Leash-Free And Lovin’ It

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / eldadcarin

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / eldadcarin

If local, state, or federal park managers were asked to identify a trend for users of park property, many of the managers would name the increase in dogs going off-leash. According to survey results released earlier this year by The American Pet Products Association, dog ownership has increased to an all-time high of 83.3-million dogs (www.americanpetproducts.org). 

Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that requests from dog owners to park managers for designated locations for their pets to play have also increased. As a result, municipal officials have devised a variety of new policies, including designating off-leash hours in specific parks, installing pet runs that can be used for a fee, and having pet owners take the initiative to form a group, raise money for construction materials, and then maintain the recreation area. 

The Benefits

Park managers and dog owners realize there are many advantages to establishing specific areas for dogs to run off-leash:  

  • Pets and other park users will be safer if kept separate.
  • Parks will be active during off-peak times, which helps lower crime and vandalism.
  • Neighbors may use a park more frequently if they know they won’t be approached by over-friendly canines.
  • Public areas are kept cleaner since dog owners are more likely to pick up waste. 

The Approval Process The city of Boston’s approach to recreation areas for dogs is outlined in a city ordinance adopted in 2004. Information about the ordinance is posted on the city’s website:  www.cityofboston.gov/Images_Documents/DRP%20ordinance_tcm3-27878.pdf. The ordinance facilitates a partnership between dog owners, other park users, and department

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / abhbah05

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / abhbah05

officials. The first step is a group of 10 or more people filing an application with the BostonParks and Recreation Commission for an off-leash area. A public hearing is then held on the proposed plan, and if the application is approved, the recreation space designation is subject to a one-year probationary period; designations expire after 5 years, at which time the applicant may submit an application for renewal. Applicants are responsible for raising money to create and maintain the off-leash area. 

Support And Expansion

Following the guidelines, residents have successfully established official dog-recreation spaces at Peters Park in the city’s South End and at RonanPark in the neighborhood of Dorchester. These designated off-leash sites are located on municipal land, but funded with contributions from residents, foundations, dog owners, and the city. In the case of the exercise space in the South End, Friends of Peters Park raised more than $150,000 for design costs, construction, and maintenance. Those who worked to create this recreation space feel they were successful for several reasons:  

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