The conversation

In June 2020, City of Melbourne undertook a background study into dogs in open space in the municipality. This was part of our commitment to the Domestic Animal Management Plan 2017-2021. The study identified:

  • a sharp increase in the dog population in City of Melbourne over the previous 12 months, due to laws allowing tenants to have pets, and an increase in dog ownership during COVID-19 restrictions
  • recommended dog off-leash locations.

From 24 March to 30 April 2021, we sought feedback from the community about dogs in open space and their views on the proposed dog off-leash locations. More than 1000 responses were received and were considered in the draft strategy.

Targeted stakeholder consultation also took place from March to May 2021.

Gathering insights

We collected feedback through:

  • face-to-face survey/engagement activities
  • an online survey
  • pop-ups in parks
  • virtual and face-to-face focus groups
  • letters, petitions, requests and phone calls over the last few years.

In total, we received:


online survey responses via Participate Melbourne


attendants at three focus groups


intercept surveys in four different parks


participants at pop-ups at four different parks

Who we heard from

Most of the respondents were:

  • dog owners (approximately 75 per cent)
  • female (62 per cent), aged 24 to 44 years of age (50 per cent)
  • City of Melbourne residents (80 per cent)
  • not caregivers for children (74 per cent).

Pop-up consultation events

Click each image to enlarge.

What we heard

Online voting ranked facilities such as bins, bags and bowls very high in importance to our community in an off-leash park. Issues like small/large dog breed separation, signage, and information about off-leash locations did not rank as highly. At the pop-ups, safety and sociability topped the voting, with facilities and nature following. Accessibility was least critical to the respondents.

Other feedback:

  • Safety from traffic. Fences were mentioned frequently
  • Sociability: people like the sense of community they find among dog owners
  • Facilities: people appreciate dog waste bag dispensers and bowls for their dogs and seats, bins, shade, lighting and shelter for themselves when using off-leash areas
  • Nature: trees and grass.

Online respondents agreed to the following four statements:

  • City of Melbourne needs more dog off leash spaces.
  • The existing dog off-leash spaces in City of Melbourne are of a high standard.
  • I support ‘timed access’ for dog off-leash dog areas (e.g. off-leash times limited to certain hours each day).
  • Dog off-leash spaces can co-exist with other users, provided people are responsible and observe the rules.

When asked about the option preferences for new off-leash areas, the data tells us that the options for new dog off-leash areas in existing parks are ranked as below:

  1. Ron Barassi Senior Park, Docklands
  2. Customs Square, CBD
  3. Canning and Macaulay Road Reserve (small dogs only), North Melbourne
  4. Riverside Park, Kensington
  5. Point Park, Docklands
  6. Eades Park, West Melbourne
  7. Wellington Park, East Melbourne
  8. Murchison Square, Carlton.

There was also a strong call for City of Melbourne to proactively advocate for new off-leash spaces in the future developments at:

  • Maribyrnong River at Flemington Racecourse
  • Arden/Macaulay Precinct, North Melbourne
  • Lorimer Street Precinct/Fishermans Bend, Docklands.

In these consultations, there was broad support for new dog off-leash areas in City of Melbourne. The support came from across demographic cohorts and also included wide support from those without dogs in their care.

The feedback received from our community supported what other data is telling us, that the population of dogs in the city is growing and needs appropriate facilities and space to thrive. There was a broad consensus that dogs in open space drive neighbourhood conviviality and that dog spaces are a place for human connection as well as for dogs to exercise, play and socialise with each other.

The feedback received included:


Flagstaff Gardens and Carlton Gardens were not included in this consultation - our current policy and regulations to keep these gardens for on-leash dogs remains. Alternatives to both locations (Eades Park for Flagstaff Gardens and Murchison Square for Carlton Gardens) received a good response from the community, so that is being assessed. With the increase in residential accommodation in the city, we recognise a need for an off-leash space close to the CBD. This is something that will continue to be addressed.

At Fawkner Park there are other issues to consider, so adjustment to the location of current off-leash areas will be examined separately.

Next steps

We will conduct a second online community survey. This will include more information about each of the proposed dog off-leash parks and ask whether the community wants them created or not. We will notify all residents within 200m of each nominated park. We will also ask which model of timed access for dog off-leash parks the community prefers.