One of the largest pet adoption events in the country is right around the corner, but what happens after the animals find their forever homes? Well, for starters, those pets will need a place to run around.
Clear the Shelters is a nationwide pet adoption initiative with hundreds of participating shelters -- all of which will waive or discount fees for one day in the hopes of finding the perfect homes for animals in need.
NBC 7 and Telemundo 20 are teaming up with San Diego shelters on Aug. 17 to find forever homes for as many pets as possible. In 2018, the event saw more than 100,000 adoptions, but millions more pets remain homeless, according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
If a furry friend is lucky enough to join your family this weekend, here are five off-leash dog parks in San Diego to take them to celebrate.
Grape Street Dog Park
1998 28th Street, Balboa Park
Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This 5-acre dog paradise is the largest of its kind in Balboa Park and, according to several pet owners, the grassiest – something quite rare in San Diego.
One staple of the park is its rainbow tires that dogs can run and jump through. The area is also surrounded by bright green benches with paintings of adventurous pooches and a free library box decorated with paw prints.
The mother of two German Shepherd mutts, 11-year-old Nika and 6-year-old Theo, said Grape Street Dog Park stays well-maintained – including newly-planted trees and grass patches, as well as clean benches and restrooms.
Large trees provide shade in the hotter dog days of summer, and the park even has a doggy drinking fountain to refill bowls and keep your pup hydrated.
Some pet owners told NBC 7 this park can get crowded on weekends and in the mornings, which makes the few dozen immediate parking spaces scarce. Though, street parking along the outskirts of Balboa Park is usually available, they said.
Fiesta Island Off Leash Dog Park
150 E Mission Bay Drive, Mission Bay
Monday – Sunday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
On the western side of Fiesta Island is a grassy and dirt-filled plain cornered off for San Diego’s furriest friends. The peninsula is home to another park that typically hosts runs, walks, and trainings for aquatic sports, which may impact access to its waters. SeaWorld San Diego is immediately south of this slice of dog heaven.
The park is a mix of trails and beaches to give pups a wide variety of activities. The coastline is expansive with many twists and turns, creating endless entry points for dogs to enjoy the waters of Mission Bay.
On one popular online directory, one reviewer wrote that Fiesta Island Off Leash Dog Park made her “fur babies” smile “from doggy ear to doggy ear”.
In June, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved dog-friendly updates to this area.
“I’m so happy to have Fiesta Island. This is such a sanctuary to come out here. I have two little dogs, and I can run them every day here. This is literally the best dog park in the United States," said Janelle Sisting, the mother of two furry daughters, Sweetie and Daisy.
Dirt parking is available along the outskirts of the dog park. There's also a portable restroom in the designated parking lot.
Nate’s Point Dog Park
2500 Balboa Drive, Balboa Park
This two-acre dog getaway sits near the entrance to Balboa Park. The oval-shaped park is covered in dirt but has a scattering of tall trees to provide shade.
On a popular directory website, several commenters described Nate’s Point Dog Park as "wide open" and "huge."
Stone benches are stationed throughout the park, and visitors have a great view into the heart of Balboa Park.
Some street parking is available along Balboa Drive. To find parking lots in Balboa Park, check out this guide.
The park was named after former City of San Diego employee Nate Wells, according to Balboa Park.
Capehart Dog Park
4747 Soledad Mountain Road, Pacific Beach
This dog park is separated into two fenced-off areas for small and large dogs. The small dogs’ area is mostly grassy with patches of dirt, while the large dogs’ area is mainly dirt, according to several reviewers on a popular directory site.
Chairs, benches, and tables with umbrellas are scattered around the edges of the park for owners to sit back and relax.
According to the Pacific Beach Town Council, the small dogs' area was recently re-sodded, and the park was weeded, gopher-eradicated, and given new signs and a temporary shade cover.
The park is in a residential neighborhood but is backed by a small hill covered in brush.
