Off-Leash Dogs Might Bite

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How To Protect Yourself

Imagine taking a mid-afternoon stroll with your mother and dog in a New York City park, when an off-leash dog all of a sudden attacks you. Then, when the dog is finally controlled and you remind the owner of the off-leash laws, the animal's owner begins to attack you as well, by punching you, twisting your wrist and grabbing your cell phone. This may sound like a nightmare, but it was a reality for one Upper West Side woman about a month ago in Riverside Park. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, is taking her case to court, and doesn't want others to feel as unsafe as she did in that situation.

According to New York City leash laws, dogs are allowed off-leash either in a dog park/dog run, or in designated areas before 9 a.m., and after 9 p.m. However, when surveyed, many suggested that even if they do not feel in danger, they often observe dog owners who do not follow the letter of the law, and let their dogs run free during any time of the day. But loose dogs, cyclists zooming past on downhill paths and children playing can be a difficult mix.

"It's a problem because if a dog sees a squirrel and goes running off, what happens when the child gets caught in the crossfire?" said the female Upper West Side dog attack victim. "Because the leash laws aren't enforced, incidents like what happened to me will unfortunately keep happening. I just hope they don't happen when a child is going to be a victim."

This is not the first time that dog aggression has been a problem in Riverside Park. Last month, a pit bull and a hound mix got into a fight, and drew blood, according to Hepi Armen who was walking in the Dog Park in Riverside Park at West 72nd Street. The fight escalated because the pit bull owner could not control her dog's actions.

In general, Upper West Siders who regularly visit the Dog Park in Riverside Park seem to agree that the letter of the law needs to be followed more often to avoid any kind of incident.

"I don't like when others have their dogs off-leash in the rest of the park," said Wendy Kanter, who was walking her Yorkie mix Trixie in the Dog Park in Riverside Park. "You don't know who could be afraid of the dog. If I see people who have their dogs off-leash, I tend to pick her up. A lot of different kinds of people use the park."

This is one tip that Michael Rueb, manager of behavior and training at Bideawee, 410 E. 38th St., gave: If you have a small dog, he said, and he or she feels threatened, it is best to pick them up and put them in a safe place. And in terms of keeping children safe, he said, it is definitely easier to outrun a five-pound Yorkie mix than a pit bull.

What should owners of larger, more aggressive dogs like pit bulls do to ensure the safety of their dog and others around them? "It's important to be consistent no matter what breed of dog you're talking about. A lot of small breed dogs will bite you," said Rueb. "Use proper body language, treat them the same. Breed has something to do with it like the aggressive dogs that have a prey predator instinct. Know your dog."

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