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How to Build a Dog Park in Your Community

How can you build a dog park in your community? Here are some proven strategies for a successful campaign:

  • Start with a core group of committed dog park activists. Talk with a half dozen other guardians who areconcerned about the lack of off-leash spaces. These may be people you already know -- or put a notice in the local paper.
  • Hold a public meeting. Once the core group is in accord, a larger community meeting will help you get the word out to supporters and solicit input and suggestions. Encourage people to write letters in support of a dog park to public officials and the media and to make presentations to community groups whose backing would be valuable.
  • Educate your fellow dog owners on the need to be responsible. The guardian who neglects to pick up after his dog, or who allows an aggressive or unsocialized dog to run loose can do a lot of damage to your cause and ultimate chances of success. In Half Moon Bay the Coastside Doggie Club has a two-fold mission: establishing an off-leash dog exercise area and promoting responsible canine care.
  • Write a clear mission statement that details the need and purpose of the park, stressing the benefits to dog owners, their canine companions and the greater community. The Redwood City Responsible Dog Owners' statement says it all: "To establish a fenced in, off-leash dog park where well-behaved canine citizens can exercise in a clean, safe environment without endangering or annoying people, property or wildlife. To develop a beautiful, well-maintained space open to all dog lovers and friends who are willing to uphold the park's rules and restrictions. To view this park as a community project, in partnership with the City of Redwood City, designed to satisfy the needs of dog-owners and non-dog owners alike."
  • Demonstrate need. Gather statistics on the dogs and their people in your community. How many dogs would use a dog park? What are the demographics of the people in your city? Who currently uses city parks -- and who doesn't? Downplay the "dog factor" and emphasizing people issues. Dogs don't pay taxes or vote.
  • Demonstrate support. In both Belmont and Redwood Shores, activists found that a simply worded request, circulated on a petition, helped convince city officials that there was indeed both a need and widespread public support for a responsibly run dog park. Place petition gatherers at supermarkets, pet supply stores and other high-traffic areas. Enlist the support of local veterinarians, groomers, dog walkers and others who have a real interest in having a community filled with healthy, well-socialized dogs. Involve them in gathering petitions, writing letters to the editor of local papers and generally spreading the word.
  • Create a budget. Determine how much it will cost to construct and maintain the park-- costs for grass, fences, garbage removal, lawn maintenance, drinking water, field drainage, lighting, benches and a sationary pooper scooper station. Some cities are willing and able to finance a dog park; others would rather share the cost with a group committed to maintaining the park and ensuring that park rules.
  • Solicit the input and seek the approval of significant organizations in your community. Talk with the proposed park's neighbors before talking to city hall. "As soon as someone puts up a serious red flag, pay attention to it," advises Terry Anderlini. "Don't ignore or fight it; try to come up with a solution. If it really is impossible to resolve, at least you'll know what you are up against."
  • Be prepared to address a range of concerns, including the risk for dog fights, dog bites, noise level, parking and traffic needs, liability issues and maintenance. Explain why some of these are nonissues and have a plan to address those, like traffic and noise, that are legitimate.
  • PHS/SPCA can help your efforts by writing a letter of support. If you are part of a group looking to create a new dog park in San Mateo County, and would like such a letter, please contact Scott Delucchi at 650/685-8510 or  If you are outside of San Mateo County, you may want to contact your local humane organization for their support.
  • Get to know local officials -- your city council members and the director of your department of parks and recreation. Attend meetings, join them at fundraisers. Find out what they need from you to move the dog park forward.
  • When you're ready, request a hearing with city government to discuss your proposal. Have two or three carefully selected, knowledgeable and articulate members of your group present your plan, clearly expressing its many benefits to the community and calmly addressing any concerns.
  • Be patient. Dealing with city government is rarely a quick deal. While you may find yourself running with Fido in the dog park of both your dreams within a year, it could just as easily take several.

Additional resources & publications:

  • Redwood City Responsible Dog Owners.
  • Committee for a Coastside Dog Park (CCDP). P.O. Box 382, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019. or
  • So You Want to Build a Dog Park? A Comprehensive Guide for Municipalities and Private Entities. From Susyn Stecchi, DogParksUSA,
  • Planning Parks for Pets. $17.50 from the National Recreation and Park Association Office, 22377 Belmont Ridge Road, Ashburn, VA 20148-1290; 703-858-2190.


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