Companion Animal Law Blog

Bringing together those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around companion animals

No Kids Allowed? Arlington County Bans Kids From Dog Parks


We’ve all seen signs that say “No Dogs Allowed.”  But “No Kids Allowed”?  That’s exactly what is about to happen in Arlington County’s dog parks.  Arlington County plans to ban kids under 8, and require an adult to accompany kids 8 to 14.  Some find the ban unnecessary, while others find this a very appropriate ending to National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

The Examiner’s story by Gwyn Donahue gives details about a Shirlington Community Canine Area meeting from yesterday, and notes that neighboring jurisdictions also have rules about kids in dog parks.  Fairfax bans kids 8 and under from its dog parks, requires adult supervision for kids 9 to 15, and requires handlers to be at least 16.  Alexandria requires adults to supervise kids under 16 inside fenced areas of its dog parks.

Another story by Arlington Kids questions the reason for the ban, and concern about the fact that it seems the County has made its mind up already without much public input.  WUSA News9 has posted a story and video about the controversy, and cites concerns not just of dog bites, but also unintentional injuries such as a child being knocked over accidentally while up to 100 dogs run around off leash at any given time in Arlington’s busiest dog park.

If you would like to be heard, you can contact the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreations Division Chief through the County’s Contact Us page or at (703) 228-6523 or -6525.  And feel free to weigh in on the issue here!

Author: Heidi Meinzer

Attorney and Animal Lover, not necessarily in that order

5 thoughts on “No Kids Allowed? Arlington County Bans Kids From Dog Parks

  1. I think it’s prudent. I’ve seen small children running around the dog park while 5 or 6 dogs run around in a pack. I’m a 200lb guy and was sent to the hospital after a 80lb dog slammed into my knee. Young children just don’t understand the dangers that are present when 10-20 dogs are running after each other. It’s just not safe. Sooner or later a youngster is going to end up hurt and then there will be a public outcry about the dog park.

    • I’m with you, Jeff. A ban isn’t a perfect solution — I am empathetic to the argument that cautious folks with no yards should be able to go as a family and shouldn’t need to get a babysitter to exercise their dogs. But I can see a recipe for disaster. We often go to Shirlington Dog Park with Boomer, and at any given moment there are tons of dogs running around. As a lawyer, I also see people treating accidents and dog bites as lottery tickets, so I really can’t blame the County for making this call.

  2. Pingback: Arlington to ban children from Shirlington Dog Park | Northern Virginia Dog Blog

  3. Great comments from Jeff and Heidi. The decision has to be based on what will assure the unchallenged continuation of DOG Parks and the safety of the children and bystanders. Families with dogs who want to visit together should have one adult inside with the dog park and one adult outside the fence strolling or enjoying the view from there. My neighborhood dog park has a children’s playground located nearby so that is an even better opportunity for the rest of family while Fido is supervised in the park. Families without dogs who want their children to enjoy and learn about dogs should also do so from the outside of the fence. The show is just as good and no one gets hurt. Interacting with a strange dog, supervised by a stranger, is not the way for children to have a positive experience. A sudden move, running or accidently stepping on a paw or tail can easily result in a bite from an excited canine which can leave a children with fear for a lifetime. Being knocked down has also been mentioned. An adult cannot efficiently supervise their child(ren) and their dog(s) especially if a fight breaks out.

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