The No. 1 park violation and complaint in Denver? Off-leash dogs.

“We have also seen a large increase in the number of people who run from us when we see them in violation.”
4 min. read
It was a regular dog pile on a Friday morning at the Berkeley Dog Park. Dec. 13, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

If you've been a little lax in keeping your dog on leash while not at a dog park, it's time to tighten up.

According to Denver Parks and Recreation, having a dog off leash is the most cited park violation and the No. 1 complaint of park-going Denverites.

"The only exception to the Denver leash law is in dog parks," said Parks and Recreation spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski. "If you bring any of your pets to the park, they do need to be leashed and under physical control, just like with dogs. For example, our park rangers have given verbal warnings to an off-leash cat, rabbit, and iguana. You also need to make sure you clean up after them."

Written warnings decreased during the pandemic. In 2018, rangers issued 1,070 written warnings and 583 citations, but in 2021, those numbers decreased to 482 and 231, respectively. A written warning "serves as documentation" for Parks and Rec and doesn't come with a fine but citation fees start at $100 and increase on second and third offenses.

Courtesy of Denver Parks and Recreation

However, the number of verbal warnings and evasions have increased. In 2019, rangers issued 4,689 verbal warnings, and in 2021 that increased to 6,426.

In 2020, 110 people either fled from rangers or were unable to be contacted. Last year, that skyrocketed to 2,088 people.

"Currently, we are on pace to issue about the same number of citations of dogs off leash as we have in the past two years," Karvaski said. "Our citation numbers for dogs-off-leash did fall slightly during 2020 and have been constant since then...We have also seen a large increase in the number of people who run from us when we see them in violation."

So far this year, rangers have issued 3,232 verbal warnings, 133 written warnings and 100 citations, and about 690 people have evaded authorities.

Newly-adopted Archer and his human, Marlena Sacks, frolic in Civic Center Park. May 31, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Karvaski said there are 12 off-leash parks around the city, and two more are being proposed, at Quality Hill Park and Veterans Park.

Parks and rec is well aware that more dog parks are needed. Karvaski said it's estimated that over 150,000 dogs live in Denver, and as the human population increases, so will the dog population.

That's where the Dog Park Master Plan kicks in. The plan was released in 2010 when Denver had only six parks, but was updated in 2019 to address location gaps, how best to update and maintain existing parks, and how best to patrol the parks.

According to the updated plan, there are major gaps in southern Denver. A survey from 2018 that had about 3,900 responses found that 87% of dog owner respondents and 50% of non-dog owners had "high" or "very high" support for the creation of new, fenced dog parks.

Karvaski said the department is working on creating new dog parks. But for now, Sparky has to stay on leash.

"In Denver, the continued creation of dog parks is being explored to help keep all residents and pets they might have safe and comfortable," Karvaski said.

Bailey, the dog who walks herself, and her human, Mercedes Devitt. Washington Park, Jan. 19, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Here's a list of dog parks in the city. Generally, the parks are open from sunrise to sundown, and all dogs at the park must have up to date permitting and licensing. Aggressive dogs, female dogs in estrus and dogs that do not have a current rabies vaccination tags are not allowed at the parks.

Barnum Dog Park - N. Julian St. between W. 4th Ave and W. 5th Ave
Berkeley Dog Park - Sheridan & West 46th
Carla Madison Dog Park - 2405 E Colfax Ave
Fuller Dog Park - Franklin & East 29th
Green Valley Ranch East Dog Park - Jebel & East 45th
Greenway Dog Park - E 22nd Ave & Syracuse Street
Kennedy Dog Park - Hampden & South Dayton
Little Box Car - Broadway & Lawrence St.
Lowry Dog Park - East 4th Place & South Yosemite Way
Parkfield Dog Park- 53rd Avenue & Chambers Road
Railyard Dog Park - 19th Avenue & Little Raven Street
Sonny Lawson Park - 24th St. & California

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