did the NYC Off-leash Hours policy begin?
About 20 years ago, Parks Commissioner Henry Stern recognized that
the half million NYC dog owners could help
the parks recover from a state of decline, crime, and violence
and simultaneously serve dog owner recreational needs to socialize
and exercise their dogs. He recently
said that the Off-leash Hours policy was a compromise
for Parks resources between “dog owners and dog haters. I
was thrust into this controversy, and it was an endless struggle.
But it’s worked out extremely well over the many years that
it’s been in place, and it’s never been challenged before
is the Parks Department's policy on dogs off-leash?
For approximately 20 years, Parks has allowed dogs to be off-leash
in certain specified parks, in certain specified locations, during
restricted hours. Frequently those hours are 9pm in the evening
through 9am in the morning (though further restricted to only when
the park is officially open). In 1990, the
first official off-leash dog park appeared in Tompkins
Square Park. A few years later, several other dog parks were created
specifically for dogs to have an enclosed area to be off-leash. There
are currently approximately 40
dog parks in NYC. With the advent of official dog parks,
the Parks Department made its off-leash dog policy that where an
official dog park exists in a park, there are no Off-leash Hours;
dog owners must use the official dog park and not allow their dogs
off-leash, even during 9pm-9am. However in parks without an official
dog park, which constitute the vast majority of parks in NYC, with
permission from the Parks Department, dog owners may allow their
dogs off-leash from 9pm-9am but only while the park is open.
own a dog. How does the Off-leash Hours policy benefit me?
Well socialized and exercised dogs benefit the entire City with
less barking, less on-leash aggression, less tendency to become
territorial, friendlier behavior towards people and other dogs,
and, as Health Department statistics over the past 20 years clearly
show, a dramatic decrease in the number of dog bites. Additionally,
the past three Parks commissioners and many borough
Parks administrators have partially credited dog owners who
use the Off-leash Hours with helping to bring the Parks back from
their state of decline and crime. Dog owners continue to keep the
parks safe in hours where many people do not use them, 7 days a
week, 365 days of the year, in all types of weather.
do dogs need off-leash time? Shouldn't a good owner be able to just
walk his/her dog on leash to get the dog socialized and exercised?
Over the past
20 years, science has began to understand that most dogs, both large
and small, require some off-leash time outside every day for proper
studies show that dog behavior when a dog is on-leash
tends to be more aggressive, more territorial, and more anti-social
towards people and other dogs. When dogs are allowed time off-leash,
studies show that they are far more social towards people and other
dogs, considerably less aggressive, bark less, bite less, and tend
to have far less neurotic behavior than dogs who get no off-leash
do dog owners need to use the Parks to socialize and exercise their
dogs? Why don't they take their dog to an official enclosed dog
park? Why not build more dog parks?
If only there were enough dog parks. The first
dog park in NYC was built about 15 years ago, and at
this point there are approximately 44 dog parks. Although there
are some outstanding dog parks in NYC, some of these 44 dogs parks
are very small and can not accommodate many dogs. It's impossible
for the City's half million dog owners and 1.4 million dogs (that
comes out to over 30,000 dogs per dog park) to be served by 44 dog
It takes approximately
$125,000 and several years of community activism to build a single
new dog park in New York City. The Parks Department, though strong
supporters of the Off-leash Movement through their commitment to
both build dog parks and Off-leash Hours policy, does not have the
budget to build enough dog parks. Also, land prices, landmark restrictions
preference, make Off-leash Hours the right policy solution
in conjunction with the creation of new dog parks.
the City's Leash Law prohibit dogs off-leash in public at all places
and at all times? Isn't the Off-leash Hours policy illegal?
were finally and unequivocally put to rest by New York State Supreme
Court Judge Peter J. Kelly's written decision
on November 30, 2006 in the case of Juniper Park Civic
Association v. The City of New York, NYC Parks Department,
when the judge concluded that the Off-leash Hours Policy always
has been and continues to be legal and within the discretionary
power of the New York City Parks commissioner. This ruling came
from the failed legal attempt by the Juniper Park Civic Association,
a small group in Middle Village, Queens, to eliminate Off-leash
Hours recreation in all New York City parks.
