DOH hearing brings out the worst in off-leash advocates
11/1/2006 8:20:00 PM
by Christina Wilkinson
Off-leash dog in Central Park trampling flowerbed
JPCA members who offered live testimony with regards to the Department of Health's proposal to allow unleashed dogs in city parks were subjected to catcalls, booing and hissing by members of the Juniper Valley Park Dog Association, FIDO Brooklyn, NYC DOG and other off-leash advocates.
During the public comment period, written statements were submitted by JPCA members, as well as others dismayed that DOH would even consider this issue. These include expert "dog bite attorney" Kenneth Morgan Phillips and expert dog trainer, Ed Frawley. JPCA Executive Board Members Lorraine Sciulli, Edward Kampermann and Robert Doocey made public comments at the hearing before Commissioner Thomas Frieden and other members of the Board of Health today. JPCA attorney Gabe Tapalaga also weighed in.
Birder Ron Bourque testified about the fact that off-leash dogs have been harassing and killing migrating birds. (That situation is so bad that FIDO Brooklyn asked its members to "give migrating birds a rest" in their latest newsletter.) Robert Doocey was booed loudly when he stated that dogs were "personal property," which according to police and the courts, is exactly what they are under NYS law. During and after each and every pro-leash speaker's testimony, there was heckling by the anti-leash contingent, who went so far as to yell at Mr. Kampermann to "get off the stage" while he was speaking.
This unacceptable behavior demonstrates the mentality of the off-leash advocates, who, as you will recall, disrupted our JPCA meeting this past March. However, these members of "responsible" dog owner groups today proved to the Board and to the rest of society that they cannot control their own behavior, so how can they be expected to control the behavior of their dogs? Also, now they are no longer saying that off-leash hours are a "successful" 20-year policy. Now they are a 30-year policy! Love that revisionist history...
"In this backwards city of ours, it's no surprise that dogs take priority over people. I guess nobody walks, runs, bikes, strolls, or just sits in a park between the hours 9pm and 9am any more," said Bayside resident Michael Chimenti.
JPCA President Robert Holden's testimony included photos of out-of-control off-leash dogs in Juniper, Prospect and Central Parks. One photo of three loose rottweilers staring down the photographer on a pedestrian park path seemed to make a strong impression upon Commissioner Frieden and others in attendance. Another showed a professional dog walker unleashing 10 dogs at a time. Pictures really were worth a thousand words in this instance.
While Mr. Holden was outside the hearing room being interviewed by reporters, he was interrupted by yet another dog advocate who insisted that the photos he presented did not portray the "responsible dog owners" who are all members of organized dog groups, but rather showed the scofflaws that they try to discourage. Mr. Holden then showed both the complainant and the reporter a photo of Fonzi and Rascal, collies belonging to Terri Sullivan, President of the Juniper Valley Park Dog Association (one of those "responsible" dog owner groups), running offleash in a prohibited area of Juniper Park. Having effectively silenced his critic, he then concluded his interview without interruption.
The Board is expected to make their determination about whether to adopt the proposed amendment by December 5th. If they shirk their responsibility of only adopting policy aimed at protecting the public as set forth in their mission statement, then JPCA predicts there will be many more dog bites and a subsequent public outcry to releash all dogs in all public places at all times.