Why changes to parkrun’s dog policy have led to calls for a barkrun

| Marissa Deck/Unsplash

At the end of February, parkrun announced changes to its dog policy which will come into effect from Saturday 2 April. The changes will see a ban on waist harnesses as parkrunners will be asked to keep dogs on “short hand-held non-extendable leads only”.

parkrun has not banned dogs, nor the use of harnesses for dogs, and yet advocatEs for a barkrun seem to suggest both these things.

After the announcement, stories of outraged parkrunners taking to social media in rejection of the rule changes were quickly picked up by several national news outlets, including the BBC, Runner’s World, and Athletics Weekly. Among appeals to parkrun to revoke their decision, accusations of exclusion, and false safety claims, came a call for an alternative parkrun event for runners with dogs – a barkrun.

Whilst parkrun have defended their decision “based on clear evidence contained within our incident database”, that being “over 10% of incidents at parkrun events involve dogs”, others have argued that there is little evidence to suggest running with a waist harness increases the risk of dog related accidents.

Concerningly for parkrun, not only has this decision caused widespread criticism of the organisation, the barrage of social media comments levelled at the ruling has manifested in general confusion about what the changes will actually mean. Parkrun has not banned dogs, nor the use of harnesses for dogs, and yet advocates for a barkrun seem to suggest both these things.

It’s likely that criticism will continue after the policy comes into effect, and it’s yet to be seen whether barkrun will materialise as a counter event.

It’s important to remember however, that where there are safety concerns there should at least be an attempt to mitigate them, ergo parkrun’s decision. As the event’s CEO Russ Jefferys has commented, “it’s about the safety of all participants”, including the dogs.