The City of Toronto is running a study to find out how the City’s existing Dog Off-Leash Areas (OLAs) can be improved to accommodate an increasing human and dog population.

Study Goals

  • Improve existing OLAs through better design, maintenance and operation
  • Encourage healthy relationships between dog owners and non-dog owners
  • Elevate OLAs as spaces that provide a healthy, safe, accessible and sustainable environment
  • Develop guidelines to ensure consistent maintenance and operation across Toronto
  • Develop design recommendations that can be applied to all existing OLAs
  • Improve community involvement and develop future ongoing partnerships

With the number of people and dogs in Toronto growing, the use of dog off-leash areas (OLAs) continues to grow. The Parks & Recreation Facilities Master Plan (2017) recommended the City develop criteria for improving existing dog off-leash areas.

This study will explore common issues, consider community needs and suggest solutions to help improve the City’s existing OLAs. As part of the study process, the City will choose and review ten (10) case studies to understand how local challenges and opportunities could help inform the Study’s recommendations, which will apply to all OLAs city-wide.

The 10 sites are:

Accommodating Dogs and People

The City considers:

  • Dog and human safety, health and enjoyment
  • Harmonizing uses in parks and meeting a diversity of needs
  • Cost, including design, construction and maintenance
  • Environmental impacts, such as foliage protection and surface erosion
  • Accessibility and feasibility
  • Feedback from park users

Design, Operations and Maintenance Considerations

The design of an OLA and its maintenance are interconnected. As each OLA has its own challenges and opportunities, tailoring design elements and maintenance programs will be an important consideration of this study.

Potential elements of a successful OLA

Two overlapping circles. In one circle there is a list of design considerations: accessibility, drainage, drinking water, gates and entries, fencing, furnishing, lighting, shelter, signage, size, surfacing, topography and vegetation. In the other circle, this is a list of operations and maintenance considerations: communication, cost of on-going maintenance, enforcement, life cycle, repairs, stewardship, trash collection, user education, volunteer off-leash associations and waste bins. The overlapping area reads: potential elements of a successful off-leash area.

Design considerations:

  • accessibility
  • drainage
  • drinking water
  • gates and entrances
  • fencing
  • furnishing
  • lighting
  • shelter
  • signage
  • size
  • surfacing
  • topography
  • vegetation

Operations and maintenance considerations:

  • communication
  • cost of on-going maintenance
  • enforcement
  • life cycle
  • repairs
  • stewardship
  • trash collection
  • user education
  • volunteer off-leash associations
  • waste bins

The study started in spring 2019 and is expected to end in winter 2019.

Consultation Process

The consultation process will happen in three phases and will involve everyone from Dog Owner Associations to local communities to the city-wide public.

Phase 1: Build Understanding (spring to summer 2019)

  • Present and seek feedback on common issues, best practices, and potential solutions to common issues

Phase 2: Testing Ideas (summer to fall 2019)

  • Present and seek feedback on ten (10) local DOLA case studies and draft city-wide recommendations

Phase 3: Finalizing Recommendations (Fall to winter 2019)

  • Present and seek feedback on the preferred recommendations

Your ideas, opinions and knowledge will help us improve the City’s existing Dog Off-Leash Areas.

Ways to Get Involved

There are three different types of engagement planned over the course of the process:

‘Pup’ Ups in 10 Sites

Pup Ups were held from October 17 to October 28, 2019.

The Pup Ups are designed to be drop-in sessions where park users can learn about and share feedback about the Study and its Preliminary Recommendations. Interested people can arrive at any point during the event.

A number of factors informed the scheduling and timing of the Pup Ups, including

  • advice from the Dog Off-Leash Area representative for each of the 10 OLA case study sites on when their off-leash areas are regularly used. Summaries from conversations with the OLA representatives.
  • ensuring a range of morning, midday, afternoon, and weekend dates
  • timing that would enable both those who work 9-5 jobs and those who do not to attend
  • availability of day-light hours
  • availability of resources

While we hope these times will work for many interested in the Study, we understand that some may not be able to attend at the scheduled time. For those unable to attend, it is important to know that the Pup Ups are not the final public engagement touchpoint in this process.

As part of the next stage of engagement, the City will launch a city-wide online survey that will present and seek feedback on the Study’s Final Draft Recommendations. This survey will be live for at least two weeks, so anyone that is interested can learn about and provide input into the Study.

Stakeholder Group Meetings

The City and its consultant team will meet with representatives of Dog Owners Associations and organizations that have an interest in OLAs design, operations, and maintenance. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss common issues, potential strategies to address issues and draft recommendations. There will be four Stakeholder Group Meetings over the course of the process.

Stakeholder Meeting 3, October 16, 2019

The purpose of the meeting was to present and seek feedback on the Study’s Preliminary Recommendations, including recommendations about:

  • design operations
  • maintenance
  • administration

Approximately 12 people attended the meeting, including representatives of Dog Owners’ Associations and commercial dog walkers.

Download the meeting summary.

Stakeholder Meeting 2, August 21, 2019

The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division hosted the second stakeholder meeting for its City-Wide Study of Existing Dog Off-Leash Areas. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an update on the project and to present and seek feedback on: examples of designs, operations, and maintenance best practices from other jurisdictions; a proposed structure and approach to case study profiles; and a revised proposed case study site selection criteria and proposed case study sites. Approximately 30 people attended the meeting, including Dog Owners’ Associations, dog walkers’ groups, and others.

Stakeholder Meeting 1, June 20, 2019

This meeting introduced stakeholders to the Study and presented and sought feedback on:

  • a preliminary best practices review
  • draft criteria to select case study sites
  • a proposed approach to a public-facing survey and Discussion Guide to inform the Study

Approximately 30 people attended the meeting, including members of Dog Owners’ Associations, dog walkers’ associations and others.

Public Surveys

The City will host two online Public Surveys over the course of the process. The purpose of these surveys is to seek feedback from the broader public on common issues, potential strategies to address issues, and draft recommendations related to the improvement of OLAs city-wide.