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The Scoop

How to Create Outdoor Spaces for Dogs in Your Community

How to Create Off-Leash Parks In Your Community

by Terry Cunningham, Founder of Run Dog Run in Bozeman

The Bozeman-based non-profit Run Dog Run was formed in 2010 to plan, fund and construct off-leash dog exercise facilities in Southwestern Montana – and to promote responsible dog ownership practices. With the community’s support, we have built 6 new facilities to date, ranging from single-dog exercise areas to 2-3 acre “fetch and hike” parks to a 13-acre doggie wonderland (Anderson Dog Park) featuring ponds, trails, a diving dock, a dog beach, an agility course and shade pavilions (one of which is funded by West Paw!).

We are convinced that our model of creating a community coalition to provide safe, secure, sanctioned facilities is one that can be replicated in any community in the country. In fact, the concept has proven successful in nearby Big Timber, Montana where a grass roots organization created the town’s first official dog park.

So, what are the ingredients necessary to create off-leash facilities in your community? Here’s our list:

  • A dedicated group of dog lovers who are willing to advocate for dog parks, build relationships with the municipality and form a non-profit to receive donations. These bridge-builders are the key to the organization’s success.
  • The development of a “case statement” that clearly identifies the benefits of separate, safe fenced dog exercise areas – not only for dog owners but for those community members who would benefit from having fewer dog-related conflicts.
  • LAND: It is absolutely vital that the municipality (city, county, etc.) or private land owner recognize (or become convinced of) the value of designating a portion of their parkland / property for an off-leash facility.
  • Receiving the support of local businesses like West Paw, donors, civic groups, and foundations is essential in funding the facility improvements (fences, benches, dog waste stations, etc.) and in providing the volunteer labor to construct and maintain the off-leash parks.
  • Once the off-leash park is in place, it’s important that dog owners understand their role in keeping the park clean and reducing conflicts within the parks.

If your community has an interest in building off-leash parks, please contact Terry Cunningham, Executive Director of Run Dog Run, for tips, advice and presentation templates. It takes a great deal of hard work, but a proven template exists and the rewards are great for the community.