What’s the deal with “no dogs allowed?”

Preserve specialist Taryn’s pups Eddie and Mazikeen

If I had a nickel for every time, I check bringfido.com to see if my pups could join me on an errand or adventure, I’d be one rich dog mom. Usually, I’m the definition of “If my dog can’t come, I’m not going.” My fox terrier mix Eddie got accustomed to joining me at work when I worked at kennels and doggie daycares, so when I took on the preserve specialist position, I knew it would be an adjustment for both of us! That’s because as preserve visitors know, dogs are not permitted on Bull Run Mountain Natural Area Preserve.

On its surface, this might seem like a strange and out-of-touch rule! It’s 2022 and dogs are family after all. You might be forgiven for assuming the staff here are a bunch of Cruella de Vil’s scheming to keep dogs from enjoying this beautiful landscape. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! The no-dog policy has nothing to do with not liking pups, and everything to do with the special and unique purpose of BRMNAP.

Eddie and Mazi aren’t spoiled at all…

The Northern Virginia area is filled with parks that allow and cater to dogs as part of their encouraged recreation activities. I frequent quite a few with Eddie and Mazikeen! But what NOVA isn’t so chalk full of are places that put nature and ecosystem preservation first. As a preserve rather than a park, BRMNAP’s first priority is to protect the ten unique plant communities and the wildlife that call those communities home. In the modern world filled with threats to nature, this is no simple task!

The truth is studies have shown that even the most well-behaved pooches can cause serious harm to sensitive wildlife and plant ecosystems. Their furry little paws pick up and track microscopic plant material that can spread dangerous invasive species, and their mere presence as perceived predators has been shown to drastically alter the behavior and ranges of potential prey animals. Biologists call this “fear ecology” and it essentially means that even if your dog would never hurt a fly, the rabbits, squirrels, deer, and more that call the preserve home can abandon important food/shelter resources if they are near a place frequented by dogs.

Now none of these scientific realities make it any easier when Eddie or Mazikeen hit me with their patented puppy dog eyes. They can’t understand why they don’t get to go everywhere I go and the dog mom guilt is real anytime I head to the movies, an indoor restaurant, or any of the other no dog zones out there! But I know I can make it up to them by taking them to our local parks. They enjoy Leopold’s Preserve just down the road from BRMNAP if you’re in the area and looking for a dog-friendly hike.

I hope this helps clarify why the no-dog policy exists at BRMNAP. If you have any questions about our policies or rules please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at tarynbk@vof.org

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