Eyes On the Dog Run

Dog_Walkers.jpg

Talk about "eyes on the street," there is a group of New York City residents who patrol the city’s streets and parks at all hours of the day and night, everyday. They are the city’s dog owners and dog walkers. And they are under attack.

The boom in New York dog ownership owes itself in large part to an informal agreement that allows dog owners to take their dogs into parks between 9 pm and 9 am on any day of the week and let their dogs romp and roam parks unleashed.

Urban dog owners, like this one, know that their dogs are more well behaved when they have the chance to get a lot of exercise and socialize with other dogs and people. Where I grew up in suburban Staten Island, dogs were more territorial because, off the leash, they occupied only one small yard their entire lives, rarely interacting with other people and other dogs.

There is currently a lawsuit that would put an end to off-leash hours in city parks. Despite a 60 percent decline in the number of dogs bites in city parks over the past two decades, a Queens man wants the Parks Department and NYPD to enforce the city law mandating that dogs must be on leashes at all times in public.

That would be a bad enforcement policy. If the court rules that it must be enforced, many dog owners may be forced to leave the city for the suburbs. It also may encourage the return of criminals, drug dealers and anti-social behavior in park spaces that are currently well-used thanks to dogs and their owners.

The city’s enforcement policy should continue to respect the current 9 pm to 9 am off-leash policy. The vast majority of dog owners realize that it is a privilege to let their pets roam free in the city parks and are good at self-policing. If a dog is particularly unfriendly or misbehaves frequently, an owner can be told to leash their dog. It’s the sort of far sighted compromise that this city needs to do more often.

(Full disclosure: I was dog sitting an energetic Vizsla puppy this weekend)

  • runner

    As someone who runs and bikes at very early morning hours, I appreciate the fact that there are large numbers of people, with their dogs congregating in Prospect Park. It makes the area where they gather the safest part of the park. If the law is enacted, I fear that these people will mostly walk their dogs in their own neighborhoods and the number of people in the park at that hour will go down dramatically.

  • Clarence

    As someone who does not own a dog, never had one, or even barely just tolerates most dogs, I think it is a bad idea to do anything negative about dog runs. In fact, I think NYC needs so many more.

    Evidence shows again and again that dog owners and dog runs are some of the most important people to have out on the streets to re-establish communities and safety in parks. If you look at Washington Square Park, the dog run there in some ways single-handedly started that park on the road to recovery. Dogs and their owners have to be outside for walks many times per day, they encourage community and help make NYC what it is today…

    Most dog owners I see exhibit common sense with their dogs. There is no reason for another law.

    CE

  • So glad to hear you treasure the 20-year Park Offleash Hours policy.

    Learn more about the lawsuit that seeks to end it and what you can do about it:

    http://www.nycoffleash.com

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