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Pit Bull Owners Not Afraid of Knife-Wielding Counterparts in Tompkins Square Park

By DNAinfo Staff on December 16, 2010 7:21am  | Updated on December 16, 2010 8:30am

By Jordan Heller

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

EAST VILLAGE — Pit bull owners who regularly visit the Tompkins Square Park Dog Run said Wednesday they weren't afraid of other breed owners who've taken to carrying weapons into the run to protect against potential pit bull attacks.

Since Sept. 8 there have been at least five pit bull attacks against other breeds and their owners in the Tompkins Square Dog Run, leading some East Village dog owners to carry knives, hammers and other weapons with them when visiting the run.

Dennis Lacey, 57, an East Village resident who's been coming to the dog run in the northeast corner of Tompkins Square Park with his pit bull Lily for three years now said he wasn't worried about the recent firestorm, since people at the run know his dog is no threat.

"Dogs aren't born bad, they're made bad," he said, adding that his pit bull has a sweet temperament and has never given anyone in the run a problem.

Another pit bull owner, who declined to give his name, said he knows about the recent attacks but doesn't worry about anyone attacking his dog Avon because he makes it a point to talk to other breed owners in the run.

"It's important to make human contact," he said, adding that in his opinion, being a pit bull owner comes with a higher responsibility.

Avon's owner said that if a pit bull starts running up to other dogs and growling, owners have to be right on top of them.

"Look, I'm no apologist for the breed," he said. "If you're gonna have one of these dogs, you have to be in control. They're big, they're strong, and they get excited."

Although experts on the breed and most pit bull owners decry those who profile the dogs as inherently dangerous animals, Avon's owner said he understood why pit bulls had earned such a violent reputation.

Holding Avon and drawing back his snout to reveal his teeth, he said, "They're like shark teeth, they're serrated. So what do you think?"

On Wednesday, it was business as usual at the Tompkins Square Dog Run — except for the conspicuous absence of the "break stick," a tool that was a regular fixture at the dog run and is intended to be used to pry open the jaws of a pit bull during an attack, according to park regulars.

Courtney Stephenson, 28, a member of Friends of First Run — a volunteer organization dedicated to the beautification and maintenance of the Tompkins Square Dog Run — said he removed the tool in light of the recent firestorm.

Some in the run have misidentified the break stick as a weapon intended to do injury to aggressive pit bulls, Stephenson said. In light of the recent controversy and the potential liability the organization could face if someone was hurt using the stick, Stephenson said his group decided to remove the tool from the run.

"If someone were to use the break stick incorrectly, they could hurt themselves," Stephenson said.

"And since we (Friends of First Run) put it there, I decided it would be best to just remove it."