People, Dogs and Parks Strategic Plan

The Draft People, Dogs and Parks Plan is now posted for public reviewed and comment.  The Draft, released for public review on June 21, 2016, will not be finalized until December 2016.

A public hearing by the Board of Park Commissioners (Board) will be held:

September 22, 2016
Miller Community Center
6:30 p.m.

Public testimony at the Board meeting will be limited to two minutes per person.  Public comment may also be submitted in writing and will have equal weight as oral testimony.  Written comments should be addressed to:  Rachel.Acosta@Seattle.Gov and should be submitted by October 14, 2016.

This plan has also been sent to the Seattle City Council who may review it in the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee.  The Superintendent will finalize the plan after considering public testimony, receiving recommendations from the Board,  and receiving input from the Seattle City Council.

The Board of Park Commissioners were briefed on February 25, 2016 on the Superintendent’s Preliminary Recommendations and took public testimony. This followed a preliminary discussion about issues relating to this policy on Thursday, January 28 where the Board again heard public comment.

The Draft People, Dogs and Parks Plan will be published in early June with opportunities for public review and comment thereafter.


Q2 2015
  • Best practices researched and compiled
Q3 2015
  • Dog owner survey
Q4 2015
  • Dog owner survey results and focus group research posted online
June 2016
  • Draft plan released
June – Oct
  • Public comment period
Sept 22
  • Public Hearing
Nov 10
  • Park Board of Commissioners Recommendation
  • Plan finalized
  • Final Report to Council

What is the Off-Leash Area Strategic Plan?

The Seattle Animal Shelter estimates there are close to 150,000 dogs currently in the city of Seattle. We are looking for sustainable solutions to help accommodate dogs in a city growing in density.

The purpose of the Off-Leash Areas Strategic plan is to identify a long term plan for the City’s existing 14 Off-Leash Areas, as well as for maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of Off-Leash Areas projects.

The Off-leash Area (Off-Leash Areas) Strategic Plan will be a long term plan which will guide the operations of existing Off-Leash Areas, explore alternative service models and create a strategy for the potential acquisition and development of future Off-Leash Areas. It will also provide direction on how to spend Park District funding designated for Off-Leash Areas in ‘2.5 Improve Dog Off-Leash Areas’ funding initiative described in the six year Park District spending plan (2015-2020).

One goal will be to determine how much of the funding should be focused on paying for improvements to existing areas and major maintenance, versus providing additional staff support to the Off-Leash Areas community or creating new Off-Leash Areas. As the Plan is developed, Parks will also consult with representatives from the Citizens for Off Leash Areas, Animal Shelter and other interested parties and conduct a public outreach process.

Specific Report Components

  • Survey and analysis of the behaviors and characteristics of dog owners in Seattle;
  • Assessment of service delivery through partnership with Citizens for Off-Leash Areas;
  • Alternative revenue options to support annual operating and maintenance costs of Off-Leash Areas;
  • Assessment of existing Off-Leash Areas and recommend improvements;
  • Defined strategy around how new Off-Leash Areas are acquired and developed;
  • Alternative service delivery models to help meet demand (e.g. Off-Leash Areas hours at designated parks, rotating Off-Leash Areas among designated parks);
  • Enforcement strategy options with Animal Control to help reduce illegal off-leash activity and moderate activities (e.g. unlicensed dog-walkers).

Public Outreach

Seattle Parks and Recreation will manage this project and facilitate the public outreach. Parks will also bring in a consultant to help host public meetings and other types of outreach.Subscribe to our email list by sending a blank email to the link. Be the first to know about our outreach process, draft documents, surveys, etc!

Part 1: Off-Leash Area Survey

We had 5140 participants complete the survey.

Part 2: Off-Leash Area Complaint and Violation Research

Off-Leash Area Violations Map
There have been 4818 off-leash complaints filed with the Animal Shelter since 2009. There have been 411 letters written to Seattle Parks and Recreation since 2010 and 41% related to leash violations (164 emails). Complaints fall into the following themes:

  • Owners who walk their dog on-leash frustrated by off-leash dogs because it is their only option for exercising their dog legally (e.g., dog doesn’t get along well with other dogs)
  • Adults and parents of children feeling threatened by dogs
  • Feces create public health concern (e.g., feces in athletic fields, in sand on beaches, playgrounds, etc.)
  • Health of natural areas and wildlife (e.g., plant damage, endangered seals on beaches)
  • Asset damage (e.g., turf damage on sport fields, run patterns on grass, holes from digging)

Part 3: Focus Group Research

In parts one and two we identified issues based on years of feedback. In part three we developed focus groups to help us develop community-driven solutions. The focus groups represented diverse community perspectives including: adding off-leash areas, protecting urban habitat, participating in other park activities such as walking, athletics, etc. The focus groups were provided information and then asked to consider different ideas that have been implemented in other cities. The ideas presented at the focus groups were conceptual and not recommendations. There were 56 participants including 26 dog-owners and 30 people without dogs. Of the dog owners, 11 preferred off-leash exercise, 10 preferred on-leash and 3 liked both equally.

We completed seven focus groups during October 2015 at locations throughout the community.

Part 4: Drafting the Plan and Public Review

In part 4 we will develop the report and recommendations based on the dog-owner survey, best practices research, complaint data, focus group themes, financial data, a study of recreational demand, among other sources.



