Canines in Guelph now have a bit more freedom thanks to recent policy changes.

The city has updated its leash-free policy to allow dogs to roam around in 41 unoccupied sports fields at almost any time.

As soon as a person or a group of people enter the park, the dog must be leashed up.

“I think it’s a fair policy,” said dog owner Martin Ruaux. “I think people have to be mindful of who’s around them.”

Guelph’s initial leash-free policy only allowed morning and evening use of all unoccupied sports fields and eight open off-leash parks.

The city is building two fenced dog parks by the end of the year and will be fencing Lee Street Park in 2019.

Guelph Ward 6 councillor Dominique O’Rourke says three off-leash parks wouldn’t be enough.

“People all over the city would have to get in their car in the morning and drive to the off-leash park to exercise their dog,” she said. “This isn’t great from a usability standpoint and not great from an environment standpoint either.”

The city says the hybrid policy is intended to place responsibility on dog owners to be mindful.

“We’re here [at the park] all the time anyways on-leash,” said dog owner Andrew Peterson. “It’ll be nice now to know this guy can’ go off-lease without any issues.”

The city adds to call bylaw if someone isn’t following the rules.

“Nobody wants to feel unsafe,” said O’Rourke. “It’s about safety, hygiene, and sharing the space.”

A full list of permitted parks and other policy changes can be found on the Guelph city website.