Pets are permitted in Badlands National Park with some restrictions. Pets cannot be left unattended. While visiting the park, pets must be kept on a leash no more than six feet in length at all times. Pets are only allowed in developed areas, such as campgrounds and picnic areas, and other areas open to motor vehicles, such as gravel and paved roadways, roadway corridors, and parking lots. Pet etiquette dictates always cleaning up animal waste and disposing of it in trash receptacles.
Pets are prohibited from hiking trails, public buildings (i.e. visitor centers), and backcountry areas, including the Badlands Wilderness Area and areas with prairie dog colonies. Leaving your animal unattended or tied to a fixed object is prohibited, as well as a danger to your pet.
Keep in mind that summer temperatures can be extreme, often reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on an 86 degree day, the temperature inside a motor vehicle can quickly reach 134 to 154 degrees.
If your pet needs more room to walk, consider visiting the trails managed by US Forest Service, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, located adjacent to Badlands National Park, where pets are permitted (with some exceptions). For more information contact the Buffalo Gap Visitor Center which is located in Wall at (605) 279-2125.
Service animals are an exception to most pet restrictions and are allowed on trails and in public buildings. Service animals must be kept on a leash at all times and, due to potentially infectious wildlife diseases, are not allowed in areas with prairie dog colonies.
Reasons for Pet Restrictions
The park prohibits pets in the Wilderness area, other backcountry areas, on hiking trails, and in areas closed to motor vehicles for the following reasons:
- Pets, such as dogs and cats, can carry disease into the park’s wildlife populations. In turn, infectious diseases in wildlife can be transmitted to visiting animals.
- Pets can chase and threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left behind by an animal can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife.
- Pets may be injured by park wildlife, such as rattlesnakes and porcupines, or may become prey for predators, such as coyotes.
- During the summer season, hiking trails and popular visitor areas can become congested. Many dogs and strangers do not mix well, presenting a danger to other visitors. Many people, especially small children are frightened by dogs, even small ones.
- Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the Badlands. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively.