Green Dog Program Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I register and sign up for the Green Dog Program?

A. View the Green Dog Program registration information and instructions webpage.

Q. Where can I take my dog off-leash and how were the off-leash hours and parks determined?

A. View the new green dog park interactive map or download our green dog parks map to find a park with off-leash hours. The Park and Recreation Commission established off-leash hours and parks to balance the needs of both dog owners and visitors without dogs. The program was developed with the following considerations:

  • Park size
  • Wildlife / sensitive areas / gardens
  • Historic areas
  • Passive and active uses of the parks
  • Park users / neighbors
  • Athletic fields
  • Impact on schools and children
  • Distribution of parks throughout town.

The commission also sought public input through public meetings, and conducted a pilot program and assessment prior to full implementation.

Q. Why are the parks not fenced-in, with double-gates for the dogs' safety?

A. The Green Dog Program adheres to a shared-space model, where existing park lawns and athletic fields can be utilized for off-leash play outside of peak hours.  Per Program regulations, we rely on dogs to respond to voice recall and observe respectful off-leash behavior.  As such, we do not provide some of the features associated with traditional dog parks, such as fenced-in enclosures and double gates.  Many dog owners frequent Brookline parks with perimeter fencing, but should take the same precautions as they would at a location without fencing.

Q. I visited a park during off-leash hours, but was told my dog had to be on-leash. Why is this?

A. Off-leash hours may occasionally be suspended at any park. If there is a permitted activity, such as a school group activity or a sports game, dogs must be on-leash for their safety and the comfort of other park users. When parks crews are working in the parks, dogs must be on-leash for the safety of both the animals and the crews.

Q. I visited a park during off-leash hours, but the park was closed. Why is this?

A. Fields may be completely closed when they are wet due to inclement weather, if heavy rain is anticipated, during the spring thaw, or for other reasons related to maintaining healthy fields. We post park closed signs, but you can also call the green dog hotline, 617-879-4850, 24 hours a day to check if the fields are closed, or you can call the Parks Division Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. at 617-879-5650.

Please also use your judgment about using the fields in wet conditions. Note that synthetic turf fields generally do not close due to weather, but dogs are not allowed on these fields, whether on or off-leash. You are still welcome to walk your leashed dog on the paved paths at any time, including during field closures.

Q. My usual park is closed for renovations, or due to field conditions. Where can I go with my dog?

A. View the new green dog park interactive map or download our green dog parks map to find another park with off-leash hours. In addition, you may walk your leashed dog at any of our active parks, excluding synthetic turf fields, playgrounds, sand boxes, tennis courts, basketball courts, nature sanctuaries and planted flower and shrub beds. Please observe park signage and note that certain other areas may also be closed to dogs (e.g., a portion of Harry Downes Field).

Q. Can the seasonal field closures be rotated so that there is not such a long closure period?

A. In the transition season between winter and spring, typically for the month of March, grass fields and lawns go through various thaws and freezes.  During this time, the turf is especially vulnerable to damage, and often may remain wet for an extended period as weeks of snow and ice evaporate.  We understand the inconvenience and frustration of limited access during this time - unfortunately, cycling through staggered field closures would still do great harm to potentially all of the locations.

Q. Why is the field closure information not more up-to-date?

A. Field closure information is available via the Green Dog Field Closure hotline, Twitter feed, or subscribable calendar, and is updated on weekdays by 1:00 PM and weekends by 7:00 AM.  These are benchmarks put in place through the Parks and Open Space Division and the Recreation Department to best meet the needs of all park users and provide adequate time for athletic field staff to assess and update dozens of locations townwide.

Q. Why doesn't Brookline have a dog park, so dogs can always be off-leash?

A. Brookline is an urban community with a limited amount of park space available. Many different types of users value and appreciate our well-maintained network of open spaces, and we have to balance the needs of these users. A dedicated dog park would require taking existing parkland and converting it to this use. The Park and Recreation Commission has not identified an ideal location for a dog park at this time.

Q. Why are there no evening off-leash hours?

A. The Park and Recreation Commission considered the needs of both dog owners and non-dog owners when establishing the off-leash hours. There are currently no evening off-leash hours since most parks have heavy use from other users during this time, particularly during the athletic season. Two of our parks, Brookline Avenue Playground and Larz Anderson Park, do have off-leash hours from dawn to dusk during the winter months (December to February).

Q. If no one else is using the park, why is having off-leash time outside of established hours a problem?

A. While it may seem that off-leash play outside of Green Dog hours in an otherwise unoccupied park would be harmless, there are many other factors to consider.  Parks can develop a culture that off-leash time is permissible at all hours, which over time can break down the shared-space model.  Neighborhood parks and fields may be seen as dog parks or unwelcome spots for passive recreation or play, which is the opposite messaging and mission we want to promote.  Individuals wanting to use the space while dogs are illegally off-leash are put into potentially awkward or unpleasant situations where they have to ask or confront dog owners about their use of the park.

Q. I never see park rangers - why is there no enforcement being done regarding off-leash dog violations?

A. Park rangers are scheduled 7 days a week and spend the majority of their time patrolling or responding to issues in Brookline's many parks, playgrounds, fields and sanctuaries.  They have many responsibilities outside of the Green Dog Program, but spending roughly half their time with issues relating to the administration, communication and enforcement of the Program.

