Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A letter to Captain Scott Shanley

Monday, September 25, 2006

SUBJECT: Leash Law Enforcement

Captain Scott Shanley
Commander, 104th Precinct
New York City Police Department
64-02 Catalpa Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385-5257

Dear Captain Shanley,

The Juniper Park Civic Association receives reports from area residents complaining about dog attacks in and around the public parks within the 104th Precinct.

What concerns us is the lack of enforcement of the New York City “Leash Law.” According to Section 161.05 of the New York City Health Code, a dog has to be kept on a six-foot long leash 24/7 when out in public. It reads - “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.”

Currently there is an attempt underway to deal with the legal dispute regarding unleashed dogs in parks from 9PM until 9AM.

You explained that officers have discretion to issue summonses and that one element of that discretion is that the officers witness the attack.

In the case of Lisa Ludwigson, who spoke to you at the COP104 meeting on Thursday evening, Sept 21, describing the pit bull attack on her mini Pincher, the responding officer did not issue any summons, despite the fact that the pit bull was still unleashed, with the owner holding the dog’s collar. As far as the JPCA is concerned and what we understand as grounds for enforcement of the “Leash Law,” there was clearly sufficient evidence to issue a summons.

In the case of Matt Connolly of Maspeth, he was attacked along with his small dog just after 9am when a Rottweiler ran from Principe Park on to the public sidewalk. Both Matt and his dog were severely injured. Police from the 104th responded, witnessed the unleashed dog on public property outside the park after the so-called “relaxed leash courtesy hours” and issued no summons.

Gary Colter, whose two small children were surrounded three times recently by large unleashed dogs in Juniper Park while on their way to Our Lady of Hope school in the morning reports that no summonses were issued in these cases either. At the COP104 meeting, I reported to you about the first two attacks. Today, you were notified by fax of the third attack, which occurred this morning (just after 8AM, as in each incident – Gary crosses the park from the south, starting at 77th Street, walks with his kids along the walkway between the ball fields, to emerge on the north side of the park).

We believe that each of these incidents warranted a summons from the police.

The 104th Precinct must receive far more dog attack complaints then the JPCA does, so we are intervening for only a fraction of the victims.

JPCA understands the concept of officer discretion. However, we wonder if the failure to issue summonses is a result of a police misunderstanding of the “relaxed leash” edict from NYC Parks. That would be understandable because even Judge Peter Kelly was confused when the NYC Parks Department attorney, Paula Van Meter, attempted an explanation in Queens Supreme Court on August 29th. He was clear about one fact, the edict does not and cannot extend to other NYC enforcement agencies, including police. That means the NYC police can issue summonses for unleashed dogs in NYC parks whenever the unleashed dogs are observed. In the case of Gary Colter and his two small boys struggling to get across Juniper Park in the early morning hours, clearly a summons should have been issued.

The unleashed dog problem is up to its neck in controversy, no question. The Parks Department policy seemingly has the support of the Mayor although he is silent on the issue. However one thing is clear, people have the right to traverse any city park without the hassle and danger of an attack from a large, unleashed dog.

Since the JPCA hears daily from people who are fearful of the unleashed dogs, we believe that these people have the right to use the parks and surrounding areas, which means the public sidewalks immediately adjacent to the parks as well, without being fearful for their safety.

There is NYC Health Code 161.05 to protect these people and you as the Commanding Officer of the 104th Pct. have the responsibility to enforce that law.


Robert E. Doocey
Juniper Park Civic Association Member
Chairman, JPCA Public Safety Committee