Rules for dogs… (but cats rule)

Cooper checks the signage in Strathcona Park. Photo Christine Aubry

Christine Aubry

Have you seen the lady walking along Somerset East with a black cat in her arms and a puppy on a leash? Yours truly.

Having resigned myself to the fact that we have to share our beloved cat Pepper with his other homes along Goulburn Avenue, I caved to my son’s pleas to get a pet that will stay home and play with him (hence, the puppy).

I am now navigating the whole new world of dog ownership, including the rules of dog walking in an urban setting. Are the poop bags allowed in public garbage containers? Does a No-dogs sign include leashed dogs? How do you know where you can let your dog run off leash?

So I went to the City of Ottawa website for information. Here are some key points, simplified for clarity, of the Animal Care and Control By-law No 2003-77. Violation of the bylaws could result in a fine (some signs specify the amount of the fine).

Dog walking

Dogs on leash at all times, except on private property or in a designated off-leash park.

Dog business

Dog owners must remove feces from any public property or private property that is not their own.

Dog feces must be disposed of on the dog owner’s premises—so no dropping the plastic baggies in public garbage receptacles.

Removal of feces on your own property must be done “in a timely manner” so as to not disturb your neighbours.


If you are confused by the signs in and around the parks, a visit to the City’s website might leave you scratching your head even more. The Dogs-in-Parks Designation Policy lists several types of designations but also notes there can be mixed designations, different time-of-day or time-of-year designations, as well as no designation. The following is my interpretation of the policy:

Parks may be designated as “No dogs,” “Dogs on leash,” “Stoop and Scoop” (meaning “Dogs off-leash”) or not designated at all. If not designated, dogs must be on leash.

Regardless of designation, dogs must always be at least 5 metres away from play structures, wading pools or splash pads, unless they are on an asphalt path in parkland that is not specifically designated as “No dogs.”

The City of Ottawa Emergency and Protective Services Committee (EPSC) is responsible for designating parks under the Dogs-in-Park Designation Policy. An application to designate a park or to change an existing designation will only be considered by the EPSC if it comes from either a community association or a petition of at least 25 households within a five-block radius of the park.

Unsure of how the parks near you are designated? There is an interactive map and an alphabetical listing. Search: dog parks city of Ottawa maps or use this link:


Sandy Hill parks

According to the City’s online map, Besserer Park is off leash, while MacDonald Garden Park on the other side of Rideau is no dogs on one side, dogs on leash on the other. Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park (aka Chapel Splash Pad) is clearly marked no dogs. Sandy Hill Park behind the community centre has a mixed designation which allows dogs on leash in “north 2/3” but no dogs in the rest.

This path is now open to dogs on a leash. Photo Christine Aubry

Strathcona Park has historically prohibited dogs, even on leash along the asphalt path. However since the opening of the Adàwe Crossing over the Rideau River, dogs on leash have been allowed on the southward path between the bridge and Dutchy’s Hole / Robinson field, where dogs are allowed off leash. City staff say the signage to reflect this change will be posted. Across the river, the entire Rideau River shoreline is undesignated (which means dogs on leash).

To add to the confusion, the City’s interactive map does not always match the signs posted at parks. For example, the online map shows Besserer Park as off-leash (which matches the Policy’s definition of a “Stoop and Scoop” park), but the sign posted refers to “Stoop and Scoop” as dogs-on-leash.

Regardless of designation, what is always required is that dogs be under the control of their handler, leash or no leash.

As for cats, like it or not, they have free-reign—so long as they are registered with the City and are not causing damage or creating a nuisance or disturbance to a person or property. I tried walking Pepper on a leash once, but he knew his rights.