Six days later,
on December 5, 2006, the New York City Health Board heeded Judge
Kelly's written recommendation to amend the New York City Health
Code to eliminate any discrepancy in agency regulations that could
result in further lawsuits. The Health Board amended
Section 161.05 of the Health Code (the "Leash Law")
to specifically grant the New York City Parks commissioner limited
discretionary authority to allow dogs off-leash in New York City
On April 10,
2007, the Parks Department amended
its regulations to specifically mention the previously
unwritten Off-leash Hours policy, formally allowing dog owners to
allow their dogs to be off-leash in certain areas of designated
parks between the hours of 9pm until the park closes, and then from
when the park opens until 9am. The amended regulations went into
effect one month later on May 10, 2007. A complete list of parks
that allow Off-leash Hours recreation is on the NYC
Parks Department's Website.
all these dogs running off-leash every morning destroying the parks
and making parks unsanitary with their excrement?
Off-leash groups such as FIDO
in Prospect Park and Central
Park PAWS are consistently thanked by the employees and
management of the parks for helping them to keep the parks clean.
Ask most parks employees and they will likely tell you that after
off-leash each day, the areas are cleaner because many dog owners
who use the off-leash hours take great pride in the park and treat
off-leash as a cherished privilege. People consistently in the park
each morning or evening, take a great interest in keeping the environment
clean and protected.
parks are going to the dogs! Aren't parks built for people, rather
The dogs don't walk themselves to the park. Taxpaying dog
owners are the largest single activity-specific user group in NYC
parks. And dog owners are in the parks every day of the year, in
all types of weather. Recreating with one's dog--throwing a ball,
frisbee, running, walking, benefits dog owners as much as their
dogs, and for the past 20 years, has been recognized by the Parks
Department as a legitimate recreational activity within the bounds
of the Limited Off-leash Hours Policy.
seen dog owners in parks abusing the off-leash rules. We should
ban Off-leash Hours Policy because some dog owners are irresponsible.
If the irresponsible actions of a small percentage of activity-specific
parks users were reason to ban those activities in NYC Parks, there
would be no cycling, rollerblading, baseball, football, frisbee,
running, and many other activities. All of these activities result
in real injuries to other Parks users each year. A small percentage
of people who participate in these sports/activities abuse their
privileges, break the rules, and violate the law.
is to stiffen enforcement of the rules and laws and to educate users
about the rules through placement of better signage and a continuation
of pamphleting done for many years by the local community Off-leash
groups. Off-leash dog owner groups spend a significant amount of
time and effort each year educating Off-leash Hours users about
the rules and try to self-police Off-leash Hours. The various groups
that comprise the Off-leash Movement are strongly in favor of stiffer
fines, better signage stating the rules, and strong enforcement
of the law and are ready to work even closer with Parks authorities
to make sure everyone understands and obeys the rules.
policy brings New Yorkers together
10 Reasons to Preserve Dog
Off-leash Hours Policy in NYC
dog owners have been repeatedly credited by Parks Commissioners
with helping reclaim NYC parks from crime, violence, and
half million taxpaying dog owners of NYC deserve and need
outdoor space to recreate with their dogs.
recreation better socializes dogs, resulting in better
canine citizens which benefit the communities in which
Hours policy gets people into the parks, bringing New
Yorkers together and making the City a more pleasant place.
owners who use Off-leash Hours are a strong deterrent
against crime in the parks early in the morning and late
in the evening.
York's dramatic reduction in dog bites from over 40,000
annually before off-leash privileges to just under 4,000
annually in 2005 coincides with the advent of the Off-leash
dog recreation, official Off-leash Hours and dog parks.
off-leash in a natural setting playing, running, and being
themselves are a beautiful sight for dog owners and most
other cities and municipalities have agreed that providing
off-leash opportunities makes good public policy and has
has overall positive effect that strongly outweighs any
a ball, running with, and playing with one's dog is a
legitimate park recreational activity.
dog parks are great, there are not nearly enough of them
to meet the demand from 500,000 dog owners.