Big dogs in New York City, beware.
A new public housing rule has put the kibosh on owning large dogs, forcing some tenants to give up beloved pooches and creating an urban endangered species. Citing recent dog attacks and complaints from fearful neighbors, the Housing Authority banned
pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers from city-owned buildings as of May 1. (Service dogs are the exception.)
But animal rescue groups are not happy, The New York Times reported
: So far, 113 dogs have been turned in, including 49 who were euthanized for bad behavior, illness or lack of space.
The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and a local councilwoman have asked housing officials to reconsider the ban. It is impossible to predict a dog’s behavior based on breed, they said, noting that shelter workers found many of the pooches were, in fact, well-behaved.
Dog owner Marc Hernandez told The Times that his 60-pound Staffordshire bull terrier named Tyson was among the better-behaved pooches. The “big baby” followed commands and liked to put his paws on people’s heads to play with their hair.
Although housing officials said owners could keep pets that were registered before the ban took effect, many didn’t do so in time. Hernandez said he tried to register Tyson with his building’s management office before the ban started, but could not do so because the dog also exceeded an earlier weight limit of 40 pounds. (The earlier rule was rarely enforced.) Hernandez finally took Tyson to a shelter rather than face eviction and Tyson was adopted. “I got scared, so of course I’m going to do it,” he said.
Other pet owners have managed to register their pets and to date the Housing Authority has registered 4,792 dogs. (So far no one has been evicted for harboring a big dog.) Of the 113 abandoned dogs, the Mayor’s Alliance said 59 were adopted, two remain in shelters and three were reclaimed by their owners.
In defending the ban, officials cited reports of dangerous or threatening dogs and said the three banned breeds were named most frequently as “problem breeds.” In 2007, there were more than 17 dog attacks in public housing buildings in which people were hurt or other pets were killed or injured.
In recent years, others have tried to crack down on menacing pups. In 2006, New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. moved to impose a citywide pit bull ban. The owner of a bichon frise, Vallone cited pit bulls’ strong jaws, saying at the time
: “It’s our job to get this done before another child’s face is ripped off.” Similar efforts have taken place in Denver
Three years later, New York City’s public housing officials are toeing the line. “We made these changes based on the realities of what we hear from residents living in public housing,” officials said.