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Queens Chronicle

Cracking down on unleashed dogs

Holden looking to make sure pets stay on their leads in Forest Park

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2019 10:30 am

Complaints about unleashed dogs in Forest Park have been rapidly increasing.

Friends of Forest Park President Mk Moore said more complaints were made to 311 by the end of May 2019 than in all of 2017 and 2018 combined.

Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) is looking for stricter enforcement from authorities on the matter.

“I had dogs when I was younger,” he said. “They’re like your kids. They’re family. So I understand ... But certain dog owners go too far. Certain dog owners feel that they’re the center of the universe, that they can do anything they want and the public be damned.”

Deputy Inspector Courtney Nilan, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, said the plan is for education before enforcement.

“We don’t want to just start summonsing everybody for dogs off the leash,” Nilan said. “We want to try to speak to the people first and explain to them that dogs have to be on the leash and explain to them the rules.”

She said steady sector officers and neighborhood coordination officers are trying to spread the word before they have to take action and summons anyone.

“Most of the people that are walking their dogs are hardworking people,” she said. “They’re out for a run or whatnot. So we want to try to mediate it before it gets to the point of giving summonses out to everybody.”

Nilan said owners are in the mindset of “I’ve been doing this for years.”

She did say there is zero tolerance if a dog is off-leash in any of the playgrounds because they’re not supposed to be there at all.

“It can be the best-behaved dog but a little kid could tug its ear or something like that and then we have a child with a bite,” Nilan said.

She said issuing summonses would likely lead to another round of objections.

“We’re going to get just as many complaints of why did you give that ticket? People have been doing this for years,” Nilan said. “In either situation, we’re going to receive complaints.”

She added, “Enforcement in this situation should be the last step on the continuum. I think getting the word out there, telling people that if you don’t start complying we will give summonses — I hope that that’s going to deter them so we don’t have to be pushed to that point.”

Holden believes warnings may only work for a certain number of people.

“But for the hardcore ‘my dog is the center of my universe’ people who feel that they should walk their dogs and have more rights than anyone else, they’re not going to listen,” he said.

Moore attended a meeting on May 21 at the Overlook held by Parks and attended by a number of dog walkers.

“Basically our wish is just that Parks enforce the rules that are in place and to educate the public that the rules are there,” Moore said.

He said at the meeting people acknowledged that some dogs go after joggers but insisted the dogs are harmless.

“That’s not something a jogger knows when they’re running,” Moore said.

He said that some at the meeting said their dogs have a right not to be on a leash.

“I think dogs have a right to be fed and loved and not abused,” Moore said. “I don’t think they have the right to run free in a forever wild area or chase patrons who don’t deserve that.”

He added, “As a dog owner I understand their desire but they need to respect the park patrons.”

Moore said a lot of kids are in the area and parents can become upset.

“The off-leash dog owners can become very hostile towards people asking them to leash their dogs, which is unfortunate,” he said.

Holden said there have been instances of dogs running up to babies in strollers and licking their faces.

“They’re arguing that ‘my dog has to be off the leash. It gets its exercise.’ And unfortunately if it’s endangering the public or other park users and it does that is a concern and again, it will not be tolerated,” Holden said.

There are two dog runs in Forest Park — Barking Lot and K9 Corral — where dogs don’t have to be leashed.

Moore said there is a misconception that there are off-leash hours from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. throughout the park and that lots of joggers come into contact with off-leash dogs early in the morning.

Holden added, “If a park has a dog run that means there cannot be designated off-leash hours.”

He said he has heard excuses from dog owners including that some can’t use the dog run because the dogs get into fights.

“If he gets into a fight at a dog run he shouldn’t be off-leash anywhere then, or he’s got to be trained,” Holden said.

He said anyone who wants to take their dog to the park should take five minutes and research the rules beforehand. Holden added that owners have to carry an up-to-date dog license and proof the dog was vaccinated.

“And if they’re off-leash, they’re going to bring attention to themselves and that’s when they can get in trouble,” he said.

Moore said of Holden, “He’s supportive of the park and the patrons but he’s also supportive of the rules being followed.”

Holden remembers being attacked while he was watering baseball fields at Juniper Valley Park. It was late one night when a German shepherd came charging at him and knocked him down.

“The reward I got was not an apology,” he said. “The owner cursed me out.”

The dog’s owner yelled that Holden shouldn’t be in the park, though Holden responded that he had notified Parks about the work he was doing and that the dog’s owner was the one who should not be in the park.

“He didn’t care,” Holden said. “He just kept cursing at me and walking away saying you shouldn’t be in here like it was his park. That’s the sentiment you get from a lot of people that feel entitled.”

The councilman also recalled a funny story when he invited then-Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy to Juniper Valley where dogs had been defecating all over the ballfield.

“He gets out of his truck and lo and behold he sees a guy walking his dog and the dog takes a big dump in the middle of the path at Juniper by the ballfields,” Holden said. “And then he walks away. So Richie Murphy goes up to the guy and asks, ‘What are you going to do?’ He says, ‘Ah, I don’t have to clean that up. Who are you?’ And [Murphy] goes, ‘I’m the commissioner.’”

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1 comment:

  • jbrown posted at 8:29 pm on Wed, Jun 12, 2019.

    jbrown Posts: 4

    While I agree, we never kept our dogs on a leash, and they were far better behaved than leashed dogs. Dogs are quite intelligent and intuitive. Nonetheless, most people are clueless about animal handling and training, therefore the leash rule is important.