Paws in the air! Dog walkers outraged by Parks Department’s crackdown on off-leash walking in Carroll Park

Paws in the air! Dog walkers outraged by Parks Department’s crackdown on off-leash walking in Carroll Park
The raid: Officers with the Parks Departments Parks Enforcement Patrol ambushed dog owners at Carroll Park on Sunday.
Photo by Remko de Jong

Call it paw enforcement!

Department of Parks and Recreation patrolmen ambushed dog walkers at a Carroll Gardens park this month to crack down on pup owners who walk their furballs off-leash, according to one hapless human, who said one minute he was walking his dog Cassie, and the next minute he was surrounded!

“It reminded me of ICE tactics,” said a Carroll Gardener Remko de Jong, referring to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “It was definitely an ambush — it came out of nowhere. There was no way to escape.”

Locals for decades have used the gated black top at Carroll Park on President Street as an unofficial dog run, according to De Jong. The park is plastered with signs strictly forbidding taking dogs off their leashes at any time, but rogue visitors who do let their hounds loose are generally respectful, cleanup after their four-legged friends, and limit their time off-leash to the early hours before 9 am, the local claimed.

On Sunday March 3 at 8:30 am, however, half a dozen officers with the Parks Enforcement Patrol suddenly appeared and blocked all entrances to the black-top area of the park, issuing $50 citations to De Jong and six other dog owners one-by-one as they filtered out of the recreation space — a raid the Carroll Gardener called excessive.

“That’s so many resources for seven people walking their dog on a Sunday morning,” he said. “It seems like you could spend your resources on other things.”

The sting outraged another local dog walker, who said officials should create a dedicated space for pups in Carroll Gardens — where the closest places that permit pups to run freely are Red Hook’s DiMattina Dog Run or Hillside Dog Park in Brooklyn Heights — before penalizing pet owners who just want to give Fido a few minutes to roam.

“I understand the rules of the park, but they must understand our needs and that the dogs need space,” said Carroll Gardener Shayna Wellington, who also received a ticket for walking fuzzy buddy Sam off-leash. “There must be a compromise, even if it’s just early morning hours.”

Parks Department officials ordered the Sunday raid, which agency patrolmen followed with another ambush on Monday morning, in response to recent complaints about locals breaking Carroll Park’s leash rules, according to department spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson. And there are no further stings scheduled, said Ferguson, who added that park police commonly patrol on-leash parks during the peak walking hours before 9 am.

The sudden change in enforcement, however, is a break from what De Jong said was an unspoken understanding between dog owners and the park officers, who would routinely show up at 8:55 am and give folks a five-minute heads up to leash their mutts and scram instead of ticketing them.

“They would be there at 8:55 am, waiting until 9 am, so everybody knew to leash their dog and leave,” he said.

And as along as pups behave, there’s no reason they shouldn’t get their own time to play, according to a Cobble Hill mom, who claimed to never witness any problems with unleashed pooches at Carroll Park.

“The park is for everyone; we should accommodate both parents and dog owners,” said Lucy Ham, who frequently visits the recreation space with her son. “The dogs are never in the way of the kids at the playground, they stay in their own area, so I don’t mind it.”

— with Maya Harrison

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Bad dog: Shayna Wellington was slapped with a $50 fine for allowing pooch Sam to run off leash at Carroll Park over the weekend.
Photo by Maya Harrison

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