dog park cabrini

photo courtesy Times-Picayune Archive

Dog parks can be a great place for dogs and owners to come together in their community for fun and relaxation. Being around other dogs in a safe environment can help socialize dogs and gives owners a chance to socialize as well. This week’s Best Pet Practice talks about the changing nature of dog parks in New Orleans, and about being a courteous and responsible pet owner while at a dog park.

Dog parks or runs provide a great opportunity for dogs to interact off-leash, and let owners come together to build community and hang out. SPS dog walkers are no exception. When an owner recommends we visit a dog park with their dog we love having the opportunity to give the pet that extra freedom and fun. The only catch is that some of our favorite dog parks aren’t actually dog parks at all. That means it is technically illegal for us to let dogs off-leash in those areas. Right now there is only one legally licensed off-leash dog park in New Orleans.

The presence of community organized dog parks across New Orleans arose as a result of inaction from the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC). Several parks, like Mickey Markey in the Bywater and Cabrini in the French Quarter, reverted to green space prior to Katrina and were then maintained by community members after the storm. Neither location is a legal dog park.

Mickey Markey Park was a source of particularly contentious debate as it was converted from a fully-fenced former baseball diamond to a newly redesigned public park with no space for off-leash dogs. Leading up to the re-design, residents who used the dog park faced-off with neighborhood associations and NORDC. NORDC eventually chose to convert the de facto dog park into a general use green space.

NORDC, along with a citizen task force, has allocated 11 locations across the city for development as dog parks or dog runs. However, as funding becomes increasingly limited, the new dog parks are currently ranked last on the list of 27 funding priorities, none of which made the cut this year. The riverfront park intended to replace Markey Park is already started and will not be impacted by funding issues.

While NORDC has made it clear that City Bark is the only legal off-leash dog park, they have not said they intend to increase enforcement of leash laws at existing parks. Because there is little city enforcement of leash laws, it is up to dog owners to keep our pets and communities safe and respectful places. SPS has assembled a few dog park P’s & Q’s to keep in mind:


• Take your dog if they are uncomfortable – the park should be fun!
• Bring a dog under 4 months of age
• Take a sensitive dog to an enclosed park that seems overcrowded
• Bring an intact dog
• Ever let a dog off-leash in an unfenced area if they are unresponsive to verbal commands
• Let a dog bully another dog
• Worry if some dogs don’t play with other dogs in the park
• Ignore your dog – it’s a park, not a daycare. You must be able to supervise your dog and give them your full attention.


• Clean up after your dog
• Be aware of your dogs health before going to the park
• Be aware of the health of other dogs in the park
• Make sure your dog is not being bullied or bullying and be willing to break up play that gets too rough
• Be willing to leave the park if your dog is being a bully or isn’t having fun
• Talk to other dog owners – parks can be great meeting places in the community!

The face of New Orleans seems to be changing daily, and so do our neighborhoods. Some changes are welcome, some are frustrating, but Sarah the Pet Sitter believes that it is important to stay actively involved in your community no matter what. So grab the leash and  get out there to find a park and meet your neighbors, whether they have four legs or just two!