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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 112-06
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290; 788-3058 (After Hours)
Andrew Tucker (atucker@health.nyc.gov)
Sara Markt (smarkt@health.nyc.gov)


NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF HEALTH VOTES TO ALLOW 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

NEW YORK CITY – December 5, 2006 – The New York City Board of Health voted today to formally allow the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) to codify its long-standing "courtesy hours" policy allowing dogs off leashes in designated areas of City parks between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. Parks is planning to amend their rules to incorporate this policy. The complete adopted amendment is available online at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/public/notice-adoption-hc-art161.pdf.

"The overwhelming majority of comments received on this proposal were in favor," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "We have devised a rule that balances our mandate to protect the public’s health and safety with the need for a formal off-leash policy for dogs in City parks."

Exercising dogs off-leash provides some benefits to human health. Off-leash exercise can calm anxiety in animals and reduce the likelihood of dog bites and other aggressive behavior. In addition, dog owners can experience better mental health by socializing with others and improved physical health by exercising alongside their dogs. Off-leash hours can make parks safer for all people who use them by bringing more people into the parks off-peak hours.

"The Parks Department looks forward to codifying the successful, long-standing "courtesy hours" policy," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "For the last two decades, this policy has allowed dog owners to exercise and socialize their pets in designated areas during certain hours. The daily presence of dog owners during early morning and late evening hours and fewer reports of dog bites have also made parks safer."

Background Information about Revisions to Dog Leash Proposal

In response to comments received, the following additions were made to the original proposal:

  • Parks will be required to limit off leash hours from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. only (non-peak hours). No time limitations were specified in the original proposal.
  • The Health Department has the authority to limit or eliminate off-leash privileges in Parks if there is epidemiologic evidence that off-leash dogs during off-leash hours have cause an increase in preventable dog bites or risk of disease (such as rabies) in a park.

The amendment also requires that dog owners/walkers carry with them proof of current dog licensure and current rabies vaccination.

A total of 13,470 comments were received. Supportive comments were received from 13,268 individuals (11,312 of which were included as part of petitions) and organizations. Negative comments were received from 202 individuals and organizations. Unqualified support for the proposed changes came from local pet advocacy organizations including the Veterinary Medical Association, New York Council for Dog Owner Groups, and others. A summary of the public comments and Department responses is available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vet/vet-doglicense-comments-response.pdf.

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