Dog Policy


No Dog Pens/No Barriers

Not all DPAs will be fenced. Fencing will be used in conjunction with other barriers to separate DPAs from some adjacent uses. Park size & other screening criteria will be used to determine whether DPAs need to be fenced. Other alternatives such as shrubbery, topography, pathways or sitting wall are possible types of barriers or boundaries in some parks.

Size of DPAs /No Dog Pens

At the request of community stakeholders RPD has increased the minimum size DPA from 8,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet (1.5 x the size of a tennis court) see section 3.2 Size. RPD has also included guidelines for parks 0-10 acres, 10-35 acres (minimum square footage of 30,000,) and 35+ acres with no minimum size. See section 3.6 DPA Opportunities.

Surface Materials

The policy does not exclude grass as a possible surface material, but points out the difficulty of year round use and maintenance. RPD will explore options for some hardy grass species, but must be cautious in their use due to their invasive nature. RPD would encourage the use of several different surface materials in a given area such as sand and turf, or sand, turf, and pea gravel, or synthetic turf. See section 3.4 DPA Surfacing

Zoned or Mixed/Shared Use

RPD has created a park category that will accommodate mixed use in parks of 10-35 acres. RPD is also committed to a trail or meadow experience in parks over 35 acres, which is very innovative and would be the first of it’s kind in the United States. See section 3.6 DPA Opportunities.

Dog owners are being punished/Separation of dogs and people

RPD recognizes off leash dog activities as a legitimate form of recreation. Dog owners are in fact being offered an opportunity to increase off leash recreational areas. People are not prevented from entering DPAs, but the City has a responsibility to provide space for people who do not want to encounter off leash dogs.

Dog owners are being asked to carry an undue burden of costs associated with their recreational activity of choice.

Recreational use fees are common in San Francisco parks. There is a fee associated with swimming, and athletic fields, After-School Program, preschool, daycamps & art classes. However, it is not a requirement for a dog owner to pay to use the DPA. It is simply suggested that fundraising be used to provide amenities that the RPD may not be able to afford. See section 6.3 Funding.

Enforcement is not possible.

The RPD will work with advisory groups, SFPD Park Patrol Officers and Animal Care & Control to ensure that current City ordinances are enforced. SFPD has expressed their commitment to enforcing current leash laws. Across the board the public favored enforcement of current laws, especially the clean up laws.

Dogs will be excluded from all Natural Areas.

Dogs will not be excluded from natural areas. Portions of natural areas contain sensitive habitat areas. These areas will be off limits to dogs. The remainder of the natural areas will be open to dog recreation including off-leash, voice control, on-leash and on-trail.

May 8,2002 As the Dept. embarks on a 10-year, $400 million capital plan, it is imperative that an off leash dog policy is adopted and in place as park design and renovation discussions begin. The intent of this policy is to set up a group or groups of citywide criteria that pertain to the diversity of parks and open spaces that define San Francisco. The Recreation and Park Department is the steward of wide ranging unique landscapes and has the responsibility to make wise decisions on land management practices.

The Department recognizes the strength and character of the communities that have developed while recreating with a dog. It is the intention of the Department to increase opportunities for these unique communities to develop. We recognize the positive influences these communities bring to neighborhood parks. While the policy, on the face of it, appears to be restrictive, its purpose is to create more places for legitimate off leash use in our parks. Just blanket enforcement of the current law would definitely undermine that use. Inadvertently, off leash use has created conflict with the rich breadth of uses our parks are host to. The Department is committed to facilitating solutions that allow these uses to coexist peacefully.

Since releasing the draft dog policy on June 12, 2001 the Department has reviewed and considered over 2,700 responses to that document. Nearly 300 staff hours were spent reading, evaluating and incorporating suggestions from the public. While many said they disagree with the policy we found several areas of common ground. Most citizens, whether dog owners or not, like the idea of having designated off leash zones. Most citizens would also like the clean up laws enforced and a majority would like the leash laws enforced. However, that said, it is clear that there was a tremendous amount of confusion surrounding the draft dog policy. The purpose of the policy is to provide guidelines and rules so that civilized compromises can be reached in each community for balancing many conflicting land uses. The following document is a reflection of the findings and a revision of the policy. Please note that the changes are noted in red.

last updated: 12/2/2005

Final Dog Policy 2002

Dog Policy Brochure (Coming soon…)