DURHAM (WTVD) -- Come January, the only bark in Duke University's Sarah P. Duke Gardens will be on the trees.
Changing a pet-friendly policy that started 77 years ago when the botanical center opened, Duke University announced Friday that dogs and other pets will no longer be allowed in the gardens.
The new policy takes effect Jan. 1.
"As the director of the gardens and a dog-lover and dog owner myself, I understand this policy will make some people unhappy," said Bill LeFevre, the gardens executive director.
Duke Gardens, which opened in 1939, has always allowed pets, one of the few botanical gardens to do so. But with the growth of the university and Durham, as well as the expansion of Duke Gardens' award-winning specialized collections, it has become more challenging to protect the plants and wildlife while also providing the best experience to visitors, LeFevre said.
"As a living museum for plants ... with curated collections of plants and wildlife, our policies must change to align more with those of a botanic garden and not those of a public park," LeFevre said. "We have prohibited sporting equipment in recent years, and now we must ask visitors to leave their pets at home as well."
About 350,000 people visit the gardens each year, he said.
In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the new policy will not apply to service dogs trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
Duke does welcome dog-walkers at many alternative locations on campus, including the East Campus perimeter trail; Al Buehler Cross-Country Trail at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Course; Duke Reclamation Pond; and the many sidewalks throughout East and West campuses.