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Prospect Park no longer goes to the dogs

for The Brooklyn Paper
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New “No dogs” signs in Prospect Park have unleashed a fury from dog owners who say park officials are arbitrarily enforcing regulations and unfairly targeting their four-legged friends.

The bright blue signs showed up on paths leading to the Long Meadow a few weeks ago, and remind dog walkers that their pets are not allowed on the grass — even on a leash — except during the designated off-leash hours.

The signs threaten a $100 fine.

Park Sloper Seth Kamil spoke for many of his fellow dog owners when he suggested that the signs wrongly target canine aficionados while ignoring a bigger problem than the few dog lovers who actually walk their pets across the Long Meadow.

“The signs are fine, but what angers me is the inconsistent enforcement of the rules and policies,” said Kamil, who owns the Big Onion Walking Tour company. “[Park cops] strictly enforce dog rules, but they turn a blind eye to everything else that takes place in the park.”

“Everything else” includes illegal barbecuing, and high school sports teams and adult leagues whose cleats tear up the grass.

“There is a perception out there that dogs ruin the park. Well, 20 grown men wearing cleats on a muddy Sunday do more damage than any dog ever could,” Kamil said. “Dogs are just an easy target, because, well, nobody likes to get dog poop on his shoe.”

But not every dog owner is in Kamil’s kennel. Community Board 6 Parks Committee chairwoman — and dog owner — Nica Lalli said the new signs “make sense,” given all the complaints she’s received about randomly enforced dog rules in the park.

“The signs let people know that dogs are simply not allowed on the fields,” she said. “It was a shame that the rule was previously unclear, but now that it is a clear rule, we need to follow it. This is a big, multi-use park, with millions of people who come to it. We all need to do our part to keep it fun for everyone.”

Until now, a “grace period” was in effect, said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance. But the installation of the “No dogs” signs signals that tickets will be issued.

“The ticketing is just a natural progression, because now people are expected to know what is and is not allowed,” he said.

UPDATED: This story wrongly suggested that the newly installed “No dogs” signs barred leashed canines from the Long Meadow. In fact, the restrictions only apply to paths around the ballfields at the southern end of the meadow. Leashed dogs are still allowed on the grass at all hours and are allowed off-leash during specified hours. The Brooklyn Paper regrets the error.

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Reader Feedback

Matt from Park Slope says:
What the park focuses on - and doesn't focus on - is always very odd. There are some issues that the park refuses to do anything about and now suddenly they have become intensely focused on antagonizing dog owners.

What rich donors on the Alliance's board are motivating this? What's really going on? There's always some BS reason why the park does these things. It's never the reason they give.

Maybe we'll ask around at the Ball and see if we can find out who's pushing the park on this. They don't actually take their own initiative on these things, ya know!
Oct. 14, 2008, 5:45 pm
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
Using a reasonable standard, there are three problematic issues with these new dog prohibition signs.

First, dogs are not a substantial factor in the normal deterioration of the fields. Second, the fields are public places in a public park in America, and therefore should be free to all, including dog owners. Third, placing a stationary metal poll in the middle of a playing field will eventually cause serious injury, and thus heavy liability for the city.

The park alliance should get a life, and stop pretending we are in some nature paradise in never never land. It's Brooklyn, for dog sake.
Oct. 14, 2008, 11:17 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
it is good news that the parks dept finnaly is doing something about the dog situtation. people have forgotten that dogs do not have "rights", people have rights. the dog owners are responsible for their pets but they think poor little fido is being picked on..too bad. now all they have to do is enforce the rules. we will see if that will happen.
Oct. 15, 2008, 1:39 pm
dave from park slope says:
I live across the street from prospect park, walk my dog there everyday. I clean up after my dog, and I for one have never seen a dog owner in the park that does not. People stepping in dog crap is not a problem in prospect park AT ALL. Dogs tearing up fields? You must be kidding me. This is pure nonsense. What about the trememdous mess all the barbeques leave every weekend in the summer? The blatant disregard for the open container laws? This is a joke.
Oct. 15, 2008, 3:27 pm
Chuck from Carroll Gardens says:
What? As a non-dog owner, getting to see all the pups running around at the park is half the fun!
Oct. 15, 2008, 4:57 pm
Fred from Park Slope says:
Irresponsible dog owners ruin the park experience for many people. The fact that signs even need to be installed is one indication that self-centered (or clueless) pet owners do pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want. Allowing dogs ("socialized" or not) to run unleashed in a public place, without any attempt to enforce existing licensing or vaccination rules is an invitation to problems. $20 says those signs are destroyed before the end of the year.
Oct. 15, 2008, 7:40 pm
Seb from Brooklyn says:
The rule and the article is pretty stupid. I have a dog..I follow the rules, but give some space in the park to dog owners all day. Also let the people play soccer/football/baseball in the park. What else it the park for?
Oct. 15, 2008, 9:45 pm
Pops from Prospect Heights says:
The "off leash" dog owners are one of the most coddled, catered-to groups in the park. Why are they complaining? Because they will now have to actually follow the off leash rules if enforcement is carried out. That is a bad thing?

FIDO and their ilk have demanded and received so much, but it's still not enough. If you don't enjoy having your space invaded by unleashed dogs, you are forced to avoid large swathes of the park if you dare to take a morning walk (and afternoon in the Nether Mead, where scofflaws abound). I think people should have priority, and unleashed dogs belong behind fences so the rest of us park users can walk without worrying about dogs.

I have a dog and I walk it on a leash. I would never dream of imposing its unwanted presence on other people by letting it loose in a public space. It's called being considerate of other people. I guess that makes me old fashioned.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:57 pm
Mark from Tribeca says:
Can entitled spoiled children be leashed as well? Fair is fair.
Oct. 16, 2008, 3:20 pm
Mike from Park Slope says:
Mark, Stay in Tribeca please
Oct. 19, 2008, 7:46 am
Henry from Park Slope says:
I think that "Pops from Prospect Park" misses the point. There is nothing in this article about dogs on or off leash. In fact, the dog in the article in clearly on a leash. The signs ban all dogs and restricts owners to walk only on the tar path around a large section of the Long Meadow. This is not a matter of off leash dogs and owners. Its about a newly posted policy but a whole series of existing rules that are not inforced.

Does this mean that I cannot take my leashed dog to the ball fields to watch my kid pay Little League any longer?
Oct. 22, 2008, 11:33 am
Aunt Betty from Canarsie Brooklyn says:
Most Dog owners are responsible owners. They obey the rules for Prospect Park. I have never seen a place like this in the world. The long meadow is the perfict place for Coffee once a month. The dogs big and small play with each other, eat treats and socialize. I would drive all the way from where i live just to walk the meadow in prospect park at 6, or 7 am. come join in see what its like
March 8, 2009, 6:24 pm

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