Pets OK at suburban farmers markets? Some say no

 
 
Posted6/12/2018 5:30 AM
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  • Momo, a maltese, finds a snack during a trip to the farmers market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville, one of several markets across the suburbs open to people and their pets.

      Momo, a maltese, finds a snack during a trip to the farmers market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville, one of several markets across the suburbs open to people and their pets. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Haley Wentz and her mom, Tonya Wentz, bring their dog, Molly, to the farmers market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville. Haley emailed the market first to make sure dogs were OK. "It's a good way to get a walk in," she said.

      Haley Wentz and her mom, Tonya Wentz, bring their dog, Molly, to the farmers market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville. Haley emailed the market first to make sure dogs were OK. "It's a good way to get a walk in," she said. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Leslie Luther of Barrington pets her dog, Buddy, during the farmers market at Paulus Park in Lake Zurich, one of several across the region that allows people and their pets.

      Leslie Luther of Barrington pets her dog, Buddy, during the farmers market at Paulus Park in Lake Zurich, one of several across the region that allows people and their pets. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Rob Thorp and his daughter Hailey, 12, of Lake Zurich stop by the farmers market at Paulus Park with their dog, Carolina.

      Rob Thorp and his daughter Hailey, 12, of Lake Zurich stop by the farmers market at Paulus Park with their dog, Carolina. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The combination of pets and fresh produce marks the start of summer at many of the dozens of farmers markets across the suburbs.

The appeal of bringing the family pooch to the hometown farmstand seems so strong that some markets are beginning to promote themselves as pet-friendly, while others boast purveyors of organic, natural or locally made dog treats.

Yet within the haven for families and pets that is the open-air farmers market, at least a couple are bucking the animal-friendly trend and enforcing a people-only rule.

Markets at 5th Avenue Station in Naperville and Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe say they don't allow pets, although there is an exception for service animals and, at the gardens, another exception for the Spooky Pooch Parade on Oct. 20.

The no-pet rules stem from liability concerns, past incidents of dogs biting or frightening children, space constraints, facility policies and vendor preferences.

"The farmers were finding that people weren't watching their dogs," said Kathy Mortensen, who manages the Naperville Farmers Market in the parking lot at 5th Avenue Station. "They were just going ahead and letting them sniff the food or be active. They finally said, 'We prefer not to have the animals here.'"

Angelina Lee, left, and her sister, Julianna Lee, like to bring their dog, Momo, to the farmers market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville, one of several across the suburbs that bills itself as pet-friendly. "All the farmers market booths like him," Angelina said.
  Angelina Lee, left, and her sister, Julianna Lee, like to bring their dog, Momo, to the farmers market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville, one of several across the suburbs that bills itself as pet-friendly. "All the farmers market booths like him," Angelina said. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

The bustling market has been taking place for roughly 30 years and has been pet-free for more than 20 of them, Mortensen said. The pet-free rule is posted on signs at the entrance, but sometimes operators have to remind visitors their four-legged friends aren't allowed.

In one such situation last year, Mortensen said a shopper with a dog initially refused to leave.

"In the meantime, their dog turned around and did nip a child right in front of me. It happened so fast," she said. "The person took their dog and walked away."

But it's been smooth sailing so far at the Elgin Farmers Market.

"In general, we're seeing more pets and people bringing their pets when they come downtown and walking around," said Jennifer Fukala, executive director of the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin, which puts on the market on Grove Avenue near DuPage Court. "We haven't had any problems in the past, so we're kind of rolling with it."

Pet owners, however, do have to follow city leash ordinances.

Tony Solano of Barrington takes his dog Roscoe for a spin through the farmers market at Paulus Park in Lake Zurich, where pets are welcome.
  Tony Solano of Barrington takes his dog Roscoe for a spin through the farmers market at Paulus Park in Lake Zurich, where pets are welcome. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Many pet-friendly markets say they allow animals because they're in an outdoor environment, close to neighborhoods where people like to walk their dogs.

That's the case in Arlington Heights, where the historical society hosts a market at North Vail Avenue and West Fremont Street on the north side of downtown during prime dog-walking time of 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays.

"We just wanted to open it up for everyone to enjoy it," said Michelle Bonnette, Arlington Heights Historical Society coordinator, "especially in the mornings when they're walking their dogs anyway."

Similarly, the Farmers Market at St. John's Episcopal Church in Naperville caters to a nearby dog-walking population from its location at 750 Aurora Ave. south of downtown.

"So it makes perfect sense for us to allow dogs," market manager Jan Hummel said.

The market actively promotes its pet-friendliness, perhaps in contrast to the pet-free market at 5th Avenue Station only a mile or so away. Hummel said the Market at St. John's is in its sixth year and offers 22 vendors, one of which recently began selling homemade dog cookies from a recipe Hummel found herself.

While the Market at St. John's and others in Bolingbrook, Elmhurst, Elk Grove and Huntley promote the sales of pet treats, markets in Lake Zurich, Aurora and St. Charles quietly allow pets as well.

The St. Charles Farmers Market at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church has been pet-friendly "forever," market manager Rob Murphy said, and the regulars know it.

"We even have one customer who comes through with a cockatoo in her backpack," he said.

People -- minus their pets -- can shop for fresh produce at the Naperville Farmers Market at 5th Avenue Station, which has been pet-free for more than 20 years.
People -- minus their pets -- can shop for fresh produce at the Naperville Farmers Market at 5th Avenue Station, which has been pet-free for more than 20 years. - Courtesy of Naperville Farmers Market

Mortensen at the pet-free Naperville market said she sees the appeal for pet owners but feels responsible for the comfort and safety of all customers and vendors. So at her market, pets will remain on the sidelines.

"It's the owners that have to take care of their dogs and be respectful," Mortensen said. "I understand them liking to take their animals out, but unfortunately, it's a liability."

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