We have all at one time or other been terrorized by a loose, possibly stray, large dog. This is happening every day in our city parks.

Parks Commissioner Henry Stern insists on “giving leeway” to dog owners between the hours 9 P.M. and 9 A.M. Unbelievably, Stern is actually promoting his “relaxed” leash law. Even though New York City Law (Health Code 161.05 states: “A person who owns, possesses, or controls a dog shall not permit it to be in any public place or in any open or unfenced area abutting on a public place unless the dog is effectively restrained by a leash or chain not more than six feet long. Failure to comply with the law shall be punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.” Our police precinct, the 104th, is honoring his edict. There is a 9 P.M. curfew in our parks but apparently dog owners do not have to obey this curfew.

The dogs are in our parks running loose for twelve hours a day. New York City law states that dogs should be leashed at all times unless they are in an enclosed, fenced-in area. The Police Department has chosen to honor Parks Commissioner Stern's relaxation of the law. Who is in charge of law enforcement in New York City? Can Henry Stern and the New York City Police Department recklessly abandon an existing law?

These twelve hours are very dangerous times for the rest of New York City Every day we are hearing about dogs attacking people, particularly children. Children are responsible for about 60 percent of dog bite victims. It is estimated that about l million people are hospitalized each year from dog bites. The elderly, letter carriers, meter readers are high on the list of frequent dog bite victims.

The phrase, “don't worry, he won't bite” can be heard constantly. However, the statistics tell a different story. Dog bite victims requiring medical attention in the United States number 500,000 to 1 million annually. Many more bites go unreported and untreated. It is estimated that approximately one dozen people die each year from dog bites.

The Juniper Park Civic Association has tried constantly in the last several months to pressure the Parks Department to change this very dangerous practice.

Walkers and joggers are a very visual part of the park landscape in the early morning hours. They, too, are frequently intimidated by a loose, large dog.

Just recently Bob Holden, President of the JPCA was in Juniper Valley Park and he was chased and jumped on by a large, unleashed dog. He had approached the owner and asked him to restrain the dog. The owner refused. Bob was hurt and shaken by the attack. Who wouldn't be?

I have stopped my early morning walk because I feel threatened by the unleashed dogs. There are too many of them and we know that dogs feel very strong in a pack. I had my own incident with large dogs when an owner became confrontational with me about the pressure being put on the authorities by the Juniper Park Civic Association regarding the leash law. The dogs that were loose and owned by this particular person gave me what I would describe as an unfriendly, “attitude” look. Needless to say I kept my mouth shut and told the owner to get away from me.

The question becomes what can we do in the meantime to survive this very real threat to our safety.

First of all, never run past a loose dog. This gives the dog a reason to chase you.particularly if the dog feels nervous or threatened.

If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm, don't scream. If you do speak remain calm and firm, avoid eye contact. Stay still until the dog leaves or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. DO NOT TURN AND RUN although you may feel that is the best thing to do..

If you fall or are knocked to the ground curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Always try to protect your face.

If you are bitten, treat the wound. Call the authorities and tell them anything you can about the dog and the owner, if you know it. If you are bitten or attacked in a public park call the police of course but also your lawyer. You’ll have a great case against the City of New York and Henry Stern for endangering your well being.

As you can see from this article the Norman Rockwell picture of Fido romping in the park with a ball is an anachronism in 1999. Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers are more the kind of dog we are looking at today and we have to do something very quickly to deal with the very real possibility of a tragedy waiting to happen.

We must pressure Commissioner Henry Stern to change this reckless policy. Please write to your elected officials, the addresses are in the Juniper Berry. Urge them to use the power of their office to get this strange, dangerous practice stopped before we have a dog tragedy headline in our newspapers.