Dog parks offer many advantages for dog owners and active dog breeds like Labrador retrievers, boxers or Jack Russell terriers. Going to the dog park can help dogs become used to a variety of dogs and people, which helps them to become well socialized and less prone to misbehave. Dog parks also allow owners to interact.
Getting a dog park for your community is hard work. You will need other people for help. You can't do it alone.
Gathering Information for Your Dog Park
There are many steps you have to go through in order to start a dog park in your area. Keep a notebook or computer file in order to keep all of the information together. Here are tips from the American Kennel Club (AKC), the American Dog Trainers Network and the kind office staff of my State Representative, Nicholas Micozzie:
- Go to your representative's or mayor's office and ask the staff what paperwork needs to be undertaken for a dog park and if the local government can contribute any money towards the project.
- Find a prospective place for the dog park. Is this place for sale? Is it owned by a dog owner that wants a dog park? Is it part of an already established community park? Talk to the people living next to this area. Do they like dogs?
- Network with the dog owners in your town to find volunteers for this project. If you can't get at least four other dog owners to help you, forget it. You will need volunteers for fundraising, drawing up the plans and maintaining the completed park.
- Talk to local dog-related business owners or animal shelters for support
- Walk around your town and note how many dogs are running loose or how much poop is left untouched on the sidewalk. If your town has many irresponsible dog owners, then people may oppose the park because they will assume the park will be filled with dog poop and ceaselessly barking dogs.
Your Next Steps
If you can get that far, you then need to:
- Raise money
- Raise money
- Raise money. Now, I realize that I've written that three times because I want to emphasize just how important raising money is. The website for Dog Fancy magazine estimates that you will need at least $20,000. This money is for equipment, maintenance, fencing, locks and building permits. Unless you have lots of money or connections with a contractor, you will have to raise most of the money. The White Rock Lake Dog Park in Dallas managed to become a state licensed 501 (c) (3) non-profit in order to raise money.
If you can get that far, then your chances for opening a dog park are good. You still need to submit a proposal for your local government. In this proposal, the AKC recommends that you:
- Show how a dog park will make the community a better place to live
- Write out the park's rules
- Get a petition together to show that voters want a dog park
- Get a contractor's estimate of what the dog park will cost
- Propose that all users of the dog park need to pay an annual membership fee
- Show the amount of money raised so far
- Map out where the dog park should be
This proposal then needs to be put to a public vote, such as at a meeting of the local council.
Or You Could Do What I Did
I could not go through all of these steps. I did sign a petition for a dog park in my town of Clifton Heights when someone else took the project on. The Kent Dog Park took nearly a year from proposal to opening.
What I did was invest in a sturdy chain-link fence around my mom's property. We have a tree which provides shade and a padlock to discourage local children from wandering in. My dogs and their friends run around as much as they like under my supervision. I clean the "park" up myself.
Visiting the Dog Park: Having Fun, Staying Safe. Cheryl S. Smith. Dogwise Publishing; 2007.
American Dog Trainers Network. "How Do I Start a Dog Park?" Robin Kovary.