Denver Off-Leash Dogs
Denver Off-Leash Dogs
Addressing Denver Off-Leash Dogs
Our community is facing growing tension due to the need for dog owners to appropriately socialize and exercise their dogs and a lack of space to do so. Recognizing the importance of respecting our community and the right for the community at large to benefit from its public resources, we propose an evidence-based solution following New York City’s best practices: modify chapter eight of Denver’s Code of Ordinances to allow for dogs to be off-leash in city parks between 9pm and 9am.
This solution has proven to reduce community tension over off-leash dogs, providing a safer and more practical alternative for dog owners and non-dog owners alike. It has also proven to reduce crime in parks, reduce the incidence of dog aggression, and allow park resources to be reallocated to more important needs.
Residents of Denver’s first district request the City of Denver pilot New York City’s off-leash program in District One’s city parks with the intention to scale the program to all city parks if proven effective.
Denver dog owners have limited options to exercise and socialize their dogs and have begun to use community parks to do so. Some members of the community have responded negatively and, at times, aggressively. As members of this community, we need solutions that fit the needs of all community members, including the need for community members to feel safe in their space and for dog owners to appropriately socialize their dogs so they can safely integrate into their community.
A growing body of scientific evidence shows that a lack of appropriate socialization during a dog’s life directly correlates to behavioral problems, including aggression, inappropriate predatory behavior, and fearfulness. Dogs require exposure to animals, including other dogs, different animal species, and people and children throughout all stages of the dog’s life to appropriately integrate into society. With an estimated 158,000 dogs in Denver and only 12 dog parks to meet their socialization and exercise needs, the City of Denver is not meeting the needs of its dog-owning citizens.
Understanding Denver’s resources are limited, even more so with the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, we as a community propose an economically viable, evidence-based solution to the problem: model our leash laws after New York City’s effective leash laws.
New York City’s Off-Leash Laws
Over twenty years ago, New York City faced growing community tension over the issue of off-leash dogs in city parks. With over 500,000 dogs in New York City and only 40 dog parks to serve the community, the parks were not meeting dog-owner needs to socialize and exercise their dogs and dog owners were using city parks as off-leash areas.
The New York City Park Commissioner came up with a compromise; he allowed dogs to be off-leash in certain specified parks, in certain locations between 9pm and 9am. Since the program began, New York City parks have seen significant benefits. The previous three park commissioners have noted the presence of people and dogs in the park at night and in early morning has lowered crime. New York also saw a dramatic reduction in dog bites. Park employees credit off-leash groups such as FIDO in Prospect Park and Central Park PAWS for keeping the parks clean: dog owners who use off-leash hours take pride in the park and treat off-leash as a privilege.
Due to positive results, New York City grew the program. Now, in parks where official dog parks exist, dogs may only be off leash in official dog parks. However, in parks without an official dog park, dog owners are allowed to have their dogs off-leash from 9pm-9am while the park is open to the public.
 For example, there have been multiple incidents of a woman walking directly up to off-leash dogs and, unprovoked, spraying them with pepper spray.