After More Tragedies...Henry Stern Still Doesn't Learn - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the April 2001 Juniper Berry Magazine

After More Tragedies...Henry Stern Still Doesn't Learn

For several years the Juniper Park Civic Association has been verbalizing the problems with unleashed dogs. If you've been reading the newspapers lately, you know the JPCA was ahead of the curve.

We have been reporting for quite some time that the leash laws should be strictly enforced and allowing a "window" for unleashed dogs in our parks is a dangerous deadly practice.

All of these complaints have fallen on deaf ears with our embattled Parks Commissioner, Henry Stern, and the 104th Precinct, who support Commissioner Stern's edict to ignore the law.

For years now, Stern has allowed dogs to run off leash in NYC Parks from 9:00pm to 9:00am. He has ignored repeated requests from residents, civic leaders and pleas from Community Board #5.

This is contrary to the warnings from top veterinarians and animal behavior experts. It is also contrary to common sense. Especially with the breeding of many violent dogs.

The fatal mauling in San Francisco of a Long Island woman by her neighbor's dog is a sobering reminder of the aggressive behavior inherent in some dogs. Add to this the fact that certain breeds of the pit bull mastiff-type with a broad head, short coat and powerful jaws are being bred to fight, as was the case in the recent fatal attack.

For instance, it was reported that because Rottweilers were developed in Germany to drive cattle to market and guard the money purse on the way home, they have inbred enhanced aggression. People can own a good Rottweiller and have a wonderful pet but when it goes into the street some loud noise could trigger the Rottweiler into a heat-seeking missile.Two dogs in this type of situation could possibly unleash each other's predatory behavior thereby making them tremendously dangerous.

The dogs that rank high on the list for dog bites are dogs that have been bought primarily for protection. These are the German shepherds, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Akitas, Chow Chows and Doberman Pinschers. About four million to five million people are bitten each year by the nation's 55 million to 59 million dogs, according to statistics compiled by the Humane Society of the United States and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These organizations consider dog bites epidemic. Not surprisingly, these are the very dogs we see running loose in our Juniper Valley Park every day.

The New York Times reported that a statistical analysis by researchers at the Humane Society, the C.D.C. and the American Medical Veterinary Association and published in the September 15, 2000 issue of The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that between 1977 and 1998, pit bulls and Rottweilers accounted for more than half of the 238 fatal attacks on humans.

These are staggering numbers and certainly warrant a long hard look at how we regard dogs in our neighborhoods and in our parks, particularly unleashed dogs. Having a Parks Commissioner who cavalierly chooses to disregard a law and a cooperative police department puts everyone at high risk.

Also, we must strengthen laws against aggressive dogs and people should have to "go through hoops" to get and keep an animal known for enhanced aggression, as stated by Dr. Andrew Rowan, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. Dr. Rowan also added that it should be easier to prosecute the owners of dangerous dogs for manslaughter so that the owners are forced to take responsibility for the behavior of their animals.

Some people have turned the most lovable, loyal animal on this planet into a lethal weapon and the result is very sad.

With all of these facts, why then has Henry Stern refused to rescind his relaxation of the leash laws. We can only speculate that Henry Stern has been playing in the park too long.