The JPCA continues its ongoing battle with NYC Park Dept.’s dangerous “relaxed” leash laws at Juniper Valley Park. In the last several months, there have been many photographs taken of dangerous unleashed “attack-type” dogs – demonstrating the lack of police action. When questioned about the leash laws at Juniper Park, Captain Peter Loehle from the 104th stated that it is up to the individual officer whether or not a ticket should be issued.

I had in fact approached a police officer in the park last month and asked him to give a certain individual a ticket for his unleashed dog. (I have 2 complaints on file because my children and I have been chased by this person’s huge Mastiff, all because this abusive, belligerent dog owner refuses to restrain his animals when asked.) I was sullenly told by the police officer that “I’d have to give every dog walker a ticket then….” I replied, “Please do so! Just get out of your car!” No ticket was written and as a result this dog is continually off the leash every day at 8:15AM near our new running track while our kids are walking to school.

Leash laws allow it to be the parents' choice–not the dog-owner's choice–if and when their children are to interact with a dog. No thanks to this asinine relaxation of the law, I will now be forced to take the word of a stranger that his or her dog is friendly and risk my child's safety on that word. The mauling death of the San Francisco woman was committed by a dog whose owners have testified that their dog was friendly and that they had no warning that their dog would attack. Do we need to have a dog-related death, God forbid, for our NYC Parks Dept. to come to their senses? Doesn't the safety of our children take priority over the happiness and unleashed freedom of dogs?

On average, about a dozen people die each year from dog bites. Going against the recommendations of a long list of organizations that support leash laws such as the American SPCA, the Humane Society of America, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, the National Animal Control Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians to name a few, the NYC Parks Department (along with NYC Police) took the suggestion of eccentric former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern (hardly an animal authority) and adopted these ridiculous “relaxed” leash laws.

The ruination of the park occurs well beyond the hours of off-leash use. Dogs urinate on the play structures, drink from the water fountains, defecate on the grass and ruin the expensively maintained turf. An estimated 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year.

It is a fact that even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pup can bite if provoked. Unwisely, some owners actually promote aggression in their dogs as symbols of power. Many dogs instinctively equate the high-pitched sounds of children with the distress sounds of prey animals, and they react by biting the child as they would have bitten the prey animal in the wild. Along this line, you should never scream or run away, for these actions can result in an attack by the dog. A running person frequently communicates “prey” to the dog and triggers the chase response in his brain. Once triggered, this response is almost impossible to interrupt. The dog is reacting to chemical stimulus, not rational thought, and is extremely difficult to sidetrack.

In a review of 109 fatal dog attacks, the breeds most frequently implicated were pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. In addition, most dogs of guard or working heritage suffer personality quirks and many become downright aggressive. The identification of these breeds has lead to the controversial practice of breed bans in some states. Also, it should be noted that male and unspayed or unneutered dogs are more likely to bite than are female and spayed/neutered dogs.

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 and younger have been bitten by a dog. The elderly and home service people – like mail carriers and meter readers – also are high on the list of frequent dog bite victims.

If the unfortunate happens and you are the bite victim – treat your wounds. If your own dog bites you, confine it immediately and call your veterinarian to check your dog's vaccination records. If someone else's dog bites you, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner's name, if you know it; color of the dog; size; where you saw it; if you've seen it before. These details may help animal-control officers locate the dog.

On the evening of May 21, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum appeared at the NYC Volunteer EMS Workers dinner given to thank the EMS workers for their hard work during the September 11th tragedy. Ms. Gotbaum started her speech by apologizing for the “appearance of my face, but my dog attacked me…” This is especially poignant because the JPCA is in contact with Ms. Gotbaum attempting to use her good offices in helping us end the “relaxed” leash law edict in NYC parks. Perhaps now that she sees how truly unpredictable animals are, she will be even more motivated to help us in the struggle to end this reckless edict. Ironically it should be noted that Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum was once the NYC Parks Commissioner.