There appear to be a lot of armchair lawyers in cyberspace the post lots of "facts" about leash laws in New York City parks. To put the presumptions, rumors and half-truths to rest I've researched the relevant rules and regulations of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. One interesting fact I learned is that the creation of Prospect Park's "Doggie Beach" is a violation of the rules:
§1-04 Prohibited Uses
(b) Destruction or Abuse of Trees, Plants, Flowers, Shrubs and Grass
(1) (i) No person shall deface, write upon, injure, sever, mutilate, kill or remove from the ground any trees under the jurisdiction of the Department without permission of the Commissioner. (ii) No person shall deface, write upon, sever, mutilate, kill or remove from the ground any plants, flowers, shrubs or other vegetation under the jurisdiction of the Department without permission of the Commissioner.
(3) No person shall go upon or allow any animal or child in his or her custody to go upon any area enclosed by fencing, temporary or permanent, where such fencing or signs posted thereon reasonably indicate that entry into such area is forbidden.
(g) Abuse of Park Animals
(1) No person shall within any park (including any zoo area) molest, chase, wound, trap, hunt, shoot, throw missiles at, kill or remove any animal, any nest, or the eggs of any amphibian, reptile or bird; or knowingly buy, receive, have in his or her possession, sell or give away any such animal or egg taken from or killed within any park (including any zoo area).
(i) Failure to Control Animals
Except as specified in §1-05(s)(3), no person owning or possessing any animal shall cause or allow such animal to be unleashed or out of control in any park, except as permitted by the Commissioner. Any such animal found at large may be seized and impounded. Properly licensed dogs and cats, restrained by a leash not exceeding six feet in length, may be brought into the park, except in no event shall dogs or other animals be allowed to enter any playground, zoo, bathing facilities, or other area prohibited by the Commissioner. Nothing in this subdivision (i) shall be construed to prohibit persons with disabilities from bringing seeing eye dogs, hearing ear dogs or other dogs trained to assist such persons into these areas. Nothing herein shall prohibit horses entering or being within a park as provided in § 1-05 (q).
(j) Control and Removal of Animal Waste
(1) No person shall allow any dog in his custody or control to discharge any fecal matter in any park unless he promptly removes and disposes of same. This provision shall not apply to a guide dog accompanying a person with a disability.
(r) Unhygienic use of fountains, pools, and water
No person shall use, or permit any animal under his or her control to use, any water fountain, drinking fountain, pool, sprinklers, reservoir, lake or any other water contained in the park for the purpose of washing or cleaning himself or herself, his or her clothing or other personal belongings. This subdivision shall not apply to those areas within the parks which are specifically designated for personal hygiene purposes (i.e., bathroom, shower room, etc.), provided, however, that no person shall wash his or her clothes or personal belongings in such areas.
§1-05 Regulated Uses
(s) Exclusive Areas
Areas within the parks designated by the Commissioner for exclusive use shall include:
(3) Dog Runs: Certain fenced park areas may be designated by the Commissioner as dog runs, and persons owning or possessing dogs are permitted to allow such animals to remain unleashed in these areas. Users of dog runs shall obey posted rules.All exclusive areas will be specifically designated as such and signs will be posted informing the public of this designation.
(q) Horse Riding
(1) No person may ride a horse in any park, except on bridle paths designated by the Department.
(2) It shall be a violation of these Rules to ride a horse into or within a park in a reckless manner; to allow the horse to be left unbridled or unattended; or to allow the horse to cause any damage to any tree, plant, flower, shrubbery or other vegetation under the jurisdiction of the Department.
(a) Any violation of these Rules other than Rule 1-04 (b)(1)(i) shall constitute a misdemeanor triable by the Criminal Court of the City of New York and punishable by not more than ninety days imprisonment or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both, in accordance with § 533(a)(9) of Chapter 21 of the New York City Charter.
(b) Any violation of Rule 1-04 (b)(1)(i) shall constitute a misdemeanor triable by the Criminal Court of the City of New York and punishable by not more than one year imprisonment or by a fine of not more than $15,000, or both.
(c) Any violation of these Rules shall also constitute a violation triable by the Environmental Control Board and punishable by a civil penalty of not more than $10,000, in accordance with §533(a)(9) of Chapter 21 of the New York City Charter.