Barcelona has not yet defined the areas where dogs will be allowed off-leash

The City Council maintains the moratorium on sanctions and the owners' organizations denounce that they are "expelled" from public space

3 min
Two women walking their dogs in a park in Barcelona yesterday morning

BarcelonaThe announcement comes from 2014: Barcelona will fine dog owners who walk their dogs off the leash outside the designated areas. The problem was, then, that these spaces were scarce, small and poorly adapted to the needs of animals. Therefore, the amendment of the ordinance for the protection and possession of animals that included these new penalties came into force linked to a moratorium: until there were enough spaces enabled there would be no fines for carrying pets off leash. Now the city already has 113 recreational areas for dogs, 41 of them over 400 square meters, but has not yet deployed the so-called shared-use areas (ZUC), which are those spaces where, in certain time slots, dogs can walk off leash and without the limitation of any fence, whether parks, streets or squares. It has to define one in each neighbourhood -a total of 73-, but the subject is dragging from the last term, when there were tensions between the municipal government and the entities representing dog owners due to some of the proposals, which animal rights advocates considered insufficient. Now the political guardianship of the project has changed hands and has corresponded to the socialist Laia Bonet, who inherited the list and today has explained in committee that some of these proposed spaces, which have not been made public, are now occupied by extraordinary school uses due to the new needs of the pandemic.

The new forecast is to deploy them during this mandate - the proposals have already been verified, according to Bonet - and, while this has not been done, the moratorium on sanctions will be maintained. What can already be guaranteed, according to the municipal government, is that 98% of Barcelona residents have a dog area a quarter of an hour from home. But, in parallel, the list of parks where dogs are banned from entering is growing: the latest, Diagonal Mar, now declared a biodiversity refuge, which brings the number of green spaces with restricted access to dogs to 80. And the councillor for Climate Emergency, Eloi Badia, warns that the idea is to make this list grow or limit access to dogs off-leash to certain time slots in certain parks if they end up being considered shared-use areas.

In an interview on Betevé, the councillor for the comuns has argued that now that there are enough spaces for pets "it would be time" to lift the moratorium and make it clear which spaces can be accessed with dogs and which cannot. But before that, the definition of the responsible dog ownership cards that dog owners will have to have in order to have access to the shared areas is also pending. Those who are excluded from the possibility of walking in these areas without a leash are owners of breeds considered potentially dangerous, which by legal requirement must always be kept on a leash and muzzled.

"We are their punching bag"

Entities that defend animal owners such as Espai Gos Barcelona denounce that in this mandate they are not being listened to when defining which places are more suitable to be enabled as shared use areas and regret that they already found surprises, for instance that the first list included spaces such as the Vila de Gràcia square, "without green areas, with many terraces and with little space to run", as Àngela Coll denounces. They accuse the municipal government of ending up subtracting spaces for dogs every time they fix a green space and of "forgetting" that dog owners are also residents of the city.

They argue that parks should make up the majority of the list of agreed shared-use spaces, but doubt that this will be the case. "We are sure that most of them will not be in parks", predicts Coll, who assures that the City Council "would not dare" to prohibit young people from entering parks to prevent them from drinking but that, on the other hand, it does dare to prohibit dogs. "We are their punching bag" she says.