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Dogs at Huntley Meadows Park

Huntley Meadows Park Banner

Wetland Boardwalk

There are no dogs allowed on the 1/2 mile wetland boardwalk. Dogs are allowed on the rest of the park's trails, providing they remain on the leash at all times. For an explanation of why dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk, please read the following or feel free to call the park and speak with the staff. Thank you for your cooperation and we hope you enjoy your visit to Huntley Meadows.

Question: Why can't I bring my dog onto the wetland boardwalk? He's very well behaved and I always keep him on a leash - I'm sure he won't cause any trouble.

Answer: We understand that people would like to take their favorite pets with them onto the boardwalk. However, the rule that no dogs are allowed on the boardwalk is very important and comes from both experience and scientific study. The two main reasons are as follows:

  • 1) The boardwalk is narrow, with no where to go "off trail", so if two dogs meet and have an altercation, injuries or falling into the wetland can occur. In addition, if a dog attacks a person, there is no where for them to go and human injury can occur. Several people and dogs have been bitten and injured on Huntley's boardwalk under these circumstances. Even well-behaved dogs can instigate a dog-fight with a more aggressive dog and even dog-experts cannot predict how any two dogs will react to each other.
  • 2) Huntley Meadows is a wildlife sanctuary with several rare and imperiled bird species that nest in our wetland. There have been several studies that show even a leashed, well-behaved dog is perceived as a predator to nesting birds and can prevent them from successful nesting. These studies have shown that a dog's presence can cause a 40% drop in bird numbers and a 35% drop in bird species. There are several bird species nesting in our wetland that do not breed anywhere else in Fairfax County, so we have decided to keep Huntley's wetland boardwalk off-limits to dogs.

It is a good thing that Fairfax County is a dog-friendly county. However, it is also important that we maintain wildlife-friendly areas where dogs are not allowed. In addition, it's important to remember that many of our visitors use the boardwalk for study, wildlife observation and nature photography - dogs, on leash or off, can make these endeavors challenging. Huntley Meadows is a 1,500 acre park and the 1/2 mile wetland boardwalk is the only portion off-limits to our pets. Park staff appreciate your help in maintaining a park with room for people, dogs and wildlife.

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