More Madison parks may soon allow dogs

18 out of 285 parks currently allow dogs
More Madison parks may soon allow dogs

Chances are you’ve seen a dog or two walking through some of Madison’s city parks this summer, but more often than not, that’s illegal.

Out of Madison’s 265 parks, only 18 allow dogs. Some neighborhoods have tried to change the rules for their own community park, but Madison’s Park Commission may be looking at changing the rules for the whole city.

High Point Park is one Madison neighborhood that has recently taken steps to make their park more dog friendly.

“It’s really not uncommon in this park to see people coming through with dogs,” said Lisa Subeck, alder for the district. “If you don’t come in right where that sign is, you don’t know that dogs aren’t allowed here.”

Aurelio Ramon and his dog Sooner are a prime example. Ramon said they’re regulars at High Point Park and didn’t realize until today it was prohibited for dogs.

“I used to always see so many people bring their dogs, seeing them play fetch, play with the Frisbee,” Ramon said.

Subeck recently spearheaded a neighborhood-wide meeting, then a survey, to see how people would take to the idea of allowing dogs inside the park. She’s said the response was largely positive.

“Overall, people were supportive of the idea of having dogs on the path coming through the park here,” she said.

But Subeck and residents of the High Point neighborhood aren’t the only ones asking questions. The city’s Park Commission often takes three or four requests a year from neighborhoods who want to convert their park into a dog-friendly space. The commission typically looks at those requests on a case-by-case basis, but now it’s looking into a different approach.

“If perhaps there’s another way to go about this that is more efficient, then maybe we need to look at that process,” said Laura Whitmore, spokesperson for the Madison Parks Department.

“I believe the goal of the Parks Commission is to take a substantial look at an overall policy, rather than continuing down this path of addressing the interests and the needs one park at a time,” Subeck said.

Subeck is all for a change in her neighborhood park, and so are Ramon and Sooner.

“It’s a really wide open park. I wouldn’t see why you shouldn’t bring a dog here as long as you clean up after your dog,” Ramon said. “As long as you’re responsible for your dog, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

There is no timeline for when or if the Park Commission will make a change to city parks, but the Parks Department will soon begin to take a look at other cities and how they handle dogs in their parks.

Even with only 18 dog-friendly parks out of more than 200 in Madison, the city still ranks in the top 10 nationally for dog park acreage per capita, according to Whitmore.