I moved to
Brooklyn, just outside of Prospect Park a little over a year and
a half ago. I was concerned about the drastic decline in the quality
of life that my one year old pup and I enjoyed out in the suburbs,
yet the move was inevitable. How wonderfully surprised I was to
find out about the off-leash hours in NYC Parks! I visit Prospect
Park every morning before 9am with my dog and I can honestly say
that it is the best part of my day and the best part about living
in New York City. It is not only a time for my dog to socialize
and to enjoy the fresh air and all the parks have to offer, but
for myself as well!
in the park with my dog are my solace before heading back into
the fast-paced city life. And the friends and acquaintences I
have met through fellow dog-ownership in the parks have become
a resource for information, help and companionship.
I make sure
to make regular contributions to Prospect Park because of their
commitment to the dog owners and lovers of the community and would
continue to do the same in order to ensure that Off-leash Hours
are not impeded upon. Preserving these privileges makes NYC a
better place for dogs and especially their loving owners!"
- Meagan M. O'Connell, Brooklyn
I live across
the street from Prospect Park in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Over the
years I have brought out of town guests into the park in the am
to catch a glimpse of "dog heaven". All of my suburban
friends comment that the dogs here are so well socialized with
people and other dogs as a result of this fabulous off leash opportunity!
We stroll, sip our coffee and watch young and old dogs play freely.
winter my work hours changed and I was finally able to take a
dog into my home! "Ezzy" was a shy little mutt when
I got her from the shelter. She is a regular at 6:30 am in Prospect
Park now. She is a different dog. I marvel at how so many different
kinds of dogs can get along so well.
it is in part because of the conscientiousness of my fellow dog
lovers. People talk with one another and don't bring dogs that
are anxious or aggressive to these free runs. The result is everyone
has fun. I look forward to my mornings with Ezzy. I always meet
new neighbors and she gets the exercise she needs! Please don't
take something away that brings my Park Slope community together!
- Kristin Baumann, Brooklyn
When I adopted
my pit bull mix Patti Smith from the AC&C animal shelter on
110th St. in Manhattan, in January of 2003, I thought she was
a jack russell terrier. The shelter told me she was a "jack
russell terrier mix" and I knew very little about dogs. But
the type of breed she was, was not the problem. Even as Patti
grew out of the carrying bag I purchased for her so I could take
her on the subway, even as she went from 15 pounds to 55 pounds
in only a few months, and even as I began to realize she was a
pit bull mix of some sort, none of these things were an issue
for me. The biggest issue was keeping a dog this size in my tiny
one-bedroom New York City apartment that I shared with a roommate.
I was torn because I had fallen head over heels in love with Patti
from the moment I set my eyes on her at the shelter and fought
with a couple who also wanted to adopt her. But I also could not
see how I could keep her while living in such a tiny space and
only being able to walk her on leash. I weighed my options. Should
I keep Patti, and move out of New York City, and try to live someplace
where we could have a backyard? Should I move back with my parents
in Jersey? Was it better for Patti to be with someone else who
had grass and trees, and a place to run, where she wasn't being
tugged around town with a leash, getting red marks and sores around
her neck from her puppy energy?
I tried various leashes, collars, and harnesses. I ordered dog
contraptions on the internet. I visited half of the pet stores
in Manhattan, trying to figure out a solution to Patti's pulling,
prodding, tugging, leaping, and constant need to yank, throw,
and fling me down the street. I knew that she wanted to run and
play like country dogs, and I didn't know what I was going to
do with her, our problem, or my life in general. One day that
winter, I was walking down the street, nearly in tears, as a woman
sidled up to Patti and I with her dog and asked, "Have you
been to Stuyvesant Park? We have a quasi dog run there that might
help both of you." My heart started thumping faster...could
this be? A dog run? I was just getting used to living in New York
City, and nobody had told me about Stuyvesant Park. Tompkins Park
was great, but it was much further from where we lived, and we
were only able to get there a handful of times. An off-leash dog
area at a nearby park would be ideal.
From the moment
I stepped foot in Stuyvesant Park, I knew my life had changed
for the better. I opened the quasi dilapidated gates, took off
Patti's leash, and watched as she ran with ecstatic delight, sniffing
every piece of stone, rock, tree branch, and flower, along with
every single dog in sight. I finally felt some relief. I was relieved
that my dog had a place to run, free from a leash, free from harm's
way of traffic and bicycles and skateboarders and whizzing ambulances
and fire trucks, drunks on the street that would hit her, people
that found it funny to scare her or feed her their leftover chicken
bones and spicy sandwiches, and all those things on the streets
that come with the joys of living in a big, overcrowded city.
I couldn't tell who was happier about the off-leash dog area,
Patti or I.
nearly 4 years ago. Patti and I visit Stuyvesant 2 times per day,
to utilize the off-leash dog hours. This has been our routine
ever since that fateful day in January 2003. And I now volunteer
at the shelter where I adopted Patti. When people are hesitant
to adopt a larger dog because they feel they don't have enough
space for a dog that size in their small apartment, I say to them
"I bet you can find an off-leash dog run area that will allow
your dog to let loose, have fun, and get some exercise."
This is often the key to getting them to re-think adopting a larger
dog. If they know there is an area for the dog to expel some energy,
they are more willing to adopt a bigger dog. And the larger dogs
- particularly the pit bull mixes - are constantly euthenized
because most people want smaller dogs that don't need as much
exercise. The off-leash dog runs and hours help entice people,
and many of these otherwise doomed larger dogs get adopted out.
But Stuyvesant is not an actual official dog run. It is an area
where we got permission from the Parks Department to put up gates
that we ourselves paid for, and we, as volunteers, open and shut
the gates in the morning and evening for only a few hours at a
time. It would be truly tragic if we lost our off-leash hours
at Stuyvesant Park. I don't know what I will do. I certainly won't
be frequenting Stuyvesant Park without the Off-leash Hours because
of the dodgy things that transpire when the dogs and dog owners
are not there.
I don't think
people are taking into account the fact that dogs and dog owners
together actually create a feeling of safety for New Yorkers.
I have spoken with people in the park who say that they refuse
to walk near the park or sit in Stuyvesant Park until the dogs
and dog owners arrive, because "it isn't safe." There
are the drug dealers, the indecent flashers, the horrible gang
fights, and the creepy lost wanderers. I myself won't walk in
with Patti until the off-leash hours are in effect. And once we
are in the park with our dogs, the drug dealers move to the park
across the street from us, the gangs split up, and people come
into the park to drink their coffee in the morning, work on their
laptops, and relax. Patients and doctors and nurses from Beth
Israel Hospital come to sit and watch as our dogs run and play.
Parents bring their children into the park to "look at the
I love New York City and I never want to leave. But I may be forced
out of my home due to this lawsuit, because I love my dog too
much to watch her lose the ability to run around without a leash
attached to her neck. I think it is unfair to the animals to even
think about revoking the off-leash dog hours, the only time that
our dogs are able to act like dogs, to run and play in a safe
environment. And I think that the city as a whole will suffer.
The animal shelters will have an even harder time getting dogs
adopted, the safety that dogs and dog owners bring to the parks
will evaporate, and more people will simply violate the laws by
risking fines and allowing their dogs to run off-leash anyhow,
in areas not designated for them, which increases the risk of
injury for both people and dogs.
-Amy Calmann, Manhattan