Thursday, September 14, 2006

Time Out New York and ethics

To the editor,

I am writing to you regarding the recently posted reader's opinion poll on the online version of your magazine. In the section "Out There", poll 570 asks the following:

A controversy in a Queens Park has the New York dog world barking. Should off-leash hours in parks be curbed citywide?

a. Yes, dogs should be leashed at all times in city parks.

b. No, it's vital for dogs to have some time to run wild.

The overwhelming number of respondents (81%) chose "b. No, it's vital for dogs to have some time to run wild".

I take issue with the poll and your attempt at manipulating the outcome. First, the lawsuit and proponents for enforcing the health code's leash law never said that they were against dog runs. In fact, the opposite is true. The controversy is whether dogs should be allowed to run off their leash in an unenclosed public space rather than a fenced dog run. Advocacy groups such as "NYC Dogs" do not want to be good neighbors, they want the right to allow their pets to race around city parks, urinating and defecating anywhere they want, and at any time. These people do not want the responsibility of keeping a dog run well maintained, which is what the city requires of community dog runs. Instead, we the tax paying residents of New York City get to foot the bill to repair any damage that unleashed dogs cause to our parks, park patrons and other dogs.

The premise of your question is that there is only one alternative to allowing dogs off leash in the parks. What about enclosed dog runs? For people who are following this issue closely the poll appears to have been created by an off leash advocate who used the magazine to further his or her cause. In addition, all of the dog owner's forums and websites had given links to the "Out There" webpage and urged their constituents to check off answer "b". Your opinion poll is hardly designed to give a very scientific or accurate perspective of your readership.

With a modicum of creativity and honesty you could have written questions that would elicit an unbiased result. For example:

a. Yes, dogs should only be allowed to be unleashed in enclosed dog runs

b. No, dogs should be allowed to run around city parks without their leash

Your magazine took a perfectly legitimate question then weighted the answers to skew the outcome. The appearance is that your are trying to influence the city's decision-making process. Do you truly believe that the majority of New Yorkers really think that it's perfectly acceptable for dogs to "run wild" in public places? I seriously doubt it.

If you'd like to send a letter to the editors of "Time Out New York" click below:

Time Out New York