Now I get it. Please bear with me as I was too slow to figure out that the NYC Parks Department had a good reason for unilaterally taking it upon themselves to relax enforcement of the leash laws during the hours of 9PM and 9AM in the morning. Apparently the Parks Department has developed an exercise program. It’s called “see if you can get away from unleashed dogs.” Naturally it is the survival of the fittest.Seniors and children be dammed.

Seriously though, we all know that the early morning hours in any park are very busy. Children are going to school and area residents, many of them mothers with baby carriages are doing their jogging and walking. Unleashed dogs in this scenario make for a dangerous mix of people and canine.

Now to the most recent headline that I read about dogs – it was reported that a woman in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, which is located in the northern end of the state, was mauled by her pet Rottweiler.The report stated that the dog, which was a family pet and frequently slept in the woman's bed, chased the woman and caused her severe injuries. She was heard running and screaming through the woods near her home. When help finally arrived she was semi-conscious, her clothes soaked with blood. This is very interesting because it shows you the tenacity of a dog on a mission to destroy something or someone. The police had to fire several shots to restrain and eventually kill the dog. The woman was hospitalized with severe injuries.

Then we had the recent dog mauling verdict in California which the Humane Society of the United States applauded stating that this was a case of “grossly irresponsible human behavior” on the part of dog owners. The verdict sends the resounding message that all dog owners are responsible for the behavior of their animal.

Here we had two arrogant dog owners who kept two vicious dogs in an apartment, allowed them to run free, unmuzzled, in the hallway, and, after they killed a women, stated it was the smell of the woman's perfume that triggered the vicious attack from the dogs! As they say, you can't make this stuff up. Also, the husband himself had been bitten by one of the dogs and required surgery and four days in the hospital.

Couple all this with the dog attack on the boardwalk in Rockaway Beach, leaving victims maimed for life. One victim had his ears and nose bitten off. The one common denominator in all these cases is that the dogs were unleashed.

Let's look at the numbers that support the danger from dogs – each year in the United States, 300,000, you read it right, 300,000 people go to hospital emergency rooms because of dog bites. Many of these emergencies are children. This is a staggering number. Also, one-fifth of all home insurance payouts are related to dog bites. So you see that on every level we are paying for the irresponsible behavior of some dog owners.

Segue back to our city parks and you know that we are dealing with the same arrogant mentality of some dog owners who think it is their legal right to have their dogs off the leash. This is wrong, this is dangerous and this has to stop. As tax paying residents of a community we should not have to wait for the wag of an unleashed dog's tail to know how happy he is to see us.

The American Kennel Club states that the only way to protect people is to enforce the leash laws. This is not being done in the NYC parks. The Club goes on to further state that responsible dog ownership should be taught to everyone and, very importantly, strong animal control efforts should be put in place.

We all know that not all dogs are vicious. The majority of them are the most affectionate creatures on the planet. In my world, in addition to my four grandsons, I have the fifth, Hercules. Hercules is an Australian cattle dog and he is the smartest, most loyal, beautiful friend you can have but I remind the kids all the time, Hercules is a dog and should always be leashed outside the yard.

I think many people, including our city agencies, are still in the consciousness raising stage in dealing with the threat of dogs. They simply don't get it. The JPCA will keep badgering them until they do. Dogs must be leashed 24/7 outside their immediate yards; to do otherwise is courting disaster and the question becomes, who will be the next headline?

Here's the address of our new NYC Parks Commissioner. We hope he will be more enlightened about dogs than the previous one.

Adrian Benepe, NYC Parks Commissioner
The Arsenal, Central Park, New York, NY 10021
Telephone – 1-800-Parks