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Off-Leash Supporters Call Nov. 30 Ruling "A First Victory" for City Dogs
by Diane West


On Dec. 5 the New York City Board of Health voted to allow the Parks Department to codify "off-leash" dog policy

  • Board limits "off-leash" hours to 9 PM - 9 AM in designated areas, in accordance with the long-standing practice
  • Health Department reserves right to rescind "off-leash" hours if policy results in increased dog bites, risk of rabies or other animal-borne disease

To read the full Board of Health release and decision, click here or visit

  • City dog owners call the Queens Supreme Court's ruling a "first victory"
  • Judge's colorful ruling says off-leash opponents have painted an inaccurate picture "where any individual daring to venture in or near a City park would expect to be harassed by marauding hordes of vicious dogs whose owners sit idly by viewing the carnage much like spectators in the Roman Coliseum."

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

For background information on the off-leash debate visit our archived articles, unleashed.htm and unleashed2.htm.


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Most recent update: 12/5/06
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