Mumbai Greens: Zoic, an animal park that makes your four-legged friends happy

In a city like Mumbai, where open spaces are rare and almost sacred, hangouts for pets are rare. Even gardens and walkways that are accessible most of the time are hesitant to welcome pets. If you’ve ever had an animal companion, you’ll know that walking it on sidewalks or on the road is dangerous and involves keeping it on a leash at all times, even if one worries about parasites like ticks.

Nestled in IC Colony in Borivali West, the western suburbs of Mumbai, Zoic Pet Park welcomes our furry friends not only for walks but also for care, bonding and therapy. Spread over 27,000 square feet, it’s the largest of the city’s three animal parks that allows pets to run off-leash. Imagined and managed by the inhabitants, the garden with a lawn has been a safe space for pets since 2013-14.

Opened in December last year, the renovated park features mounds with cement tunnels as dog play areas, a pet wash and splash fountain, crabgrass areas, repurposed tires as equipment of play and agility, a therapy pond for dogs with weak legs and arthritis, training area and an exclusive fenced area for puppies. Crabgrass – a creeping, weed-like grass that gardeners commonly weed out – was chosen because it is pet-friendly.

Opened in December last year, the renovated park boasts mounds with cement tunnels as dog play areas, a pet wash and splash fountain, crabgrass areas, repurposed tires as play and agility equipment.

The park opens at 7:30 a.m. and is packed with dogs on the weekends. With Covid restrictions in place, however, dog owners used the path outside the park to walk their pets. With dog parents from all over the city frequenting the place, the park offers a range of equipment for training canines. “The park is usually full in the morning. I know people who have switched to IC Colony for the sake of their pets. You will see different breeds of dogs having fun and being trained here,” says Ajit Satyapraksh, while walking his independent 7-month-old dog. “We don’t have a suitable open space to run in and it’s dangerous to let him loose on the road. With this playpen he can play freely without being on a leash.

Signs on the trail regularly instruct owners to clean up if their pets defecate on the premises. A huge table also lists the rules. The newly renovated park has a paved walking path and is surrounded by palm trees with benches at regular intervals, which are designed as animal shelters. These modules, made of natural stone with ventilation holes on the sides, provide cooling shade for pets and their humans.

The result of research by architect Faizan Khan, the shelter modules help to observe how animals navigate and use the spaces. “The goal of renovating the pet playpen was to re-imagine how the ground level is viewed by pets walking through it.” For further assistance, the park’s pet care unit has a regular veterinarian for checkups and vaccinations. The garden also strives to ensure that new plants, shrubs and grasses introduced here are pet friendly.

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