Use signage to ensure guidelines and certain basic information are communicated
Communicating Guidelines Through Signage
It’s important to ensure that certain basic information concerning park use (not just the rules) is made readily available to users. Thus, the following should be incorporated on the dog park signage:
- A statement indicating that owners must realize they are legally responsible for their dogs and injuries caused by them to other dogs or people. This is usually the case under most circumstances anywhere.
As discussed earlier, when a municipality creates a dog park facility as a benefit for its community and provides the proper signage indicating that users are welcome to bring their dogs into the enclosure where they will encounter dogs off leash, it is difficult to make a successful claim against the local government if a dog or person is injured. However, if an irresponsible owner does not control their dog properly, they may very well be liable for their behavior and they must be aware of this fact on entering a dog park. Some dogs should simply not use a dog park, and owners need to realize whether their dogs are good candidates, based on their dog’s temperament, demeanor, behavior, and so on. In other words, if their dog has exhibited inappropriate behavior or aggressiveness when around other dogs (or people) in the past, perhaps they should reconsider taking their dogs to a dog park. An injury or similar incident can certainly be tragic, but it can also be costly if a lawsuit results from the incident.
- A notice that failure to abide by the dog park rules may result in loss of dog park privileges, removal from the dog park, or fines
- Hours should be listed, such as “The dog park is open from sunset to dusk,” 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and so on.
- Emergency information and telephone numbers (local police, animal control, parks and recreation department). In a dog park, an emergency could be an injury (dog or person), an argument, or a fight (dog or people). Thus, the availability of emergency phone numbers on the signage is important. It’s the same sort of info that would be on any park signage.
- The name, location, and telephone numbers of the agency responsible for the dog park
- Information about how to register complaints
- The municipality or agency’s hold harmless clause. This is essentially a provision that states that users agree to not hold the sponsoring agency responsible for any loss, damage, or legal responsibility. The users agree to assume all legal liability and responsibility, relieving the agency of any liability; thus, the dog park users (i.e., the dog owners) must accept this responsibility in relation to their use of the dog park. This is a common legal provision for most, if not all, government entities.
- An explanation about entering the fenced enclosures through the transition entry areas, including the differences between the different fenced enclosures (i.e., the small-dog area is for dogs 30 pounds and under, while the large dog area is for dogs over 30 pounds)
- Information indicating that the dog park may periodically close temporarily for routine maintenance, special programs or events, or emergencies