In Los Angeles County, there are more than a million households with dogs. Although there are plenty of parks and trails throughout the San Fernando Valley for owners to walk their dogs, there are practically no dog parks in the northern part of the Valley.
So communities like Van Nuys, Encino and North Hollywood all have a dog park located within reasonable distances of their neighborhoods, the same can’t be said for Sylmar, Pacoima, or Northridge.
However, that could soon change.
A spokesperson from Councilmember Monica Rodriguez’s office said that a dog park is currently being planned at Sunland Park, while a dog run (a smaller version of a dog park) is also being planned at the Lopez Canyon Green Space in Sylmar. Construction of the dog run should start “soon.” There are community meetings scheduled in August to discuss Sunland Park.
Lily Serrano also wants some kind of dog park in Pacoima, where she lives. Serrano got a golden retriever, Sunny, two months ago. While looking for places to walk her new puppy, she noticed that there were no dog parks in her area.
Her usual go-to spots are Veterans Memorial Community Regional Park and El Cariso Regional Community Park in Sylmar when taking Sunny out for a walk, but Serrano also takes her out farther so she can properly socialize with other dogs.
More Local Dog Parks Needed
While recently walking Sunny at Hansen Dam, Serrano spoke with fellow dog owners, who also noticed the lack of dog parks and told her they have to go out of their neighborhoods if they really wanted to go to a dog park.
“We [dog owners] are hoping to bring more attention [to the lack of dog parks] and get some support from our representatives so that we can create this or bring this to our neighborhoods,” Serrano said.
Serrano said she spends $50-$60 on a full tank of gas every week and bought a membership to a dog playground in Sherman Oaks so her dog can have a safe place to socialize. She believes that a local dog park in Pacoima could help to alleviate these costs.
But for Serrano, the main issue for wanting a dog park is safety. Not only would she worry less about her dog accidentally running out into the street, but she and Sunny also would not have to deal as much with the uncertainty of encountering other dogs that are off their leash during their walks.
“I feel like if we had a dog park, it would be more of a controlled area for dogs to roam free and sort of having a specific area where they can safely do what a dog is supposed to do, which is sniff around, say hi to other dogs or play with other dogs,” Serrano said.
One possible location where a dog park could be built that Serrano pointed out was at Hansen Dam.
“It seems like there’s a lot of land there,” Serrano said. “They could just section off a couple of acres … for your dogs, [so] that would be great. I think already people take their dogs around that area, so they would be familiar [with it].”
Sylmar resident Oscar Sepulveda also takes his dog, a Rottweiler, for a walk at Hansen Dam.
He said he used to go to a dog park near his residence in Silver Lake. When he moved to Sylmar, there were no dog parks close by. He now comes to Hansen Dam because both he and his dog enjoy it. There are no specific dog parks, but plenty of walking trails.
Like Serrano, Sepulveda thinks a dog park could be built near the Dam.
“There is a lot of open land here, but not a lot of people pushing for it,” Sepulveda said. “They can build something here.”
Contacting Rodriguez Office
Serrano said she has contacted Rodriguez’s office — whose district includes the neighborhoods of Pacoima, Sylmar, Sun Valley and Mission Hills — about the possibility of making a dog park in the area.
She said her calls were hung up three times due to a “bad connection” before connecting with someone who took her information. She eventually received a reply from Rodiguez’s office and was told that if more people called in support of a local dog park then they could look into the possibilities.
In a 2018 report by the National Recreation and Park Association, 91 percent of Americans believe dog parks provide benefits to the communities they serve.
Sixty percent say the top benefit is giving dogs a safe place to exercise off-leash, while 48 percent say the top benefit is allowing dogs to socialize with each other. Thirty-six percent say dog parks allow owners a chance to be physically active with their pets.