Other cities have better off-leash dog parks

June 21, 2013
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Boston is lagging behind major—and not-so-major—metropolitan areas around the country when it comes to providing recreational off-leash spaces for its canine citizens.

Boston currently has three City-maintained off-leash dog areas, the result of a seemingly abandoned pilot program. But there are frequent requests for more and frequent conflicts between park users and dog owners.

According to its city website, New York City has 50 off-leash dog runs and areas in Manhattan alone, including 23 off-leash areas in Central Park. The borough of Brooklyn has another 33 off-leash runs and areas. The Bronx has 25, Queens 27 and Staten Island 17.

On the West Coast, Seattle, Wash.’s city website lists 14 off-leash dog parks distributed throughout the city. Both Seattle and New York require dogs to be leashed at all times unless in designated areas, a similar restriction to Boston’s city ordinance.

Even Columbus, Ohio, has recently created five off-leash dog parks, one downtown and four more distributed throughout the city’s quadrants. Unlike Boston, however, Columbus allows dogs off-leash as long as they are under the owner’s control. But that rule does not apply in city parks, where all dogs must be leashed.

According to Terri Leist, assistant director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, that city has plans to continue expanding its collection of off-leash dog areas, as budget allows.

“They’re very heavily used,” she told the Gazette.

Boston, meanwhile, only has two City-sanctioned, fenced-in dog parks—one in the South End and one off Massachusetts Ave. by the Charles River—plus one off-leash dog area in Boston Common, with no further plans for more, the result of an apparently abandoned pilot program. JP also has a community-organized and -maintained off-leash dog park on City land on Beecher Street.

“The department itself has no plans to expand off-leash dog areas,” City Parks and Recreation spokesperson Jacquelyn Goddard told the Gazette. The City is currently welcoming feedback to inform the City’s Open Space Plan for 2015 to 2021.

“[But] the Department certainly continues to be open to proposals made by the community if members have proposals for creating off-leash areas,” she added. “The Open Space Plan will be written after the survey period concludes and after public meetings are held into the new year.”

If residents wish to create and maintain off-leash parks, however, the City does offer a path to sanction such spaces, though it will not be responsible for maintaining them. One such dog park is Beecher Street Park off Boylston Street.

The Franklin Park Coalition (FPC) is currently making efforts to create off-leash dog areas and times for park users and their canine friends, pending City approval.

City information on off-leash areas and on the Open Space Plan is available at cityofboston.gov/parks.