If you are thinking about establishing a dog park or a dog run, consult with an attorney familiar with the area where the new facility will be. You also should read a copy of Attorney Kenneth Phillips' article, The Perfect Dog Park, which gives guidelines to ensure safety, harmony and accountability. You can download a free copy from the Dog Bite Law Bookstore.
As a starting point, here are some guidelines that will promote safety and hopefully limit liability:
- There should be adequate fences that dogs cannot dig under or jump over
- There should be adequate parking so that dog owners can drive to the dog park and park their cars in the parking area, as opposed to walking large numbers of dogs on nearby streets, and taking up precious parking spaces required by the residents
- There should be at least one gate that securely latches (consider using two gates, so that a dog rushing through the first cannot get past the second)
- Visible signs should establish rules
- Users should be advised that they will be using the park at their own risk, including but not limited to the risk of being bitten, being knocked down, tripping, etc.
- The number of dogs per person must be limited
- The age of users must be limited
- Professional dog walkers should register (at least)
- Every dog must wear a collar
- Every owner must possess a leash upon the person of the owner (for taking the dog to and from the car or the park)
- Every dog must display its license or registration tag (illegal dogs are denied privileges in the park; important if there are problems in the park)
- Every dog must be current on its vaccinations
- Every person bringing a dog to the park must possess a driver's license or government-issued identification card (important if there are problems)
- No dog shall be left unattended by its owner
- No dogs allowed if previously adjudicated to be dangerous
- No dogs allowed that previously have bitten or injured a person or another animal
- No dogs allowed that are known to initiate fights with other dogs
- Dogs to remain on leash at all times, coming to and from dog run
- All violations will be investigated and one of the possible penalties is revocation of privilege
- There is a prominently posted address for complaints, which will be reviewed in a timely manner
- There will be a board or other body that will make decisions regarding enforcement and application of penalties
Remember to see your local lawyer. The foregoing is intended only as a helpful guideline.