The purpose of this study was to establish overall level of perceived parasitism risk in dogs, frequency of unleashing dogs in parks, whether owner perception of risk regarding dog-to-human parasite transmission was related to reported frequency of unleashing dogs, and to determine other factors affecting off-leash frequency and risk perception. Survey questionnaires were analyzed to examine associations between behavioral and dog demographic factors, risk perception and acceptability of perceived risks of parasitism, and education regarding parasitism.
Overall, half of the 316 study participants believed parasite transmission between dogs in parks unlikely; risk perception for zoonotic transmission was even lower, with 74.7% of participants believing it to be unlikely. The reported frequency of unleashing dogs, a previously reported risk factor for parasitism, was moderate-to-high. Only 44.9% of respondents reported discussing zoonotic transmission with veterinarians. Education about responsible park use will likely increase awareness and accurate perceptions about parasitism. This expanding role of veterinary public health could help reduce disease transmission risk.