Frequently Asked Questions about dogs in Portland's parks
Table of Contents(Printable Version)
- What kind of damage can unleashed dogs do to wildlife and habitat?
- Are dogs allowed in Portland parks?
- Whom do I call with questions, to identify a problem situation, or make a complaint about a dog, dog owner, or off-leash area?
- What is the penalty for violating the leash and scoop law?
- Can my dog be off-leash in sports fields?
- There's no one else in the park - why does it matter if my dog is off-leash?
- Who will enforce the leash and scoop laws?
- Dog waste is messy, but is it really harmful?
- How much does an off-leash area cost?
- What is an off-leash area?
- What is the process for adding new off-leash areas?
- Why does my well-behaved dog need to be on a leash?
- What is being done to encourage compliance with leash/scoop laws?
- Why isn't there an off-leash area in every Portland park?
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
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
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).
- 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.
- 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
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.)
- 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
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
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.
- 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