Don’t Have A Local Dog Park? Set Up Your Own
Okay, it’s not that simple. But if you recognize the need for a dog park in your area, it’s almost guaranteed that many other dog owners already see the need as well.
If you've got a dog park close by, you know how great they can be. If you don't, you might not know what you (and your dog) are missing. Dog parks provide key benefits for your dog (and you too!) that you can't get anywhere else:
Dog Park Benefits
Dog parks allow you and your dog to socialize with other dog owners and dogs while getting much-needed exercise. Both of you will make new friends, sharing tips and stories with like-minded dog owners while your dogs run around, play, and burn off excess energy. Dog parks are safe, fenced-in places where owners don't have to worry about their dogs getting loose or running off.
Dog parks also promote responsible dog ownership, allowing dog owners to let their dogs run around off-leash but not disrupt nearby playing children, park-goers or wildlife. Off-leash areas also bring an influx of people and activity to usually seldom-travelled corners of public parks, deterring crime.
How to Get Started
Setting up a local dog park isn't easy, but it's not impossible, either. At the very least, you can get the ball rolling. Your first step is to find other people who also want a local dog park. Chat with other dog owners you meet on the street, your neighbours, local dog walkers or doggy daycares. Create a group, and put a notice in your local paper about your group. This core group will be responsible for making presentations and meeting with public officials.
Set up a larger community meeting with your core group in place, and invite authoritative people who would support a local dog park, including veterinarians, dog clubs or animal control officers. Raise awareness in any way possible, including distributing flyers and writing letters to both public officials and the media.
Create a clear mission statement that stresses the need for the park and the benefits to dogs and the community at large. Include that the park will allow for a safe place for well-behaved dogs to play while not disturbing other people who are using the area.
Emphasize points in your mission statement about how the off-leash area would benefit everyone, such as dog parks bringing more people to more isolated parts of public parks and cutting down on people breaking leash laws by giving them a place to exercise their dogs.
Location, location, location. It's important to find a great place for your dog park that is conveniently accessed, has parking and enough space. A large public park is probably the best place to start. If there are houses near the public park, you may want to meet with the homeowners to discuss their concerns and answer any questions they may have, because they could be one of your biggest obstacles for establishing an off-leash dog park.
Dog parks cost money, which is just a fact of life. Money is necessary to set them up and maintain them. Some cities will fund a public dog park, and if you want to establish a city-run dog park in your area you should look into other dog parks that already exist in your city. Google them: find out who runs them, who pays for them, and which, if any, city councillors campaigned on establishing them. Establishing a dog park not an unheard of campaign promise, and these councillors will be great resources for setting up an off-leash dog park in your particular city.
Elected officials who realize there are a fair amount of tax payers and voters who want a dog park may prove helpful. Contact anyone who is in charge of existing dog parks or who is responsible for establishing them and ask for help securing the city's help. Some cities may want to share the costs, and you might need to find local organizations that will help you out. The more significant in the community the organization, the better luck you'll have.
The American Kennel Club has some excellent guidelines for setting up a dog park that includes success stories that can be shown to concerned or hesitant parties, available here.
The town of Pelham, Ontario is in the middle of trying to establish an off-leash dog park, and their website is a great resource for people who want to set up their own. Find some great dog park funding ideas, potential dog park rules, dog park misconceptions and concerns as well as their proposal here.