NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has encouraged dog owners to bring their dogs to city parks during the hours of 9pm to 9am to exercise them off of their leashes. This “unofficial,” unwritten off-leash policy has been challenged in the courts by the Juniper Park Civic Association as it endangers the health and safety of park patrons, leashed dogs, wildlife and vegetation.

At about 11pm on Wednesday, September 6, 2006, Lisa Ludwigson of Maspeth and her fiancé, Darwin, were walking their dogs, Max and Snitzel, two mini pins (pinschers), on leashes along a path in Juniper Valley Park, near the Parks Department’s recently designated “pet exercise area.” Ludwigson recalls, “We were enjoying a nice walk when, suddenly, an unleashed pit-bull charged us, picked Max up in his mouth, then dragged and shook him! Darwin attempted to remove Max from the pit-bull's mouth before the owner ran up to get his dog. The pit-bull dropped Max to the ground. We noticed that Max was bleeding from several puncture wounds.”

The owner of the pit-bull attempted to leave the park. Both Darwin and Lisa insisted that the owner remain or they would follow him home. The police were called and arrived in about 20 minutes but took no report, saying it was a civil case. According to Lisa, when the police arrived the owner was holding his dog by the collar (with no leash attached), yet no summons was issued.

Max was rushed to Elmhurst Animal Hospital on Queens Boulevard. According to his injury report, he sustained multiple bites, scratches, and puncture marks on his back and shoulder in the attack. Staples were used by the vet to close several of the puncture wounds. Max also suffered scrapes to his body, face, legs and paws as a result of the pit-bull lifting him up and shaking him along the ground. Max is swollen, still bleeding from deep puncture wounds but is expected to survive. He is on oral pain killers and antibiotics. Total vet bill: $494.00.

According to Ms. Ludwigson, the pit-bull's owner said that his was a good dog that had never attacked anyone prior to this incident.

Everyday, leashed dogs are attacked by unleashed dogs in NYC Parks yet no reports are taken by the police unless a human being is attacked. Ms. Ludwigson said that if she saw the pit-bull charging, she would have picked up her small dog. Fortunately, she didn’t have time to pick the dog up; otherwise the pit-bull most likely would have attacked her.

On June 8, 2006 a similar incident occurred at Principe Park in Maspeth. Matt Connolly, 64, was walking his leashed Shih Tzu, Lita, along Maurice Avenue when an unleashed Rottweiler bolted from the park at about 9:10am toward them. Mr. Connolly attempted to protect his dog and picked her up. The Rottweiler knocked them both to the ground and proceeded to maul them. The man’s arm was shredded (see photo) and his dog was seriously injured. Mr. Connolly requires a series of extensive skin grafts and Lita is now afraid of all dogs.

Because of Commissioner Benepe’s dangerous edict more attacks both on park users and other dogs will occur. He is putting everyone in harm’s way by giving in to a small citywide contingent of unleashed dog advocates.