year-old pet ordinance. “I guess now I can relax, not having to give up a dog.”

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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