WHO CARES? NOT THE NYC DEPARTMENTS OF HEALTH AND PARKS!
When a lawyer asks a witness a question in bad faith, the opposing side has the right and the duty to issue an objection, claiming the bad faith of the question. The offending attorney is questioned in chambers, and, if unable to prove the good faith of the question, is then questioned by the opposing attorney in front of the jury. The offending lawyer is then required to admit the bad faith question was groundless, and intended to falsely influence the jury.
We all have heard of the "When did you stop beating your wife?" question. It is an example of a bad faith question.
The JPCA is disappointed with the bad faith process conducted by the New York City Department of Health in its actions to arrive at the predetermined outcome that dogs can be unleashed onto the unsuspecting public.
A resident of Middle Village, Terri Sullivan, President of the newly formed Juniper Park Dog Association, provided the following testimony at a Public Hearing on November 1. The testimony was presented to the NYC Board of Health for the official purpose of drilling down to discover the need for dog owners to unleash their dogs in the confines of public parks here in New York City.
"I had the opportunity last December to come upon a lost Newfoundland and there was a crowd of people around. Everybody wanted to help but were not able to for a variety of reasons. One of these well-meaning people in fact is here today in opposition to off leash recreation. Unfortunately he could not help because his dog was not socialized enough with other dogs to bring a strange dog in the house. I took the dog home and with the help of my neighbors we were able to reunite the dog with its owner. I work with animal rescue, and frequently bring dogs into my home to foster. I have never had a situation where my dogs were aggressive when I brought the strange dogs into their territory. I absolutely attribute this to off leash recreation."
I happen to be the person whose five-pound Yorkie "was not socialized enough with other dogs to bring a strange dog in the house." The Newfoundland weighed eighty to ninety pounds, was, indeed, a strange dog, and would have entered my home filled with the five-pound Yorkie, three cats, my wife and daughter.
What sane person would mix that group under one roof?
That was the reason stated to the entire crowd as we all considered how to care for this dog. Terri Sullivan was in that crowd, and included in the conversation as to why a strange dog could not enter a home with cats and still another dog. The possible behavior of the strange dog was the question. Never did she question the behavior of my dog and three cats, who all happen to get along splendidly.
So, what was the purpose of the false testimony? To pre-emptively discredit opposing testimony.
What follows is part of my testimony:
"I'd like to respond to a few that I've heard here. One, about a lady who described finding a lost dog that I didn't invite into my home because I was afraid of what my dog would do to him. Well, he weighed eighty or ninety pounds, my dog weighs five. I was afraid of what a strange dog, who we found, would do to my dog or members of my family."
Again, what sane person would have that mix under one roof?
Well, that's the falsehood. Where's the bad faith?
The lost dog was found at Eliot and 85th Street in Middle Village. He walked, without a leash, from Ozone Park. His owners told Terri, who told me, that the dog was a wanderer – always without a leash.
Now, omitted from Terri's testimony, but something she told directly to me was that when she brought this strange dog to her home, where she has two fully-grown Collies, this strange dog refused to enter her home because of her dogs. So she had to ask a neighbor to care for the dog.
Why did the strange dog refuse to enter her house? He seemed very friendly to all the people he came in contact with. Terri's two Collies were exhibiting an intimidating dominating presence in their home territory ‒ where their food was located.
Why did the Department of Health omit my testimony entirely from their summation and responses?
Bad faith? This exchange was just a tiny example of a multitude of falsehoods permitted and opposing testimony ignored or trivialized in order to arrive at the intended, and clearly dangerous, decision that the Parks Department should be free to unleash all sorts of dogs on the tax-paying, park-using public.
While Terri Sullivan continues to rant rabidly (we wonder: are her dogs safe from her?) on all variety of Internet Blogs, name-calling of Bob Holden and the JPCA and its members, you, dear reader, can tell the Mayor what you think of his Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe and Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, conspiring to make parks dangerous. Write to: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor's Office, City Hall, New York, NY 10007.
You may want to remind the Mayor that the parks belong to all the tax payers ‒ including the elderly, infants, children, the disabled, youngsters of all ages, pregnant women, people who are allergic to dogs, as well as people who simply don't want any dog to be near.
We do not visit our parks to be menaced by dogs or their owners, many of whom believe their little poochie-poos are too precious to be kept away from people who don't want to encounter them.
We don't visit our parks to find ourselves stepping in dog droppings everywhere we walk.
You may want to remind the Mayor that he and the various commissioners work for us on our dime. They therefore report to us, not the reverse. If this situation displeases them, then they should resign.
