The only statistic the off-leash crowd pulls out to support their claim that off-leash somehow benefits the general public is that reported dog bites are down over the last 20-odd years. We spoke before, and will speak again, about why this statistic alone is meaningless, even if--if--it is true; and it seems that in San Francisco, the advent of widespread off-leash has been accompanied by an increase in reported dog bites. But even assuming, for the sake of argument, that letting dogs loose in New York's parks hasn't led to an increase in dog bites in the parks--and wholly aside from the damage they do to the parks and their flora and fauna--loose dogs damage people in other ways. We've referred to loose dogs getting in the way of bicyclists and runners, and injuring horses and their riders. We just received the following email about Juniper Valley Park in Queens:
Just a little note. Last weeks concert (Italian) was absolutely fantastic. This morning at around 8am, my next door neighbor, was returning from the park after a brief walk, when an unleashed dog, ran past him land hit him in the back of his legs. He lost his balance and fell on both knees, scraping them. No broken bones as of yet. But, I see this every morning. A lot of people, particularly the elderly are frightened, and often make detours. Just for your info.
Note the "often make detours". Juniper is a small neighborhood park, and the best way from one side of it to the other is to walk straight through. In other words, off-leash dogs are forcing people other than their owners out of the park. We continue to hear and see anecdotal evidence of this. Yet we're supposed to believe that off-leash benefits other park users. How?
The email was forwarded to Dorothy Lewandowski, the Queens Parks Commissioner, with the following commentary:
We are seeing the dog owners acting more and more emboldened with the unleashing of their dogs. After 9pm at night the fields are invaded by dog owners who feel that 9pm signals their time in Juniper Valley Park with their unleashed dogs. Since when?
Dog owners refer to the chicken wired fenced area as their "dog run." Since when?
Also dog owners, who make it very clear that they are not happy with the chicken wired fenced area and feel that their dogs are entitled to all of Juniper, are boldly bringing their unleashed dogs into the pool area by the park house. There is one female park worker at the park house who tries very hard to maintain order and reprimands the dog owners. We need more of those kinds of workers. The unleashed dogs are also drinking from the water fountains.
Commissioner Lewandowski, I think I've given you a snap shot picture of current dog conditions in Juniper Valley Park. The one thing I left out is the resounding barking in the early morning hours, 6am to 9am, and dog owner screaming their dogs' names trying to keep them under control in the chicken wired area.
We need your intervention and your authority to, first of all, educate the public who are totally without a clue about dog rules in Juniper, and then crack the whip, get signs posted stating no unleashed dogs and, very importantly, that the 9pm curfew is directed to everyone, dogs included, to stay out of Juniper Valley Park.
Please address these serious developments that have evolved from dog owners who feel that, because you and Commissioner Benepe have given them the authority to have their dogs unleashed from 6am to 9am, they own Juniper and everyone and everything else better get out of their way.
Gary Colter and I have spoken about the problems I've stated above. We would like to meet with you at a convenient time to make some sense out of your dog edicts that seem to empower dog owners to feel Juniper is their park and that they, the dog owners, are in charge.
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This afternoon at 4 P.M. in Prospect Park we pedaled past two very large female PEP officers walking north along the running path, adjacent to the Midwood. Just beyond the marker for Battle Pass we noticed a dog running around off-leash on Nelly's Lawn and decided to pull over to the curb and wait, just to see what the PEP ladies would do when they arrived. We waited and waited and waited. They never showed, so we figured that they had stopped at the park bench across from the zoo to finish their ice cream. If you were to follow the daily routine of those women in Prospect Park, how many hours of their eight-hour day do you imagine that they'd actually be patrolling anything? We wish we made over 35K, plus benefits, sitting on our rear end eating ice cream. On second thought. . . .