Bringing the Dogs to Heel
When it comes to passion, few groups can compete with the animal lobby. Members of the New York City Council still shudder at the memory of the travails they went through over the rights of carriage horses. Given that history, the Giuliani administration deserves a bravery medal for its attempts to enforce the leash law and restrict due-process rights for dogs that bite people.
Parks Commissioner Henry Stern announced this week that he was increasing fines for dogs caught romping off their leashes and is stepping up enforcement of dog-control laws in Central Park and Riverside Park. The initiative will be popular with bicyclists, parents of small children and joggers who have been harassed by over-friendly (or under-friendly) dogs, and a relief to park preservationists who say the damage caused by unrestrained pets is their worst maintenance problem. This outrages some dog owners, who say that human beings cause far more damage in the parks, and that their pets are being deprived of their natural right to run free.
Doggie rights are also an issue in the Giuliani administration's attempt to streamline the process for destroying vicious dogs. The Mayor has proposed a bill that would put the burden of proof on a dog's owner to show there were extenuating circumstances when a pet takes a chunk out of another city resident. Right now, even if a veterinarian finds the dog is dangerous, it can be put down only if the city can demonstrate that the attack was unprovoked. As a result, animals linger on the canine equivalent of death row for months, taking space needed for other animals.
Both these initiatives seem reasonable. Pets are important, but people must come first. Dogs that bite have no place in a crowded city. Neither do dogs that are so large or hyperactive that they cannot adjust to life on a leash. Owners have an obligation to keep their dogs licensed and under control. If they fail to follow those rules, they have no right to complain if they are ticketed. If a dog attacks someone while roaming on its own, the owner will have only himself to blame if the animal is put away.
These rules exist to protect other animals as well as people. Smaller dogs are the most frequent targets of unleashed dogs in the parks, and hundreds of homeless dogs that have not bitten anyone have to be killed every week because there is no room in the shelters. Given scarce resources, we would keep as much space as possible for the animals without a prior record.
We also recommend that the Mayor get behind a bill proposed by Councilwoman Kathryn Freed that would raise license fees for unspayed dogs and encourage the establishment of low-cost spaying and neutering clinics. Ms. Freed contends that the vast majority of dog bites are the work of unneutered males, and her measure could reduce unwanted strays in the city, as well as the number of dogs with an urge for nipping.
Read it again. "Parks Commissioner Henry Stern announced this week that he was increasing fines for dogs caught romping off their leashes and is stepping up enforcement of dog-control laws in Central Park and Riverside Park." The editorial followed a front page article the previous day, “City Seeks to Collar Dogs That Run Free”. So much for the supposed “successful 20-year policy” of letting dogs be unleashed. And "Pets are important, but people must come first. Dogs that bite have no place in a crowded city. Neither do dogs that are so large or hyperactive that they cannot adjust to life on a leash." We wonder where The Times is on this issue now, and if they changed their minds, why.
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Today's unleashed dogs:
7:50 A.M.: large brown dog, we believe owned by Tony, the head of FIDO, ran from the Peninsula across Wellhouse Dr. to chase a bird or squirrel. A repeat offender.
7:52 A.M.: large white dog, white owner, proceeding down Wellhouse Dr. from Peninsula towards west drive. A repeat offender.