Monday, February 13, 2012

Today's Scofflaw; Comments on Yesterday's Article

Central Park at about 4 P.M. today, just north of the Children's Zoo

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Yesterday we posted a link to an article, by a clueless New York Times reporter, on a leash controversy at a Connecticut nature preserve and how in New York City's parks the issue has been resolved. Here are two of the more thoughtful comments:
I'm sure many dog owners consider themselves nature lovers, but I *know* that many have no regard for preserving Central Park's lawns and wildlife. It's routine to see dogs off the leash in the Ramble--supposedly a leash-required zone--where certain birds will soon be nesting on the ground. Same thing in other wooded areas. And of course, there is no enforcement; they do what they like with impunity.

Once-green lawns in the park are now covered with wood chips,
where dog owners have congregated with their dogs. Look around the Great Lawns: all the wood chips you see cover areas that used to be grassy.

The sane solution is to create good-sized dog runs perhaps along the edges of the park, and require that dogs be leashed everywhere else. Some owners don't like runs, but the dogs won't care. And maybe that will discourage the insane fashion of raising dogs like Saint Bernards, Bernese, and Great Danes in the city, who can never get enough exercise.

There should be "Nature Weekends" in Central park.

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Dogs are animals and should be leashed whenever they are out in public areas. Period. They are not people. (This goes double for public areas in urban environments.)

Furthermore, pets are luxury items, not necessities, and I have no sympathy for people who want to force their personal lifestyle choice on the rest of us.
As an example, Riverside Park up around 116th Street is practically out-of-bounds to those of us who want to exercise there in the morning. I have been hassled by dogs there enough times that, even though I recognize that most of the dogs don't cause trouble, I have to be on my guard every time I'm trying to run and I come across a dog. Sorry dog owners, but if keeping a dog on a leash is too much trouble for you, then maybe you should get rid of the dog or move out of the city.

You can throw all of the statistics you want at me about how dog bites have gone down (yadda, yadda, yadda, note that correlation does no equal causation and I remain unconvinced that letting animals tear around in a park is somehow safer that not allowing that) but all of that is irrelevant because dog bites would be zero per year if we just banned dogs from the city period. Any public space where you are allowed to bring your dog is a gift from the society around you. It is not your right. It is a privilege.

We also just sent the following email to the reporter (the Times isn't accepting more comments):

Dear Ms. Foderaro:

I was disappointed by your discussion of the leashless dog issue in New York City and particularly your uncritical quotation of Adrian Benepe, who is hardly a neutral observer, and Bob Marino, a paid lobbyist for the anti-leash dog owners (by no means all dog owners). You apparently made no effort to contact opponents of New York's unleashed policies even though you could have found any of Messrs Jett or Croft, or me, with a minimal Google search. Partly as a result, you misstate--and slant--some significant facts:

1. Before the leash law--actually, a Board of Health regulation--was amended in 2007, regular leash-free hours in the park was not "accepted practice". In Prospect Park, the DPR had for years informally declared "courtesy hours" in which the leash law would not be enforced--over the protests of birders and many others, but in Central Park, the CPC actually warned dog owners that while there were informal off-leash gatherings, participants were subjected to being ticketed. And a Queens group had sued the DPR over its non-enforcement of the rules.

2. Crime in big New York City parks has been dropping for years. Central Park is now considered safe 24 hours a day. Dogs may be unleashed only between 9 P.M. and 9 A.M., and the vast majority of legal off-leash activity occurs between 8 A.M. and 9 A.M. Mr.. Benepe and the anti-leash lobby whose slogans he is parroting--there is no other way to put it--cannot explain how this presence accounts for the drop in crime between 9 A.M. and 9 P.M. And if you were to come to Central Park or Prospect Park on a really nasty, sleety day, you would see birdwatchers, but few if any dog owners with their dogs loose.

3. It is true that dog bites in the City were dropping for many years. But that was before the leash law was changed. And--just to reiterate--in Central Park, before that time there were small gatherings of unleashed dogs in the morning. Now, all of Central Park is a dog park before 9 A.M. Since 2007, according to a recent Daily News article, dog bites in the City have been going UP. So, by Mr. Benepe's logic, the promulgation of the loosened leash law has increased dog bites.

4. I refer you to a recent Wall Street Journal article on conflicts between unleashed dogs and other New York City park users such as bicyclists, runners, and horseback riders.. You also might want to track down Cal Voenberger, author of Birds of Central Park, who (according to a friend of mine who knows him) has stopped going to Central Park entirely because of all of the unleashed dogs. In short, the relatively small set of dog owners who insist on letting their dogs off-leash outside fenced dog runs has made life unpleasant, to say the least, for everyone else who uses the parks during the morning hours.

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