Q. Could off-leash hours or parks change in the future?

A. The Park and Recreation Commission continues to assess the success of the Green Dog Program. They also consider information obtained from park ranger reports, police reports, and public comments in their assessment. Off-leash hours or parks could change in the future since the Park and Recreation Commission does has the authority to temporarily or permanently close, or modify the boundaries of off-leash areas for any of the following reasons:

  • Environmental damage
  • Failure to comply with rules and regulations
  • Public health or safety
  • Serious unanticipated problems affecting other park users

If any changes are made to the program, updates will be posted on this website, park signage will be changed, and often neighbors will be notified.

Q. Can my friends and visitors bring their dogs to play off-leash in Brookline?

A. Guest permits are available for visitors. A 2-day permit costs $5 and a 1 week permit costs $10. All dogs must be licensed and have a current rabies vaccination to participate in the off-leash program. In addition to being licensed, the other criteria for the dogs include the following: dogs must be at least 4 months old, not in heat, vaccinated, healthy, and not aggressive towards other dogs or people. Friends and visitors must follow all other program rules and regulations.

Non-residents who want to take their dogs off-leash more often are also welcome to register for the program.

Q. Why are off-leash hours occasionally suspended?

A. During permitted activities (school group activities, sports games, etc.), dogs must be on-leash for their safety and the comfort of other park users. When Parks crews are working in the parks, dogs must be on-leash for the safety of both the animals and the crews. Finally, fields may be completely closed when they are wet due to inclement weather, if heavy rain is anticipated, during the spring thaw, or for other reasons related to maintaining healthy fields. We post field closed signs, and you can call the Green Dog hotline 24 hours a day at 879-4850 to hear a recording if fields are closed.

Q. Why are other people in the park during Green Dog hours?

A. Green Dog parks are shared-use spaces.  As a semi-urban town, Brookline has a limited amount of open space.  The Green Dog Program addresses the need for off-leash spaces in Brookline without sacrificing parkland for the greater community.  We have thousands of park users, and sharing our parks helps us maximize the use and enjoyment we all receive from open spaces.

Q. Why do I have to pick up after my dog?

A. Per the Town of Brookline bylaws: It shall be the duty of each person who owns, possesses or controls a dog to pick up and dispose of any feces left by such dog on any sidewalk, tree lawn, gutter, street, park or other public area, or any private property that is not owned or occupied by such person.  Picking up after your dog, whether on or off-leash is required by Brookline town bylaw, and is punishable by fines and/or removal from the park and the off-leash program. Everyone should bring something with them, such as a bag, for cleaning up, and should pay particular attention when dogs are off-leash. Cleaning up feces is not only the law, it is also the polite, responsible thing to do.

Since all our parks are shared by many users, it is particularly important to remove feces so other users, such as children playing sports or people picnicking, don’t come into contact with these messy, potentially unhealthy remains.

In addition, we ask all users to discard all trash and take other personal items with them when they leave.

Q. Why are waste bags not provided?

A. Per the Town of Brookline bylaws: No person owning, possessing or controlling a dog shall appear with such dog on any sidewalk, tree lawn, gutter, street, park or other public area without having the means of removal of any feces left by such dog in his or her possession.  While we have no objection to neighborhood providing discreet containers or bags to donate/share waste bags, the Green Dog Program believes it is the responsibility of each pet owner to have their own waste bags.

Q. I saw an aggressive dog in a park. What should I do?

A. We encourage you to contact the police if you witness or are involved in incidents of aggression towards people, other dogs, or wildlife. They are available at 617-730-2222, 24 hours a day, or 911 for emergencies. Brookline's bylaws are quite clear that aggressive dogs are not permitted off or on leash.

If individuals feel they or their pets are being threatened, then it is reasonable for the offending dog to be put on leash and/or removed from the area depending on the severity of the situation. Owners can lose off-leash privileges and/or be fined, and dogs can even be impounded if the situation warrants it. Brookline Park Rangers and the Animal Control Officer also patrol the parks regularly and can assist in these situations.

Q. I'm a dog walker. Can I bring my clients to play and exercise off-leash?

A. Dog walkers are required to register for the program and will receive a permit for their business. In addition, all individual dogs must be registered to participate. Everyone, including dog walkers, is limited to 3 off-leash dogs at a time. Dogs must be under voice control and in sight at all times.

Q. Why do I need to license my dog?

A. Massachusetts state law requires that all dogs be licensed, and have a current rabies vaccination. Licensing is critical to ensuring the health of our canine friends and other people, and can help identify your dog if they become lost. For more information, contact the Town Clerk’s office at 730-2010.

Q. Why do I need to pay a fee to participate?

A. The Green Dog program is an optional recreation program and a service to the community. Fees are charged similar to other recreation programs, and are used by the Town to cover costs incurred by the program, including park ranger services, assistance and oversight in the parks; program administration and tags; web updates, informational materials and signage; communication and outreach; monitoring of park conditions; evaluation of program usage; and program improvements.

Q. The fees increased substantially - what additional benefits and amenities will be provided with the increase in fees?

A. Primarily, the fee structure of the Green Dog Program was assessed and updated to account for the significant deficit in revenue vs. Program costs, as well as the desire from both Program participants and not for additional enforcement and oversight of off-leash hours.  Rather than provide additional features or dog-centric amenities, these increased fees go toward meeting the significant costs of administering the Program and providing regular facility maintenance.

Q. How do I get more information or make suggestions about the program?

A. The Park and Recreation Commission, Parks and Open Space Division, and Recreation Department all welcome your questions and comments. Please visit our website for further information and updates at www.brooklinema.gov/GreenDog or contact us at 879-5650 or greendog@brooklinema.gov.

Q. How do I report violations?

A. To report off-leash or other violations, particularly aggressive dogs, contact the Brookline Police Department 24 hours a day at 730-2222.