New dog park, dogs walking, State Journal photo

The dog park pilot program is scheduled to run until April 16.

More than 150 Madisonians and their canine companions took advantage of the city’s pilot program to allow dogs in more city parks over its first four months, according to Parks Division data.

The pilot program, which allows dogs to be on-leash on paths in 13 additional Madison parks, began on Aug. 1. Prior to the ordinance, dogs were only allowed in certain areas of 12 city parks.

From Aug. 1 to Dec. 9, Madison park rangers monitored on-leash compliance for dog owners in pilot parks, as well as other city parks.

According to the data, 163 dog owners were observed visiting pilot program parks and 76 percent of them complied with on-leash regulations. In contrast, 91 percent of visitors to parks that don’t allow dogs had their dogs off leash.

The report said further analysis is necessary to determine if allowing dogs on leash decreases the number of park users who walk their dogs off leash.

"I am encouraged by the results of the pilot program," said Parks superintendent Eric Knepp. "The preliminary results are indicating that it is possible to provide reasonable access to dog owners to the park system without compromising the use of the park by others."

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The pilot program is currently scheduled to run until April 16.

A Parks Division spokesperson said park rangers will continue to monitor the parks for dog owner compliance until then.

At the end of the pilot, the Division will present data to the city’s Board of Park Commissioners, who will decide whether to continue, expand or terminate the pilot.

The outcome of the pilot could lead to a new city ordinance. The current ordinance regarding dogs in city parks was drafted in 1963.