When Lalitha Akshay, a Mylapore resident, took her pooch out to park in Bishop Garden she was met with resistance that most pet owners in the city face while trying to access public spaces with pets. Greater Chennai Corporation does not have a policy that bars entry of pets, especially dogs, to park, the animals are kept out to avoid inconvenience to other park users. With parks being out of bounds for dogs, and the proposed park for pets proposed by the corporation as part of the smart city project getting scrapped, pet owners are demanding pet zones inside large and medium-sized parks where their pets can be taken for walks.
“I tried taking my dog once or twice to a park near my house but other residents did not allow me. This is despite having her on a leash. Across the city, parks have boards reading ‘Pets not Allowed’,” Lalitha said. “But in every park there are stray dogs,” she said.
Lalitha said designated pet areas in parks would let the animals breathe fresh air and spend time in the open. “If not such zones, the corporation could permit an hour in the morning and evening when pets are allowed,” she said.
With shrinking open and green spaces, those seeking time with pets in the open fail to find such spaces in the city. In Hyderabad, the municipal corporation has recently developed an exclusive dog park which was proposed to be replicated in Chennai, but the project did not go beyond the proposal stage.
Meera Chandran, a resident of Adyar, said pet dogs are frowned upon and dedicated areas in parks could help their owners who look for open areas to take their dogs out for a walk.
“Most parks I have visited have a No Entry for Dogs’ sign which discourages pet owners. There should ideally be a pet park in the city,” said Rahul Sadagopan, a city resident, who added that beaches are more accessible to pets than parks. Many pet owners like Rahul flock to the beach on weekends.
The corporation, however, is yet to draft any plan for pet-friendly spaces in the city. An official said the civic body could not moot zones in parks as most are small in size. “If there are large parks, it could be thought of. However, having a park exclusively for pets is capital intensive and the proposal was scrapped recently,” said an official.