Both off-leash dog parks are open from dawn to dusk. You can be ticketed if you are in the park after dusk. City regulation defines dusk as 30 minutes after sunset.
In each of the yards there are poop bag dispensers that the city fills with florescent green, biodegradable bags. If the dispensers are empty, please inform the attendant or call 356-5106 or 331-3567. Put used green bags in the waste tank chimneys. At Thornberry there are silver tank chimneys (stacks) just outside the entry structure as well as in the middle of the Lucky Pawz Playground. At Rita's Ranch there are two tanks stacks, one on each side of the fence that separates the two yards.
The green poop bags degrade with water, which is what makes it possible for the city to pump out the contents of the poop tanks. Other sorts of bags clog the tanks and make emptying them difficult. If you do not use the GREEN bags, please don't use the tanks, dispose of those bags in the garbage cans near the park entry. Nothing but these special florescent green bags should be put in the tank chimney's -- especially not candy wrappers, potatochip bags, etc.
The bag dispensers work like upside-down tissue boxes. We know the bags are sometimes difficult to use. If you do not want to use them, please bring your own bags and dispose of them in the trash cans outside the fenced yards. But please keep in mind that the more environmentally friendly solution is to use the bags provided and deposit them in the tanks where the waste gets treated instead of going to a landfill.
As you enter any of the dog yards we suggest you stop and get a poop bag. Many dogs want to poop in the yard as soon as possible. Be prepared. Thank you.
In warm weather the city brings out large water tanks to both parks. Water has to be trucked in. Please use the water to hydrate your dogs, not to wash off dirty paws. You need to bring your own container. There is no water provided in the winter so bring your own.
Note that the middle of the pond is about 15 feet deep. There are 2 life rings to be used by people fastened to the fence in the pond area. The west side of the pond is shallow where dogs can wade in.
Please do not use the drinking water in the tank to clean the mud off your dogs. That water is a limited resource -- it has to be trucked in.
Lily's Pond is named for Beth Shields' Dalmatian. Beth worked tirelessly for the dog parks and served as both vice president and president of the board of directors from the earliest organization in 2002 through 2006.
Part of the park entry structures are the information boards. The boards are locked and available only for postings by JCdogPAC. Please check there for information about Emma's Run reservations, changes in the park, and other notices.
Park Rules and Etiquette
For the safety of all dogs and their human companions and for the enjoyment of all, please read and abide by these etiquette suggestions and rules. (PDF version of rules and etiquette.)
- When you get to the park, please don’t congregate with your dogs at the entryway and gates. Keep these areas clear so that everyone can enter and exit easily.
- Remove leashes within the double gated area.
- Wait for the gate area to be cleared of dogs and people before opening a gate. Wait your turn!
All dogs must:
- Have a current rabies vaccination
- Display a permit for use of the park — a dog park tag or Day Pass
- Be accompanied by a responsible person at least 16 years of age.
- Be on-leash in the parking lot and in the entryway until they are inside the first gate.
- Be off leash within the park. It is okay to leash your dog to lead them out of the park.
The following dogs are not allowed in the park:
- Vicious, dangerous or aggressive dogs
- Dogs with communicable diseases
- Dogs in heat
Dog handlers must:
- Clean up after their dogs. Please use the green biodegradable bags available in park dispensers. Dog waste in the florescent green bags should be deposited in the underground waste tanks. Other waste bags should go into the garbage cans.
- Carry a leash for each dog in the park. Leaving a leash on the gate is a violation of park rules.
- Be responsible for actions and behavior of their dogs at all times.
- Discourage dogs from excessive barking and dominating behavior such as staring, humping, and bullying.
- Stop dogs from digging and fill holes made by their dogs, Holes may cause dog or people injury.
- Remove pinch, choke, and spike collars prior to entering the park. This is a safety issue as dogs can be injured by such collars when playing. People have been injured by these collars too.
- Not have more than two dogs in the park per handler at one time.
Electronic training devices are restricted to the Emma's Run Training and Agility area.
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied and closely supervised by a responsible adult. Do not allow children to run, yell or pet dogs without permission of the handler.
Wheeled devices, except wheelchairs and strollers, are not allowed. No skateboards, bicycles, wagons, or roller blades, please.
Smoking is prohibited in the dog parks. You may smoke in the parking lot but please don't leave cigarette butts on the ground were dogs can find them. No smoking in the entry way.
No food is allowed in the park except for small training treats.
