FOSCP Welcomes New Chapter: “Friends of the Paw Parks” – a fast-growing sector of parks

By Sue Nielsen

Sarasota County is blessed with five off-leash dog parks, affectionately known as “Paw Parks.” The parks provide dedicated outdoor green space where dogs can run, sniff, and socialize, while owners who share the love of their four-legged friends connect as well.

Each park has its unique qualities: 17th Street offers agility equipment in the main park; Arlington has a newly enlarged small dog section with a sanitary water station; Lakeview is very wooded and provides needed summer shade; Woodmere is secluded and natural, and Brohard has the only off-leash dog beach in the county. Community involvement could help to brighten the appearance and infuse some fun into these great gathering places for all family members.

The Friends of Sarasota County Parks, or FOSCP, works closely with Sarasota County Park and Recreation and together have made significant contributions to the local park system. Paw Parks are the fastest growing sector of the park industry, and especially in pet-friendly Sarasota, the desire to have great dog parks is apparent. Properly exercised and socialized dogs are physically and psychologically healthier, and tend to be better behaved. Having a group of quality paw parks creates opportunities for members of the community to meet and bond over common interests, and this type of park is truly multi-generational.


About the author:

Dr. Nielsen and Rico

Last week, after recommendations from Dr. Sue Nielsen, the board of the Friends launched Friends of the Paw Parks, naming Dr. Nielsen president of the new Chapter. In addition to her duties as a physician, Sue is a part-time Rover Reporter for, and a playgroup organizer for very small dogs — the “Petite Pups Playgroup.” Before becoming a full-time resident of Siesta Key in 2012, Sue came for vacations here for 10 years from Minnesota. Over the past year, she visited all the paw parks with her Chihuahua, Rico, interacting with park users and learning the needs and wants of the community. She’s also been researching the best dog parks across the nation to gather ideas for Sarasota Paw Parks. Sue also accepted an invitation to join the Board of the Friends.[clearboth]


Community education will be one focus of Friends of The Paw Parks. Many communities have found that paw parks promote responsible pet ownership. Although Paw Park rules are posted at most parks, a stronger sense of community can foster the social etiquette and responsibility that will ensure safe play. Not all dogs are good candidates for a paw park, so helping owners determine if their dog is appropriate prior to visiting is essential. Local animal ordinances are not widely known. In particular, all dogs must be registered with Sarasota Animal Services annually and be up to date on rabies vaccine. The license costs only $10 and goes to help Animal services shelter system.


We know that many passionate dog owners out there want to volunteer their time, donate money, and provide ideas and support to help the Paw Parks thrive. The Friends will work to mobilize local community members to make a difference here in Sarasota. Please go the FOSCP website to learn more about the Friends, donate, and join us in this effort to improve our Paw Parks. The ultimate goal is to become the Best County Paw Parks in the nation!!!!


Paw Parks

Sue Nielsen

Sarasota Park and Rec