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Off-Leash Supporters Call Nov. 30 Ruling "A First Victory" for City Dogs
by Diane West
City dogs seemed to catch the ball on this round of the off-leash debate as Judge Peter J. Kelly of the Queens Supreme Court ruled that the Parks Commissioner has the right to make rules within city parks, including those pertaining to off-leash "courtesy hours" for supervised dogs after 9 pm and before 9 am daily. However, he did urge both the Parks Department and the Department of Health to more clearly formalize their rules on the issue.
"The court is keenly aware that while it can dispose of the legal issue presented, the broad emotional effect of the issues raised will remain," Kelly's November 30th decision says. "In the face of the angst and vitriol exhibited herein, common sense would dictate that something more than an "unwritten policy" governing the off-leash use of parkland by dogs, which is known by a few and misunderstood by many, is required in this instance."
"It is a total victory for City Parks and NYC Dog Owner's Group," says Bob Marino, president of the 20,000-plus member group that intervened on behalf of off-leash supporters.
"Today the court disposed of the legal issues in this matter and left the question of when and where dogs may be off-leash in City Parks where it belongs: in the hands of the Park Commissioner," Andrew Otis, lawyer for NYC DOG says. "NYCDOG applauds this ruling and looks forward to working with the rest of the City's Park users, including the Juniper Park Civic Association, to develop workable rules that allow both for the benefits of off-leash time for dogs and their human companions and other park uses."
The Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village, Queens, was the group that legally challenged off-leash laws and the Parks Commissioner's authority to make them.
For the most detailed, up-to-the-minute update on the issue, including a transcript of Judge Kelly's Nov. 30 ruling, log on to www.nycoffleash.com.
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