How to Start a Dog Park

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If you are interested in starting a dog park the best place to start is by calling the city parks office and inquire whether there is already interest expressed in a dog park, express your own, and feel out the city’s attitude towards starting a dog park.

Decide what Type of Dog Park you Want to Start

Public Dog Parks

Public dog parks are owned and maintained by your city or municipality. Because the park is a public place, anyone and any dog is allowed. There is no fee to use the facility. Vaccination requirements and requirements to pick up waste are nearly impossible to enforce. Legal liability falls upon city.

Private Dog Parks

Private dog parks are owned and maintained by one person, company, or organization. Because the park is private, the owners can determine whether the park is members only or open to anyone. Membership fees can be collected and, if the park is closed to non-members, vaccination records can be checked prior to membership and memberships can be revoked for bad behavior on the part of dog or owner. Legal liability falls upon owner(s).

First Steps

Both types of dog parks have advantages and disadvantages. Starting a city-owned Dog Park sounds like it should be pretty easy- but city owned dog parks are usually started over the course of several years worth of lobbying the city to designate an area, and the burden of raising money to fence and outfit the area with water fountains and other fixtures usually falls on the person or group lobbying for the park.

If the local Parks and Recreation department can’t refer you to an existing group trying to start a dog park, start one! Use local events and bulletin boards to call local dog owners to action! Even print up business cards to give to dog owners you meet on walks and at events. Create a Facebook Page or Twitter account to build membership and get organized. As a group you will have much more influence on city government and as the group snowballs you’ll have plenty of people to sign a petition or to run a fundraiser when the time comes.
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If a private dog park and the control that affords appeals more to you, your only course of action is to locate an area, have fencing installed, and install a gate accessible by code or membership card. Membership fees can help with the cost of maintaining a fun, safe, environment for the member’s dogs. When starting a private dog park it is important to consult with a lawyer about protecting your personal assets from possible legal troubles involving your park.

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