Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dog Owners: Leashed by Park Fees?

A new trend is cropping up in dog parks across the country: off-leash fees. Many parks offer enclosed areas where dog owners can bring their pets for exercise and socialization, free from the constraints of leash and lead. Often, these parks require little more from each dogs' owner than an agreement to pick up after their pet. But that may quickly become the exception rather than the rule. After all, those dog waste bags and pet waste stations don't pay for themselves, and many communities are looking at dog parks as an additional source of income.

Marine County Dog Parks - Mill Valley Pictures, Images and Photos

Many dog owners are opposed to the idea of paying to use off-leash areas. Some say they can't afford the extra expense – fees generally seem to range from $40-100 yearly – and are concerned that their pets will have to miss out on exercise and socialization. Additionally, many owners feel that they pay enough already in pet licensing fees. Still others are worried that the fees won't actually be used to maintain the parks, but will instead go towards other programs which they do not utilize. Of course, each community operates its dog parks in its own way; according to various news stories around the Internet, some dog parks would not even exist without the revenue generated by user fees, while others are merely looking to cash in.

Not all owners oppose the fees, though. At least some dog-lovers think that a reasonable fee is a small price to pay for canine happiness, and those who live in areas where the fees will be folded back into the dog parks are looking forward to the improvements that will be made, including additional fencing, equipment and pet waste stations. Indeed, in an online poll at, roughly half or all respondents supported usage fees for dog parks.

In the end, this seems to be a local issue. A community with a variety of very nice parks, which charges a reasonable fee, shouldn't have a problem convincing dog owners to chip in. In larger cities, where there are limited options for doggie exercise, owners should factor park fees into the total cost of pet-ownership, just liked food and veterinary care. On the other hand, a community with mediocre parks or very high fees may end up defeating itself if owners choose to find other ways of exercising their pets.

Thanks goes out to Kristina for this guest post.


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