France is a country of ironies, many delightful, some vexing. One has always baffled me: rules on where Dogs Rule.
I have photos of my dogs over the years in central Paris: chomping on a bone in the Boucherie Moderne, one of the city’s best butcher shops; seated at a table (on his own chair) at Le Taillevent, a Michelin-starred guardian of haute cuisine; standing comfortably squashed between human legs on a rush-hour Metro train; perched contentedly on the footrest of my Vespa as we glide along the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
But I’ve not one where (I think) they would really like to be: roll-scratching their backs on a lush patch of grass, lounging on a picnic blanket or digging up a flower bed … because for decades, our best ami has been banned from most of the city’s green spaces.
Dogs could do anything they wanted on busy streets, sidewalks and narrow cobblestoned walkways, and their humans could avoid cleaning up anything they left behind, with barely a raised eyebrow from a policeman. But set so much as a paw in any but a handful of the 490 municipal parks and gardens, and his or her owner would almost surely be slapped with a hefty fine.
As of 2019, that has finally changed, and for the first time, I’m going to be enjoying the arrival of spring as much as native Parisians. New regulations in line with “the evolving habits of Parisians and their desire for more pet- and family-friendly spaces” allow dogs access to another 7,000 acres of grass, woods and gardens throughout the City of Light, adding a whopping quarter-million to the number of trees my Vizsla can lift his leg on.
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We’ll finally be able to enjoy a sunny afternoon together in the stunning architectural Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement or Montmartre’s amazing Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent. Some parks foresee the creation of designated canine play areas.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that, for now, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and, even then, are not allowed in parks with children’s playgrounds; those categorized as dangereux (Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Tosa) are not welcome anywhere. Breaking those rules can mean fines of 38 euros ($43) for a leash infraction or 150 euros ($170) for walking with a banned breed.
There is still only one bona fide off-leash dog park in the entire city, Caniparc Denfert Rochereau in the 14th. It’s enclosed, popular and open 24 hours, but it’s a relatively small space with dirt, a few trees and no trash bins in an area south of the center. If you’re willing to trudge even farther, to the sprawling wooded parks at the far eastern or western edges of Paris, dogs have always been welcome (off-leash, unofficially) in sections of the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. But beware: you may have to share the paths with horses and other habituées.
Vive la France!