Edward B. Murray, Mayor

Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent


For immediate release                                                                      August 24, 2016

Contact:          Christina Hirsch, 206-684-7241


Board of Park Commissioners to hold a Public Hearing on the

People, Dogs and Parks Strategic Plan

The Board of Park Commissioners will hold a public hearing to receive feedback on the Draft People, Dogs and Parks Strategic Plan. The meeting will take place at Miller Community Center on September 22, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.

The Draft People, Dogs and Parks Strategic Plan is available here. The plan will guide the operations of existing off-leash areas, and provides strategies for development of future off-leash areas. It provides direction on how to spend Seattle Park District funding designated for existing off-leash areas over the six-year term of the Park District funding plan (2015-2020).

The Board of Park Commissioners will receive oral and written testimony, and will make a recommendation to the Parks and Recreation Superintendent based on the feedback they receive from the public.

Seattle currently has 14 fenced off-leash areas totaling 28 acres. The People, Dogs and Parks Plan offers recommendations on how to add new off-leash areas, and how to improve off-leash area conditions and user experience.

New off-leash areas may be added through new park development, existing park redevelopment and community requests, on park land or non-park public land. All new off-leash area proposals will be reviewed by a committee of environmental and dog advocates, community members, animal behaviorists and Parks staff, who will make a recommendation to the Parks and Recreation Superintendent.

The Plan recommends that future off-leash areas be fenced, does not recommend allowing unleashed dogs on trails, and recommends against establishing more off-leash areas on beaches. User conflicts, limited enforcement and maintenance resources, and environmental concerns limit the capacity for adequate management of unleashed dogs in city parks outside of fenced off-leash areas.

The plan proposes the use of Seattle Park District funding to improve existing off-leash areas based on site assessments included in the plan, and to explore possibilities for partnerships and sponsorships to expand resources. It also proposes the creation of a license for dog walkers, and limiting the number of dogs in a dog-walker pack to three unless dog walkers complete an approved animal behavior training program.

Those who want to give input on the plan but are not able to come to the meetings can give written comments, which bear equal weight to verbal comments. Please email comments to

Approved by voters in 2014, the Seattle Park District provides more than $47 million a year in long-term funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation including maintenance of parklands and facilities, operation of community centers and recreation programs, and development of new neighborhood parks on previously acquired sites. 2016 is the first full year of implementation and there is work going on in every corner of the city. This year includes funding to tackle the $267-million major maintenance backlog, and will fund the improvement and rehabilitation of community centers; preservation of urban forests; major maintenance at the Aquarium and Zoo; day-to-day maintenance of parks and facilities; more recreation opportunities for people from underserved communities, programs for young people, people with disabilities, and older adults; development of new parks; and acquisition of new park land.

The Seattle Board of Park Commissioners is a nine-member citizen board created by the City Charter. Four members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council; four members are appointed by the City Council; and one member is a young adult appointed by YMCA Get Engaged. The Board generally meets twice a month, normally on the second and fourth Thursday, to advise the Parks and Recreation Superintendent, the Mayor and the City Council on parks and recreation matters.



Rachel Acosta

ABGC/Park Board Coordinator

Seattle Parks and Recreation

100 Dexter Avenue N

Seattle, WA 98109


Please enact and enforce BSL in Seattle and King County Parks

One thought on “Declaration”

Teresa Pierce |

“Off leash areas do not direct off leash dogs, but only create overspill with accompanying issue mentioned above, and it is the responsibility of Parks superintendent to monitor impacts of off leash areas and to close them when negative impacts are determined.”

The increasing number of dangerous dogs, primarily Pitbulls and their crosses, cause several safety issues for non-fighting bred dogs, their owners, and park Patrons. This is a growing concern worthy of immediate inspection.

Our animal shelters in King County are overflowing with disproportionate numbers of Pitbulls in comparison to the number of other dog breeds (and yet Seattle Humane Society and other King County Pitbull Rescue organizations continue to bring Pitbulls here for potential adoption). The misconception that these dogs are as safe a companion animal as any other dog breed contributes to the growing number of Pitbulls and their ignorant, ill-equipped handlers in King County off leash dog parks. This leaves non Pitbull owners and their dogs searching for undesignated off leash alternatives. For this reason and no other, I now consider off leash parks too dangerous to take my dogs to and no longer use them.

The remedy to this situation isn’t simple. It begins where Pitbull owners acquire their dogs – Pitbull breeders, animal shelters, Pitbull rescue organizations and elsewhere. Pitbull owners often surrender their dogs to shelters, not identifying them as dangerous or potentially dangerous. We learn of the consequential carnage in the media far less often than it actually happens, especially if it’s dog-on-dog injury or death. Breed specific legislation (BSL), whether by creating breed-specific off leash areas or by banning Pitbulls from municipalities altogether, is the obvious immediate solution. Spay/neuter and euthanasia are permanent remedies.

Seattle loves it’s dogs and they’re not going away soon. Anti-BSL activists are as fierce as their dogs. There are enough misunderstandings about the fighting bred dogs to go around but the realities remain constant: these dogs are wildly, unpredictably dangerous and should not be tolerated in public areas. Leash law enforcement becomes a mute point because Pitbulls are stronger their handlers and the leash they’re on (it’s appalling to me how many Pitbulls are at the business end of retractable leashes, as if they were a toy poodle)! Ceasar Malone even states that Pitbulls too strong and unpredictable for all but the most experienced.

In the absence of US pro Pitbull lobby, Canada attempts to enforce BSL inclusive of public muzzle laws. But, unless a dog is conditioned to a muzzle early on, it’s simply difficult/dangerous/inhumane to introduce beyond puppyhood.

Please enact and enforce BSL in Seattle and King County Parks.