As we discussed in a previous post, current DOPR regulations permit parks to have “designated areas” where dogs may be off-leash from 9 P.M. to 9 A.M. only. Central Park has turned this regulation on its head, instead allowing the dogs off-leash anywhere in the park except for designated areas. These areas include the Ramble, the area around Turtle Pond, and the Pinetum. The official rules, on the website of the Central Park Conservancy (a private organization that manages Central Park under contract with the DOPR), are printed here. That means that dogs may even be off-leash on pedestrian paths. (And, in fact, they are—oh, how they are!)
Now, as we also pointed out previously, the official rationale for “off-leash” is to let the poor dogs exercise. While based on this rationale one might permit dogs to be loose in open, grassy areas, what could possibly be the rationale for permitting them to be loose on pedestrian paths? But in any event, “off-leash”--loose—“free-range”—dogs clearly have the run of much of Central Park before 9 A.M., so you’d think their owners would be so grateful that the owners would scrupulously keep their dogs leashed in the park when and where they’re supposed to. Think again.
At about 8:20 this morning, we observed one loose dog enter the Ramble from the Loeb Boathouse. Its owner deigned finally to leash it when the two had reached the bird feeders. We quickly observed two other loose dogs in the Ramble. At around 8:50, there were approximately 30 loose dogs at Turtle Pond, most walking by signs requiring dogs to be leashed in the area at all times. Between 9 and 9:20 A.M., after dog hours were already over, we observed about 20 loose dogs in the Pinetum, walking by several signs requiring dogs to be leashed at all time in the area and pointing out that dog urine damages trees. But evidently not badly enough for the Conservancy--which must be tremendously overfunded if it can afford to repair all the loose dog damage in addition to whatever else it does—to care about it.