Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Murder Most Fowl

Are dog owners who let their dogs loose illegally merely ignorant of the rules? This question was seemingly posed by a recent innocent-sounding posting on a birding website--by a dog-owner. The answer and follow-up are not innocent and, to animal lovers (by which I mean to exclude those who loose their dogs in the parks) ought to be stomach-churning.

Here's the posting:
I've been waging a campaign to educate other dog owners about controlling their dogs in sensitive areas, both on leash and during the off leash courtesy hours. I have heard from Commissioner Benepe, have spoken at length with Assistant Commis. Docket, and, Captain Prince, commander of Park Enforcement. Captain Prince sent two PEP officers out with me to see several problem areas and I'm encouraged by commitments to enforce the rules.

I found this .pdf pamphlet produced by the Conservancy and I wanted to share the link with you. As soon as I get my printer fixed I'll make a stack to pass out. You may want to print some for your use as well.

This pamphlet includes a map (a little difficult to read unless you really know the lawns) and CLEARLY spells out the rules that apply during and after the off leash courtesy hours. I don't want anyone punished or fined (really) for having fun with their dogs.. I'm just seeking a little courtesy and fairness from the dog owners.

I hope you agree.

Here's the link: http://www.centralp arknyc.org/ site/DocServer? docID=154

I also have the phone number of the PEP command center if anyone needs it to report problems in the Ramble and other sensitive areas of Central Park. The officers WILL respond. When you see me, please ask me for it.
But (and entirely setting aside the question of whether PEP will enforce the rules in Central Park, as they have not in Prospect Park) as one of our correspondents pointed out, off-line, the lack of signs seems not to be the problem:
There are signs and maps posted all over the parks. People just ignore them. The bottom line is that these dog owners don't do what is right, they do what they can get away with. For example, at the dog beach in Prospect Park there are TWO signs that spell out, very clearly, the hours that they are allowed to unleash their dogs. People routinely ignore them. Passing out flyers is a waste of time. This photo from Central Park is a perfect example of dog owners' disregard for rules. The dog was placed behind the fence and allowed to trample the flowers:
And here's this post on Pardon Me for Asking;the headline says it all: "'No Dogs Allowed' Signs Don't Deter Some Dog Owners in Carroll Park"

But back to the birding blog. One of us posted a comment taking issue with the birder's assertion that the off-leash scofflaws shouldn't be punished. The comment elicited this off-line response:
It wasn't my intention to discuss leniency for off-leash scofflaws; that's merely my opinion. My intention was to enlist everyone's help in reporting offenders so that the Conservancy and the Parks Department are made aware of the ongoing issue of off-leash dogs running out of control throughout the park (especially in Ramble, North Woods, etc). Unless Park Enforcement logs the incidents, the Park and Conservancy think the Courtesy Hours option is going well, and it is not.

Actually, there is not sufficient and clear signage, nor patrols by PEP or even by volunteers and the gardeners just turn a blind eye, even as ducklings are killed as they were last Spring.[Italics added.]
Our correspondent replied with two questions, again off-line:
First, you say that "Courtesy Hours" are not "going well". In what sense do you mean this? Second, you say that ducklings were killed last spring. Who or what killed them, and how do you know?
To which the birder responded as follows:
The ducklings were killed by an off leash dog last spring, in the Ramble near the Tupelo. They had nested in the wooded area there. These are the Azelea Pond pair and the mother was in the process of walking the ducklings down to the Lake for the first time. Unfortunately, no one called it in although many witnessed it (not myself, I was told about it).

There still are way too many offenders with dogs running off leash in Central Park when the hours have ended (or not yet started). Example yesterday on Cherry Hill when I was birding and had my two dogs with me (tethered to my waist), at 10:00am, woman playing ball with her black Lab. I called "please leash your dog" which she did and then explained,"it is after 9am and e off-leash hours are over." She replied "yes, I know. So what?" And that is the typical attitude. I usually get "what are you, a cop?" And the owners tell me how no one else complains, not even the gardeners who sit idly by watching the offense.

The hours have not had any positive impact on off-leash dog people. They still think they own the park and dogs are still out of control 24/7. And they do not police themselves or each other.

The off-leash community just doesn't get it. There is no "courtesy" from them whatsoever. Not only do they disregard the hours, but, they also abuse the privilege by unleashing their dogs as soon as they enter the park and not leashing them on pathways--dogs are running loose everywhere, instead of only in designated areas. They're in Turtle Pond, in the Ramble, in the Lake, in Shakespeare Garden, in the Pinetum, everywhere. Relatively few of the owners have any vocal control over their dogs. I've had numerous incidents with loose dogs rushing me and my leashed dogs. And I see dead pigeons and squirrels all the time (especially on the Bridal Path lawns) and I know the difference between a dog killed animal and a prey-bird killed animal--they're mauled, not eaten.

I'm just trying to get more people to call and report all the incidents, even if they don't get a PEP officer to show up, just to get it on the record. If we don't call them in, the Parks Dept.is only hearing from the off-leash dog people who claim it works, when it does not.[Italics added.]
So, now we have it from a Central Park dog owner: unleashed dogs are not merely harassing park wildlife; they are killing it. We pointed out, in comments to the then-proposed off-leash regulations, that this is precisely what would happen, and it's happening. Animal rights activists, are you in favor of rights for animals or for dog owners? Those rights are not compatible. It is time for you to speak up.

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