Dogs over 18 inches at the shoulder are not allowed in the small dog yard. Small dogs are welcome to use the all yards at the park, but owners should be aware that it is possible for small dogs to be accidentally injured by larger dogs.
Users of the facilities do so at their own risk.
Other park rules and ordinances may apply. Many of the Iowa City parks close at dusk, 30 minutes after sunset. This applies to the dog parks also.
Violations should be reported to Iowa City Animal Services at 356-5295.
Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park (TOP) encompasses 11 acres in four areas: Linder Small Dog Yard, Lucky Pawz Playground for all dogs, and Emma’s Run Training Area and Lily's Pond.
Fees have been raised to $35 for fixed dogs in Iowa City $40 other communities. There is a $5 discount for spayed or neutered dogs.
Rita's Ranch is a 2.5-acre area located in Scott Park,
on the southeast side of Iowa City. Rita's Ranch also has underground waste tanks, one in each yard.
Dog Park Permit Tags or Day Passes are required
NO DOG MAY BE IN THE PARK WITHOUT A DOG PARK TAG or a DAY PASS in the possession of the handler. We recommend the tag be affixed to the dog's collar or harness but if it isn't, the handler must be able to present the tag or pass upon request. Tags left at home or elsewhere is insufficient.
- Cost: $35 a year per dog for Iowa City residents ($40 for neighboring communities such as University Heights, Coralville, North Liberty and others) with a $5 discount for spay or neuter. There is a low-income reduced fee for qualifying individuals. Tags sold after July 1st are pro-rated.
- Expiration: Tags are valid for an entire year from January 1 through December 31. Tags may be purchased for 1, 2 or 3 years. Tag expiration is tied to the expiration date of the dog's rabies vaccination.
- Requirements: Proof of current rabies vaccination, current city dog license (I.C. residents only), and proof of neutering (optional).
- Application: By mail (download), at the Robert E. Lee Recreation Center (corner of Gilbert & Burlington St, Iowa City IA), or at the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center (4852 Sand Road SE, 52240). Permits can also be purchased at the dog parks if an attendant is on duty.
Dog handlers that do not want or need a yearly dog park permit can use a $5 Day Pass. Look for the Day Pass station at the entrance of each park. Special envelopes are on each side of the station. Fill out the bottom portion with all the required information and deposit a $5 bill or check inside -- be sure to date both the bottom and top portions. Tear off the top portion and retain it as proof that the dog is permitted in the park that day.
Failure to present either a Day Pass receipt or a Dog Park Permit tag upon request will result in expulsion from the park and a possible fine.
Iowa City residents must have a city dog license to purchase a dog park permit. A city license for other communities is not required to obtain a dog park permit, but they are required by every city when the dog is off your property.
- Iowa City dog licenses. If you live in Iowa City, all pet animals over the age of four months, and dogs and cats under the age of four months that are no longer nursing from their mother, are required to be licensed or have a city ID tag. Proof of current rabies vaccination is required for city licenses.
- Coralville dog licenses
- North Liberty dog licenses
- Other cities consult the city website
Emma's Run can be reserved for special events. Reservations must be made in advance and must include the number of dogs expected to be involved. The cost is $10/hour, with a 2-hour limit. All dogs that come to such an event must have a current rabies vaccination. When Emma's Run has been reserved, that information will be posted on the calendar. Emma's Run groups have included a Greyhound Rescue organization, a Rhodesian Ridgeback group, and a reunion of dogs that had been rescued from a Solon hoarder.
Howl-O-Ween dog costume party
Every year JCdogPAC reserves Emma's Run for an afternoon Howl-O-Ween dog costume party. The first hour is reserved for small dogs (under 18 inches at the shoulder) and the second hour welcomes all dogs. The party is held on the weekend day closest to Halloween — usually a Sunday from 2-4 PM.
The one or two days immediately following Labor Day the Iowa City Municipal Swimming Pool has it's chlorine content reserved and the pool is opened to dogs. This is a major fundraiser and a popular event.
This event hasn't been held in recent years but the Eggstravaganza was a popular event held as a fundraiser in the Iowa City Park before Thornberry opened. Dogs hunted for 5,000 egg-shaped treats made by Woofables. Photos by Jeff Banaszek from one of the hunts can be viewed here.
Copyright © Johnson County Dog Park Action Committee
JC DogPAC - P.O. Box 1465 - Iowa City, IA 52244-1465