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 early 2017.

A public hearing by the Board of Park Commissioners (Board) was held on September 22, 2016 and the public record was held open until October 14, 2016.  The Board of Park Commissioners will make their recommendations in January instead of November due to scheduling difficultiesThe date for the Board recommendations will be posted on this site when it is finally determined.

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 was 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
Jan 2017
  • Park Board of Commissioners Recommendation
Q1 2017
  • 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.

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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.