Off-leash recreational activities are a recognition that
the half million dog owners and 1.4 million dogs who live in New
York City need outdoor opportunities that allow dogs to become properly
exercised, socialized, and well-adjusted canine citizens.
and society recently have recognized that dogs are highly
social animals and that most dogs, especially those that live in
a congested city environment, require at least a few hours of off-leash
time each week.
Dogs kept on
leash all the time when outside tend to be more territorial, more
aggressive, less friendly, and more prone to negative social behavior
than dogs who are allowed opportunities to spend at least a few
hours each week outdoors and off-leash.
Dogs who are
allowed outdoor off-leash time on a regular basis tend to be calmer,
better trained, better socialized, less prone to aggression, and
add to the quality of life in the communities where they live.
parks and off-leash areas in parks have sprung up all
over the U.S. in the past two decades, particularly in
crowded urban landscapes. Off-leash recreation makes good public
policy; the decrease in the rate of dog bites during the years since
first unofficial, then official off-leash activities has been dramatic,
making the city far safer for all. (see sidebar)
past 20 years, three successive Parks Department commissioners
have repeatedly praised and thanked the various all-volunteer groups
that organize dog owners on a neighborhood level for helping reclaim
the parks for all New Yorkers.
During the dark
days of New York's decline when few people used the parks in the
evening or early morning due to crime and fear, the presence
of dog owners every day of the year helped reclaim the parks.
Those days now seem like a distant memory and today millions of
dog owners and non-dog owners enjoy the legacy of Off-leash Hours
Off-leash Hours policy allows a few hours each day early morning
and late evening for dog owners to utilize certain approved sections
of certain New York City parks to meet their neighbors and fellow
New Yorkers across social, age, class, and racial lines, and enjoy
recreation time with their dogs in a park environment. The Off-leash
Hours generally take effect from 9pm to 9am, but are restricted
and conform to the official closing and opening hours of each individual
New York City park.
Dog owners as
a group are the most frequent users of NYC parks, utilizing the
parks in all four seasons, in all types of weather, day and night,
every day of the year. Dog owners, through local dog owner associations
groups, take a great interest in keeping the parks clean
and safe and work hard to self-police off-leash rules in the parks
to preserve the 20 year old Off-leash Hours policy.
Parks and Limited Off-leash Hours
people who support off-leash recreational opportunities for dog
owners and their dogs also recognize the great value of official
dog parks (sometimes called dog runs). The first
official dog park in NYC was created in 1990. At present,
there are over
40 dog parks in New York City (averaging
approximately 30,000 dogs per existing enclosed dog park). Increasing
the number of dog parks, while preserving the Off-leash Hours policy
in New York City parks will continue to benefit all New Yorkers
with better socialized dogs and continue the historically low rate
of dog bites.
Dog parks are
not feasible everywhere where needed due to lack of city funds,
landmark restrictions, or community
preference, so it is critical that park Off-leash Hours
be preserved in conjunction with the creation of dog parks. The
York Council of Dog Owner Groups (NYCdog--an umbrella
organization comprised of almost all the local community groups
who represent users of the dog parks and off-leash areas in New
York City) supports a combination of dog parks and Off-leash Hours
as the most reasonable and feasible way to provide adequate off-leash
Off-leash Hours Threatened
2006 lawsuit attempted to eliminate Off-leash Hours
policy in New York City parks. Had the suit had not ultimately failed,
it would have resulted in less socialized dogs and a higher number
of dog-related incidents.
York State Supreme Court judge ruled on November 30, 2006
that the 20-year Off-leash Hours policy has been and continues to
be legal, and that the Parks commissioner has the statutory authority
to permit limited off-leash recreation within New York City parks.
originally filed in May 2006, prompted the NYC Health Department
in September 2006 to propose amendments to the Health Code to grant
specific authority to the Parks commissioner to allow dogs limited
off-leash opportunities in New York City parks. On December 5, 2006,
just six days after the State Supreme Court decision, the
New York City Health Board voted unanimously to adopt the amendments
to eliminate any potential conflict between the Health and Parks
legal and public health victories for off-leash recreation have
staved off elimination for the successful 20-year policy and, in
fact, have strengthened the policy. The recent events have formally
Off-leash Hours legal, codified it into the Health Code, Parks Department
regulations, and also put additional requirements on dog owners that stress
responsible dog ownership.
Dog owners and
their canine friends enjoy a recent early morning
off-leash in Prospect Park's Long Meadow
Reported NYC Dog Bites Before Park Off-leash Hours (1960s):
Over 40,000. (source: NYC Dept of Health)
Reported NYC Dog Bites in 2005: 3,956, with 86
(2.2%) occurring in the 1,700+ NYC parks. (source:
NYC Dept of Health)
Dog Park (dog run) in NYC created in 1990.
there are 40+ dog parks in NYC
cost to build a dog park: $125,000
of dog owners in NYC: Over 500,000
of dogs in NYC: Over 1.4 million
of U.S. households with one or more dogs: 38%
table during Off-leash Hours in Prospect Park distributes free handouts
about Off-leash rules, maps of permitted Off-leash areas. dog license
applications, and information about dog vaccination and health.