Roughly two dozen parking spaces are designated to the park, and a portable bathroom sits in this lot.
Coronado Dog Beach
100 Ocean Boulevard, Coronado
Monday – Sunday: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A silver, heat-resistant path leads visitors to a sandy beach dedicated to four-legged friends and their owners. With a quarter-mile of coast, dogs are free to run, splash, and relax off-leash. A drainage ditch about a dozen feet wide separates Coronado Dog Beach from Coronado Beach.
On sunny San Diego days, this scenic spot is typically buzzing with pooches.
Last week, being pushed in a small, purple stroller was Renly – a fuzzy, tan mutt with a massive smile. His owner, Sonia Morelos, was taking him home for a nap after an afternoon of fun in the sun.
“There’s something, sort of, wide open about this place that I really like,” she explained.
Morelos and Renly come to the Coronado Dog Beach three times a week as part of their morning routine.
“The dogs are super friendly here. I’ve never had an encounter with a dog growling at him,” she told NBC 7. “All the dogs that come here, there’s so much variety. There’s little dogs, there’s big dogs, and everybody just loves it. I think that we’re really lucky to have a place to bring all our dogs. And there are dog parks as well, real nice ones, but just being by the ocean, it’s just wonderful.”
University of San Diego student Alejandro Sanchez and his French Bulldog Valentino told NBC 7 it was their first time at the dog beach -- to much success.
“He loves the beach. He loves the blue, clean waters here in San Diego,” Sanchez said. “Coronado is one of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego, and I have to take advantage of a dog beach right next door.”
Valentino was panting happily, cradled in his owner’s hands.
Chamila Nothum was also new to the area, traveling from Phoenix, Arizona, but it seemed like her dogs, Brody, a 10-year-old German Shepherd Rottweiler mix, and Rami, a 10-year-old Dobermann, already made themselves at home.
“We actually picked this area because of the off-leash dog beach. We were looking around for places to take the pups with us on vacation and found this place, and it’s off-leash all the time, and it’s fantastic,” Nothum said, sitting under an umbrella with dogs on either side of her. “And everybody’s so friendly, and it’s such a beautiful area. I mean, you can’t beat it.”
Brody is used to traveling. Nothum, a former news reporter, first met him while on assignment in southeast Missouri where a tornado tore through a town.
“The house I went to was knocked off of its foundation. And there were three puppies running around. I had just lost my rescue dog a month before, and I vowed I would never get another dog,” she said.
Three of Brody’s siblings were killed in the natural disaster, and his owner was struggling to find the surviving puppies a safe home.
“He followed me around the entire time,” Nothum said about the then-5-week-old puppy. His owners eventually gave him to Nothum because they couldn’t continue to care for him.
From Missouri to Arizona to California, Brody has seen a lot of parks, but Nothum said the one in San Diego was special.
“We’ll be back again. We were talking about making this an annual, or even a semi-annual, trip, you know, especially here at Coronado Island,” she said.
The first-timers and superfans all agreed Coronado Dog Beach was one of the friendliest in San Diego, with dogs and owners being conscientious and observant.
“The dogs are super friendly here. I’ve never had an encounter with a dog growling at (Renly),” Morelos said.
Though, Valentino was said to be a bit “feisty.”
“He loves tennis balls, but he’ll steal other dogs’ balls as well. He’s very feisty, but he’s a very loving dog,” said Sanchez.
The City of Coronado’s website described the beach’s waves as “generally rather tame and the setting is very photogenic.”
Parking is available along Ocean Boulevard up to the border of Naval Base Coronado. Spaces can sometimes be hard to come by, so visitors also park in the surrounding residential area to the north.
“If people haven’t tried, you know, adopting a dog, they should go out and do it, because it will change your life,” Nothum said.
To find participating shelters near you, click here. And we'd love to see your pets this weekend! Tag @nbcsandiego in your photos on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook -- or email us at email@example.com. And don’t forget the #ClearTheShelters hashtag!