Brower Park Dog Meeting

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A meeting took place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum that was organized by “Friends of Brower Park” in response to the attack on and death of the dog Ralphie, belonging to Robyn Berland. This brutal killing had suggested to Robyn the need for the community to take action to prevent any more such violence. The moderator was Mr. James Caldwell and there was a panel of nine: Brooklyn Borough President Adams, Parks Commissioner Mahar, a Community Board 8 representative, someone from the 77th Precinct, the Asst. Commissioner of Veterinarian Services, the PS 289 Principal, a Brooklyn Children’s Museum representative, a representative of Friends of Brower Park and, animal behaviorist Claire Cario. It was a well attended meeting of roughly 150 people.

There were remarks from the panel, then questions and comments from the community were heard. The discussion ran from lively to contentious; people shouted at one another and interrupted, and Caldwell was sometimes hard pressed to keep order. People were impassioned and angry. The general focus was on whether or not to make changes in the dog rules and possibly build a dog run. As of now the two off-leash periods are from the Park’s opening until 9 am and the other is 9 pm to the closing time. Many dog owners felt that this is already a minimal amount of off-leash time and should not be cut further, citing the needs of dogs to run free. Another point made was that even during on-leash hours, some owners remove their animals’ leashes. The Principal said that children coming from and going to PS 289 were sometimes knocked over or intimidated by the dogs. She added that some of her students with special needs have dogs and she values these relationships, but she is concerned about uncontrolled animals that might be dangerous to the children. Others see the park as overrun by dogs. They know it as the dog park and take their children elsewhere. A dog run and changing or even eliminating the off-leash hours were two proposals. There was vocal opposition to both. Eliminating off leash hours was out of the question for many, and a dog run was viewed as a further form of limitation and control. Another proposal was to get better enforcement of the existing rules and still another was to do nothing at all. A proposal to get more information was made: How many people find the Park overrun by dogs? How many recent attacks have been reported?

One person claimed that Ralphie, the dog that was killed, was an aggressive animal; one wonders about the relevance of this cruel and insensitive statement to the purpose of the meeting. Clearly some people were there to improve the situation in the Park and others were not. They perhaps felt that the purpose of the meeting was anti-dog and they had to resist. They may have further felt that Friends of Brower Park did not represent them. Mr. Mahar suggested that the chance of Brower Park getting a dog run is small because the cost is very high – approximately $850,000-- and there is less chance of getting City approval when there is opposition, which clearly exists here. Also, he said a dog run would take about four years to complete if approval was obtained. The large group then broke into smaller groups that were to come up with written proposals which were supposed to be presented to the whole group. However, time ran out; the written proposals were handed in to the panel and the meeting ended rather up in the air.

Almost everyone at the meeting seemed to own a dog. Having a dog makes one passionate. For some the passion is for a safer park, but for others it is to defend their rights. For them life is dangerous and nothing can be done about that. The romance of a free animal running with other free animals and dog owners socializing and bonding with other dog owners trumps all other concerns. This is a notion that may be at odds with urban life.

- Louise Kurshan

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