Faulty Grant Park utility box fixed after dog electrocuted

Published February 21, 2007

Chicago Park District officials said Tuesday they had tested all the utility access panels in Grant Park and fixed the wires under one where a dog was electrocuted last weekend.

Smokey, a Labrador retriever mix owned by Laura Mercer, was electrocuted Saturday evening during a walk in the park. Another dog was shocked but did not die, police said.

Park officials said an electrical wire or fitting within a metal electric box in the walkway along the south end of the park, just east of Michigan Avenue and near 8th Street, made contact with the side of the box. That allowed current to pass to the access panel, which the dogs walked over as they strolled along the walkway.

Gail Merritt, president of the South Loop Dog Park Action Cooperative, which helped get the Grant Bark Park built in Grant Park, said she is concerned about what the Park District will do to make sure this does not happen again.

"We know where dogs walk and where people walk and those should be a priority in terms of checking the metal plates," she said.

Laura Mercer insists that her dog was on asphalt during most of the incident, about 5 feet from the panel Park District officials blame in the death.

The dangers of stray voltage gained national attention after the death of Jodie Lane in New York City in 2004.

She collapsed in slushy, bitter weather in the East Village as she walked her dogs and was electrocuted.

Grant Park Conservancy President Bob O'Neill said he is concerned because the park has been trying to attract dogs and dog-owners with a new dog park.

"When something like this happens, people feel nervous," O'Neill said. "We don't want another reason for dog walkers to feel unwelcomed in Grant Park."