Canine crackdown has Baruch’s dog owners bristling

By Lilly O’Donnell

All New York City public housing has restrictions on what types of dogs

residents are allowed to have. But the management of Baruch Houses is cracking down particularly severely in enforcing the rules, according to Good Old Lower East Side, or GOLES. A neighborhood organization committed to housing rights and community preservation, GOLES organized a rally on June 28 for Baruch residents to discuss the pet restrictions and an upcoming public hearing of the New York City Housing Authority, on Wed., June 30.

Pit bulls, Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers are banned in public housing, as well as fully-grown dogs weighing above 25 pounds. When NYCHA first proposed its revised pet rules last year, 27 dog breeds were to be banned; but after protests by residents, these were subsequently cut to only the three breeds. Marquis Jenkins, a GOLES community organizer, said the ideal outcome of the hearing and any negotiations would be to lift all bans based on weight or breed, and instead focus on responsible pet ownership.

“There have been more bites from small dogs than there have been from

big dogs,” said Ari Soto, a resident of LaGuardia Houses who came to Baruch to show support, and to try to put an end to the problem before it gets to a point where she has to get rid of her German shepherd, something she said she would never do.

“There’s no way,” she said.

Soto pointed out a central problem with the policy, which is that there are plenty of large, friendly dogs and plenty of small, vicious dogs.

A dog’s weight and breed do not determine its disposition as much as proper training and care do, and the focus on these factors is not only failing to solve problems, but in fact causing new ones, according to Jenkins.

“People were starving their dogs just to keep them under the weight limit,” he said.

Soto also suggested that if NYCHA forbids residents from keeping dogs capable of protecting them, they should first do something about the crime problems in public housing.

“What’s a little dog gonna do — bark an intruder to death?” she asked.

“While they’re at it, they should ban the rats and the roaches,” said Jenkins, partially joking but also agreeing that NYCHA is wasting time and money banning dogs when there are so many other problems to deal with.

Aside from practical purposes like protection, residents are upset by NYCHA’s disregard for the pets themselves, many of which are being put down because their owners fear eviction and have nowhere to send them.

“They take Christmas card photos with us, come to barbeques,” said resident Wendy Townes, discussing the role of family member that many pets play.

Jenkins has encouraged many residents to certify their dogs as service animals, on which there are no restrictions in public housing.

“It’s used very loosely,” he said. “Anyone who’s living by themselves and needs the companionship can register their dog as a service animal.”

But this solution can’t work for everyone.

“Since we’ve done it for so many of the dog owners who have been coming in to my office, NYCHA is sort of catching on, so they are not allowing people to certify their dogs,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins plans to get as many residents and sympathizers as possible to testify against the restrictions at NYCHA’s hearing on its draft annual plan on Wed., June 30, at Fashion Institute of Technology, at Seventh Avenue and 27th St., from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

But as Soto pointed out, “A lot of people are afraid to speak out ’cause they don’t want the attention,” fearing it will lead to eviction. This was evidenced by the low turnout at Monday’s meeting — only four residents and two outside supporters showed up.