Tips for Starting a Dog Park
An off-leash dog park is your dog’s local social club – a fun-zone where he can let off steam and romp around with other neighborhood doggy pals. If such an amenity doesn’t exist in your area, there’s no reason why you can’t be the catalyst to start one. Dog lovers just like you initiated many of the more popular dog parks across the country.
The key to success is to start small but think big. Chances are there are other dog owners in your neighborhood that would also appreciate and utilize a dog park. So ask around and form a local dog action group. Enlist the support of local veterinarians, groomers, and any pet-related businesses and animal organizations in your area.
Once you have a small pro-active committee organized, the next step is to research local animal control by-laws and ordinances so that you are in a strong position to negotiate with city officials. It’s essential to get to know your local representatives. Hopefully, you will find an ally who understands the need for a dog park and will be instrumental in helping it become a reality.
Gaining Community Support
Write to your local newspaper and request that they run a story to garner support for the idea. You need to educate your community about the benefits, pointing out that apart from the social benefits offered by a safe and secure dog zone, dog lovers won’t have to take chances and risk hefty fines by letting their pets off-leash in other open spaces.
Next, be prepared to put in some legwork to locate at least two suitable locations in the neighborhood. Your local parks department will be able to help you identify possible sites. One acre is more than sufficient space for dogs to have fun. The ideal location is away from busy roads and commercial activity.
Basic Amenities and Funding
Make a checklist of basic amenities that will make the park safe and user-friendly and appoint a sub-committee to handle the budget and funding. You need to show city officials that you have thought of everything. Outline how you propose to fund such essentials as:
– A secure and attractive fence with double-gated entry
– Sufficient parking and wheelchair access
– Covered trashcans and poop bag dispensers
– Adequate shade areas and benches
– Water fountains for both dogs and their owners
Many cities around the country have helped fund dog parks, but other dog-friendly amenities rely entirely on private contributions. It’s a good idea to source possible financial support before you solicit city officials in case your local government doesn’t have the resources to support your project. Approach everyone you know for assistance. Animal lovers in your neighborhood may be keen to donate a bench, water fountain, or even a tree in memory of a beloved pet.
Also, keep in mind, if approved, the park has to be maintained. You will need to budget for ongoing care to keep the park in tip-top condition. Further, make sure your plan takes into account standard rules of operation. Clearly define the hours the park will be open and guarantee your perpetual commitment to local officials by assuring them that you will have a volunteer contactable at all times in case of an emergency.
Once you have done all the background work, put the proposal in writing and request a meeting with city park and recreation officials. Many cities will agree to initiate a dog park with a trial period to see how it works. It’s up to you and your committee to see that it does!
Plan for the Future
If you are successful, make sure your dog action committee and your dog park stay in the news. Elect a spokesperson that will be available to comment on any dog-related issues in your neighborhood. While most dogs will be more than happy just to have an open space to run wild, you might want to consider installing some agility equipment and even an enclosed swimming area. This will make your dog park an attractive venue for hosting doggy events that, in turn, will generate funds to keep your park well maintained.
Seeing a plan through to fruition can take hours, even months of your personal time, but from a dog lover’s standpoint, it will definitely enhance your community. Your dog and his pals will most certainly thank you too.