Remind the Mayor that we want all dogs leashed, at all times, in all public places. That the leash must be six feet long or shorter (no "fishing line" leashes) held firmly by a responsible adult. Remind the Mayor that he must direct his commissioners to enforce all of the health laws regarding the owners' responsibility to remove their dogs' disease-containing feces and dispose of it in a proper receptacle as rabidly as he defends the public from smoking and trans fat.
Ask the Mayor why he believes unleashed dogs in a park, running among the various parks users is a safe thing.
Ask the Mayor why 55 dog bites makes unleashed dogs safe. Further, when 30 of this year's victims of bites in parks were contacted by DOH, 19 of them said they were attacked by off-leash dogs while 11 said the dogs were on a leash. That's 2 out of every 3 attacks. Why was this fact completely dismissed by DOH?
Ask the Mayor which he prefers: eating a chicken prepared in trans-fat, or being bitten by a dog? Is it OK for an elderly woman to be bitten by a dog? How about an infant? How about a pregnant woman? A first grader?
Who is it OK for a dog to bite or attack, or chase?
Ask the Mayor why fewer than 55 cases of E. coli in the city is reason to close food establishments, probably putting many of them out of business, but 55 dog bites is safe. Ask him why E. coli-containing dog waste is not a concern when it is on a park lawn.
Ask the Mayor why he has not uttered one word regarding leashing dogs? Does the Mayor see this as only a political problem, where one group outnumbers the other? You can inform the Mayor that this is a public health and public safety issue. Ask the Mayor why his two commissioners treated this politically, not according to the oath of office they took?
Ask the Mayor who will be required to compensate each dog bite victim's medical expenses? How is a dog owner to be held responsible for a dog that's unleashed and one hundred yards from the owner while biting or attacking a park user? Does the Mayor actually believe that the dog will stay on the scene so the authorities can identify the owner? Do you believe the dog's owner will stay on the scene and claim ownership of the dog?
You can ask the Mayor why your taxes should support someone's hobby of dog ownership instead of hiring more police, firefighters or teachers ‒ or giving these people the raises they've earned? Will the Mayor now make room and time in the parks for the people who love archery, javelin throwing? If not, why not?
Ask the Mayor why he believes that claiming that dogs will not attack or bite park users makes it so? Would you accept this nonsense talk from your kids? Why accept it from a Mayor?
Ask the Mayor to have Parks Commissioner Benepe explain why in 1998 the following was true:
"Ten to fifteen years ago, observes Adrian Benepe, the no-nonsense Parks commissioner for Manhattan, the parks were rife with crises: crime, drug dealing, graffiti, homeless encampments, rotting infrastructure. Many were resolved. "The dog problem is the only real problem we have," he says.
And it's getting bigger:
What is strikingly new, says Benepe, is the size of the breeds people are buying. For many decades, the typical New York dog tended to be a handbag baby -- Pekingese, Maltese, Yorkie, Pomeranian, etc. -- no doubt because rules against pets in apartments were pervasive and strict, and the little fellas were easier to smuggle in and out. Now, says Benepe, he and his staff are seeing bigger and bigger dogs coming into the parks: the obvious retrievers, German shepherds, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, huskies, and Labs, but also Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Irish wolfhounds, Great Danes. Several of these appear on the American Kennel Club's top ten breeds of last year (the top two are Labs and Rotts). The Big Dog syndrome can be seen as an invasion of suburbiana into the city's culture -- the priorities of Westport, White Plains, and Saddle River abroad in Central Park. Benepe, however, believes they're 'a fashion statement.'"
[New York Magazine, May 18, 1998, by Tony Hendra. See: Turf Wars]
If the off-leash hours are really a '20 year successful policy,' then why weren't they mentioned in the 1998 New York Magazine article as the answer to the problem? Why are there no newspaper articles from that time period about how great off-leash recreation is? There certainly are a ton of them about problems with off-leash dogs and their owners and the Parks Department's crackdown on them. Why is Benepe's statement about the dog problem untrue today?
When you get an answer, we'll publish it!
I'll close with this from the December 7th edition of the Queens Chronicle:
"Weeks before the board approved the amendment, Benepe signaled he would consult residents, civic groups and community boards before determining whether to allow off leash policy in each park. Following the city's approval, Parks officials and off leash advocates renewed these vows to work closely with all members of the community on the issue."
So now Benepe will listen to residents, civic groups and community boards? If he had done that a year ago, there would never have been a lawsuit brought against him. Sadly, legal action seems to be what it takes in order to make this public servant realize that he is supposed to be listening to the public instead of dictating to them.