New Absurd Times: 1.5 million dogs, give or take a million - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the December 2006 Juniper Berry Magazine

New Absurd Times: 1.5 million dogs, give or take a million

Off-leash dog defecates on field while owner ignores him

Off-leash dog defecates on field while owner ignores him Robert Marino, President of NYC DOG, cites the ASPCA as his source for the dog population statistic that he tosses around with frequency. He claims that the ASPCA told him that there were 1.5 million dogs in our city. This would mean 1 out of every 5 city residents owns a dog. This is a little far-fetched considering that most landlords in New York will not allow tenants to own dogs.

We decided to check his dog stat by contacting the ASPCA.

On November 8th, we asked Anita Kelso Edson, Senior Director of the ASPCA's Media and Communications Department, to provide statistics for the following: the dog population in NYC, the number of licensed dogs and the number of dog bites.

Anita replied: In answer to your questions, I would suggest you contact Richard Gentles at Animal Care & Control.

We took Ms. Edson's suggestion and posed the same set of questions to Richard P. Gentles from the New York City Center for Animal Care and Control.

He replied: We don't have stats for dog populations, licensed dogs, and dog bites. This information can be obtained from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A quick check of the New York City Department of Health website shows that they last estimated the dog population of NYC to be 530,000. This is 1 million fewer dogs than claimed by off-leash advocates. Apparently 1.5 million is an inflated statistic meant to sway the Departments of Parks and Health into believing that dogs simply must be allowed to run unleashed in city parks due to the lack of available enlosed areas for them to exercise. Obviously Commissioner Benepe fell for these inflated statistics.

The DOH reports that 105,000 dog licenses were issued during Fiscal Year 2006. That means approximately 20% of the city total dog population is licensed. When substituting NYC DOG's dog population number for DOH's, the percentage of licensed dogs plummets to just 7%. The Department of Health openly admits in their intention to amend the leash law that unleashed dogs pose a threat to the public and that the current number of dogs licensed falls well below an acceptable level.

May we also remind our readers that the Center for Disease Control lists the following species on as the top 3 on their Dangerous Dogs List: Pit bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd. These 3 also appear on the DOH's NYC Top Dog Breeds. We don't have to point out the effect that unleashing them in parks would have on the public.

Up until recently, the Department of Parks had this listed on their website:

The City of New York enforces the leash law for several reasons:

First, unleashed dogs pose potential danger to people and to other dogs. Many park users, horses, park wildlife and leashed dogs have been attacked and bitten by unleashed dogs.

Second, many park visitors are frightened by dogs and may find unleashed dogs to be intimidating or annoying.

Third, unleashed dogs are more likely to leave behind waste that is not picked up by their owners; canine waste is a known source of several pernicious zoonotic diseases.

Finally, unleashed dogs destroy lawns and flower beds: areas used as informal 'dog runs' have been severely damaged by the combination of wear and uric acid, a known killer of plant life."

The Parks Department admits that these are major problems, yet still wants to unleash the hounds between 9pm and 9am. Apparently, after dark these problems magically disappear.

But wait! We aren't finished...there's yet more absurdity!

The [DOH's] Office of Veterinary Public Health Services' mission is to promote and protect the health of New York City residents and visitors by ensuring an environment free from animal-borne diseases, hazards and nuisances by controlling and regulating animals. VPHS's goals are to:

1. Prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals to people

2. Reduce animal nuisances

Supporting off-leash dog activity completely contradicts the Veterinary Public Health Service's reasons for existence.

Only in the City of New York would 2 city agencies consider the truly absurd proposal to unleash hundreds of thousands of undocumented, potentially dangerous dogs on the very same people that they are supposed to be protecting.