Members-Only Dog Parks Keep Fido in Fine Company

PHOTO: Members-only dog runs appeal to pet owners looking for private, safe, and social spaces to exercise animals in the city.

They say every dog has its day in the sun, but why not give yours the gift of an upgraded park to exercise in, too?

Pet owners looking for a safe, clean space to socialize man's best friend in major cities are increasingly turning to members-only dog runs complete with open space, squeaky toys, treats and pre-screened playmates.

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In Columbus, Ohio, Mark and Judy Wise decided to open a private dog park after they noticed the limited resources for pet owners in their city.

"We literally lived across from a park that didn't allow dogs," Judy Wise told ABC News. "So we decided to open our own. It's completely private, all of the animals have to be spayed or neutered, they can't be aggressive, and people just love it."

Annual membership rates for their Companion Club Dog Park come in at $395. The fee grants access to an 11-acre, pine- and oak tree-filled park featuring multiple off-leash areas, a "Golden Pond" for swimming and a separate bathing area for cleaning off afterward.

"We don't use chemicals in our pond," said Mark Wise, who noted it had been cleared by the Department of Natural Resources for the state of Ohio. "And we have walking trails that are mulched and have waste pickup stations with bags and cans."

Despite what some might consider a steep enrollment rate, the club does not discriminate against breeds and offers day passes for those who prefer to bring their pups on a less-frequent basis.

"We don't turn away dogs just because they are rottweilers or pit bulls," said Mark Wise. "But if any act aggressively toward other dogs or humans, we just tell people it won't work."

The club has attracted visitors from as far as New Jersey. Perhaps those pet owners didn't realize that there are membership-based dog runs and parks in nearby New York City too -- albeit much, much smaller.

At The Warren Street Dog Park in New York City, members pay an annual fee of $120 for the privilege of bringing Spot to a fenced-in, paved lot that features tented areas for shade and a wading pool in the summer months.

The area is cleaned on a daily basis. However, owners are required to pick up after their pets or risk forfeiture of membership.

"There are two reasons why the Warren Street Dog Park is a 'members only' dog park," notes the group's website. "Too few people made voluntary donations to sustain the park in terms of its financial needs (cleaning, insurance, repairs, etc.), and 2. Too many dog park users violate the rules of the park (don’t monitor their dog effectively, don’t pick up after their dog, bring children into the dog park, etc.)."

By setting membership fees, the Warren Street Dog Park, like others in the city, has been able to ensure greater quality control over the dogs' experiences than might be found in free, public spaces. But the exclusivity can also contribute to wait lists of more than a year, as at the West Village D.O.G. Run.

Not all membership-only dog parks break the bank. Wine lovers in Paso Robles, California, with animal friends in tow can take their dogs to Vineyard Dog Park in San Luis Obispo, California, where the fenced in grounds are set against a scenic backdrop of rolling hills.

A steal at just $25 per year, membership includes dog bag dispensers for waste removal, communal dog toys, and a wading pool in the warmer months. Volunteers are also regularly on site to attend to questions or other needs.

"Our dogs love to play at Vineyard," wrote a fan on the park's Facebook page.

"Always a great place to just hang out, as your dog plays with friends," echoed another.

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