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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

(Printable Version)

Whom do I call with questions, to identify a problem situation, or make a complaint about a dog, dog owner, or off-leash area?

  • If a dog attack or other emergency is occurring, always call 9-1-1.
  • To report leash/scoop law compliance problems at a park, call Park Rangers at 503-823-1637.
  • To report aggressive dogs, injury incidents, or animal welfare concerns, call Multnomah County Animal Services at 503-988-PETS (7387) 
  • For general questions, concerns or comments about off-leash areas, call the Dog Off-Leash Program information line at 503-823-DOGS (3647). 

Are dogs allowed in Portland parks?

 Yes, dogs are welcome visitors to most Portland parks, trails, and natural areas! 

When visiting parks with pets, remember:  
  • Dogs must always be on leash when not in a designated off-leash area
  • No dogs, on or off-leash, are allowed at Tanner Springs Park, Whitaker Ponds Nature Park, Foster Floodplain Natural Area, or the amphitheater at Mt Tabor Park
  • Law also requires that pet waste must be picked up and disposed of in a trash can
  • Being in an off-leash area does not exempt owners or handlers from obeying scoop laws
  • Scoop bags are not supplied, so bring bags with you
  • Violation of leash or scoop laws will result in a fine of up to $150, so do follow the rules

There's no one else in the park - why does it matter if my dog is off-leash?

  • The impacts dogs have on park land and the environment occur even when no one else is present in the park
  • Dog use has a cumulative effect – impacts occur from your dog, plus all other off-leash dogs
  • PP&R hears frequently from other park users who don’t use parks because dogs are off-leash – everyone from parents to cyclists to sports groups to older people
  • When dogs are off-leash, even if no one says anything, people do see it and it does keep other people from using the park
  • Allowing your dog off-leash also creates the impression for other dog owners that off-leash use is okay, even when it’s not
  • On natural area trails and paths, it’s especially important for dogs to be on leash because activity is confined to a narrow trail
 

Can my dog be off-leash in sports fields?

No dogs (whether leashed or unleashed) are allowed on fields maintained for sports use. Sports fields are intended for use by sports teams, and dog use creates serious health and safety hazards, including: 
  • Dogs create/expand turf holes, which creates trip and twist hazards 
  • Dog waste – even trace amounts – is more likely to come into contact with sports users, who are handling balls/equipment that touches grass. 
  • Serious infections can also result when dog waste comes into contact with wounds. 

How much does an off-leash area cost?

 
Design and construction costs vary depending on the location and size of the off-leash area, and whether the area is fenced or unfenced. Costs have typically ranged between $5,000 and $40,000. Maintenance and operation costs also vary depending on factors like turf repair, bark chip replacement, fencing repairs, environmental mitigation efforts, and volume of site use.
 

Why isn't there an off-leash area in every Portland park?

 Off-leash areas are just one of the many types of recreation amenities requested by park users. Other requested facilities and equipment include sports fields, playgrounds, swimming pools, gardens, and activities. It is not possible to provide every one of the 200+ parks in Portland with all of the facilities requested by individual interest groups.
  

What is the process for adding new off-leash areas?

  
New off-leash areas may be proposed through PP&R's Park Proposal Process.
 
Proposers should consider the off-leash area siting criteria, which were developed by Portland Parks & Recreation and a Citizen Task Force, as well as staff's key operational considerations. These criteria and considerations are used to help determine whether off-leash use is a good fit for a park, and to gauge the proposed area’s potential to be a healthy, safe site for dogs to play.

 

Siting Criteria

 

Off-Leash Areas should:

  • Be a minimum of 5,000 square feet
  • Avoid affecting fish and wildlife habitat
  • Avoid risk to water quality
  • Be relatively level
  • Have minimal impact on adjacent residential areas
  • Be away from playgrounds
  • Be close to parking
  • Be distributed throughout the city (Note: PP&R is unable to provide an off-leash area in every park. In determining where new areas may be appropriate, staff assesses proximity of proposed site to existing off-leash areas.)

 

Operational Considerations

  • Slope and heavy tree canopy should be avoided wherever possible
  • Areas should be dry and irrigated rather than wet
  • Playgrounds should be away from dogs
  • Park's main circulation should be outside off-leash areas
  • Avoid siting OLAs adjacent to streets with heavy traffic
  • Consider areas with current high dog off-leash use

What is an off-leash area?

 An off-leash area is a designated area in a park where dogs can play and exercise off-leash. Off-leash areas may be fenced or unfenced; unfenced off-leash areas are identified by boundary markers. Off-leash Area Locations & Hours

What is the penalty for violating the leash and scoop law?

Citations of up to $150 per incident may be issued for violation of leash/scoop laws. 
 

What kind of damage can unleashed dogs do to wildlife and habitat?

Off-leash dogs seriously compromise the health of parks and natural areas. Portland Parks & Recreation's designated off-leash areas are thoughtfully sited to avoid environmental impacts.

Allowing even a single dog off-leash can disturb wildlife, and impact the habitat Portland Parks & Recreation works so hard to protect. 
  • Off-leash dogs disturb nesting areas and damage sensitive wildlife habitat 
  • Ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to off-leash dogs 
  • Dogs urinating in nesting and sensitive wildlife habitats "marks" the territory, which makes it undesirable or uninhabitable to the wildlife living there
  • Dog fur/paws pick up seeds, which can spread invasive plant species
  • Unleashed dogs can chase and injure (or even kill) squirrels, ducks and other wildlife  

Dog waste is messy, but is it really harmful?

Absolutely. Dog waste contains bacteria and organisms that can spread disease in people and other dogs. In humans, contact with dog waste can cause stomach illnesses and rashes. Dog waste also spreads disease among dogs, including serious illnesses like giardia and parvovirus. 
 
Dog waste also has environmental impacts. Unlike human waste, which is directed into sewage pipes, dog waste left on the ground eventually pollutes our waterways. Left on the ground, dog waste also deposits excessive amounts of nitrogen fertilizer to the soil, increasing the spread of nitrogen-loving weeds at the expense of native plants.
  

What is being done to encourage compliance with leash/scoop laws?

Though many dog owners are respectful park visitors, disregard for leash/scoop laws is an ongoing concern in many parks and natural areas. To increase compliance with leash and scoop laws, Portland Parks & Recreation uses a variety of education and enforcement strategies, as well as providing off-leash areas for dog-owner recreation.

 

Efforts include:

    • Permanent signs posted at entry points in parks and natural areas
    • Rules of use posted at each off-leash area 
    • Use of temporary signs, including stake signs placed directly in areas with high illegal use (such as sports fields)
    • Outreach by PP&R staff and Rangers including methods such as in-park presence, attendance at community meetings, partnerships with animal organizations, media releases, social media, and events
    • Ranger patrols, particularly in parks with low compliance 
    • Citations of up to $150 for leash/scoop violations

Who will enforce the leash and scoop laws?

 
Multnomah County Animal Control officers and PP&R Park Rangers.
 

Why does my well-behaved dog need to be on a leash?

Portland’s parks, natural areas and trails are extensively used for all types of recreation, and off-leash dogs and dog waste have significant impacts on the health, safety, and enjoyability of park lands.

 

Obeying leash laws:

  • Ensures the dog handler has control in every situation - there are many distractions in a park, from squirrels to runners to bicyclists to kids
  • Keeps dogs safe from hazards that may injure or even kill them
  • Protects the park environment and wildlife 
  • Respects other park visitors (and their leashed dogs) who may not want to meet your dog
  • Keeps dogs close to their handlers, which makes it easier to spot and pick up poop