As we've reported, the off-leash fanatics and now even the DOPR credit the "courtesy hours" policy for reducing reported dog bites in New York City. So, you'd think, there must be data correlating lower reported dog bits with rules permitting dogs to run loose and unfenced. Think again.
According to a recent press release by the National Canine Research Council, which bills itself as “the leading source of accurate information on dog attacks, publishing well-documented, reliable research to improve the lives of dogs and the communities in which they live”, reports of dog bites nationally—not just in New York City—have been falling, particularly in the last ten years. The press release credits, among other things, “the enactment and enforcement of leash laws” and goes on to say that steps a community could take to help keep both people and dogs out of harm's way include to “encourage the enforcement of leash laws.” Interestingly, the press release gives no credit to the enactment of rules permitting dogs to be off-leash; it doesn’t mention these rules at all.
This should not be surprising: it seems that in San Francisco, the number of reported dog bites has been increasing, and that city has which has been on the vanguard of the off-leash movement. For this, read Dog Docket, by Dashka Slater, in the July-August of “Legal Affairs”, about some local dog owners who regularly flout federal law by running their dogs in a national park because they think they have a right to. According to the article, “park officials contend that off-leash dogs roam onto sensitive dunes, dig up plants, chase birds and rabbits, and harass sea lions. They say that dogs wander down cliffs and get lost or stuck, sometimes getting their owners in trouble as well . . .” The article quotes a Rutgers law professor as saying: "I've never had my dogs off-leash—I have seven of them. I am as strident and ardent an animal rights person as you're going to find: I don't eat animals, I don't wear animals, and I don't let my dogs off-leash. It's not a question of the dog's right, it's a question of protecting the dog. The idea that there's some kind of right to run off-leash—this is why animal rights people get a bad name, because they have idiotic ideas like this." Read the whole thing.