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In early 2020, Madison Common Council approved the revised dog ordinances (MGO 8.19 and 23.32, File 59294) which took effect on Friday, March 13. Due to COVID-19 priorities, we were unable to properly promote this important change to the Madison park system. We appreciate your patience during this time and are happy to provide detailed information.
Dogs, on-leash, are allowed at most Madison parks. When visiting a park with your dog, the following rules must be followed.

  • Dogs must have a dog park permit.
  • Dogs must be on a non-retractable leash no more than 6 feet long and held by a person at all times.
  • Dogs must be under the immediate physical control of a person at all times.
  • Dogs must be licensed (purchased through the City of Madison Treasurer's Office) and must have an up-to-date rabies vaccination.
  • Dog handlers are required to pick up the waste and have bags or scoops when in the park.
  • Dogs must not dig, chase or harm wildlife, damage park property, or interfere with other Park users
  • Dogs are prohibited from the designated Dog Free Parks and specific areas, such as near playgrounds, and all conservation parks. See below for more information

Violators may be reported by contacting a Park Ranger (608) 235-0448.

Why did this happen?
Since 1973, a City of Madison ordinance essentially prohibited dogs in Madison parks, school grounds, and City spaces. As the population of Madison continued to grow, so do the number of dogs and dog owners. Recognizing this ordinance as ineffective and unenforceable, in early 2019, the Board of Park Commissioners called for a review of this long-standing ordinance (MGO 8.19).
During the summer and fall of 2019, Parks Long Range Planning Subcommittee (LRP) reviewed the dogs in parks policies. Through its research, and a robust community input process, which included 5 citywide community workshops and an online survey – garnering more than 1,900 responses, Parks LRP drafted an on-leash dog access policy for the Madison parks system. The drafted policy provides greater access for dog owners while balancing the needs of other park users and provided the language to update the long-standing ordinance.
In October 2019, the Board of Park Commissioners approved the policy, which leads the way to updating the long-standing Madison General Ordinances (8.19 and 23.32) that effectively prohibited dogs in most Madison parks. In February 2020, the Board of Park Commissioners approved more than 30 Dog Free Park locations.

Where are dogs prohibited?
Keeping in mind, not everyone has a dog or wants to be around dogs, we have provided designated Dog Free Parks for a place to recreate and relax without the presence of dogs. The Board of Park Commissioners approved more than 30 dog free parks (File 59474). Residents will see new temporary signage this spring at each of the designated parks. In addition to the Dog Free Park locations, a number of prohibited areas continue such as all conservation parks. See for the complete list of locations. Violators are subject to a fine and park users are encouraged to report violators to Park Rangers (608) 235-0448.

How can I purchase a Dog Permit?
A daily or annual Dog Park Permit may be purchased ONLINE. The permit is valid for the City of Madison on-leash dog locations, off-leash dog parks, Dane County Parks (posted areas only), the City of Middleton, and the City of Sun Prairie pet exercise areas. Annual permits for the following year are available for purchase beginning November 15 and valid immediately. Due to COVID-19, onsite kiosks are temporarily unavailable.

Where can I purchase a Dog License?
Madison residents with a dog aged 5 months or older are required to have a dog license, prior to purchasing a dog park permit. A license is available for purchase online through the City Treasurer's Office.

What if I live outside of Madison?
Dogs visiting from areas outside of Madison are always welcome with proper licenses and/or vaccinations from your town/municipality. Be prepared to show proof if asked by a Park Ranger. A daily Dog Park Permit may be purchased online.