INWOOD — An unleashed dog mauled another in an Inwood park last week, sparking cries from residents for greater enforcement of dog laws by cops.
The attack happened as Isham Park was packed during unseasonably warm temperatures at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, police said. The owner of the dog, Ginger, was walking with the dog and her 16-month-old daughter when the attack happened.
It took four people to pull the dog from Ginger and hold it down until police were able to remove it from the park and bring it to Animal Care and Control in Harlem. ACC did not immediately respond to a request for information about the dog.
A man was bitten on the hand during the melee. The injured dog, Ginger, a 9-year-old rescue dog, sustained deep lacerations along her neck, head and right front leg and may have long-term nerve damage, according to its veterinarian.
Although the injured dog survived, the incident has reopened old wounds in the community with residents who say the police's response was inadequate and exemplifies a hands-off approach in enforcing leash laws in Inwood.
The victim’s owners Jackie Parrott, 36, and her husband Eugene Gologursky, 40, listed concerns about the police failing to immediately taking control of the aggressive dog, not clearing the park of bystanders, and failing to issue a written report.
“I’m always supportive of the police, but this time they acted irresponsibly,” Parrott said.
Police, however, say that they handled the situation appropriately, following protocol and protecting the public.
But 34th Precinct’s commanding officer Deputy Inspector Barry Buzzetti said, “In this instance, highly competent officers, one a detective and the other a qualified EMT, responded to a dangerous event and, with the help of a bystander, were able to resolve the situation with no further injuries being sustained."
He added that police attempted to clear the park of bystanders throughout the incident.
Witnesses said they saw a man thought to be the dog's owner flee the park. Police have not found him.
Since the incident, residents throughout Inwood have been sounding off on local parenting and dog owner lists, criticizing the police response and voicing concern over lax leash law enforcement in area parks.
“It has been established (through local politicians and by the press) that the 34th precinct refuses to pursue solving or even reporting crimes because the precinct commander does not want any documentation which can prove that crime is going up (as it absolutely is) rather than down in our neighborhood,” wrote one resident on a local dog email list.
“This is why they refused to even take a report or take further action regarding these crimes,” the commenter said.
Buzzetti, who was part of the team that responded to the incident, told DNAinfo that he respects the opinions of the residents, but is dismayed at their interpretation of the incident.
“It is extremely disconcerting that a dangerous event in which our personnel did their best job to protect the public and themselves, utilizing limited resources, would result in some members of the community calling those officers ‘corrupt’ and ‘lazy’,” he said.
According to Buzzetti, police filed three reports regarding the incident — one complaint and two dog bite reports. He said the precinct plans to continue working with the community to identify the owner of the dog that attacked.
“Isham Park has become an area where people can do whatever they want,” Parrott said.
“It is not a dog owner's individual decision about whether they need to leash their dog, yet I feel that the lack of enforcement in Isham Park is allowing just that,” Parrott added on a neighborhood email list.
“We should all be able to use the parks without fear of roaming dogs.”
Although the police can write tickets for off-leash dogs, police say it is not a priority in light of more serious crimes in the area.
Parks said they issued 31 summonses in Inwood Hill, Fort Tryon and Isham parks between Sept. 2011 and Feb. 2012, with five issued in Isham Park alone.
That is nearly three times the amount of summonses issued during the same time frame last year when 11 summonses were written between Sept. 2010 and Feb. 2012. Only one ticket was issued in Isham Park during that time frame.
“Owners are responsible for their pets,” Parks spokeswoman Vickie Karp wrote when asked if the department would be increasing patrols of the park in light of the incident.
For now, Parrott and Gologursky said they are focusing on helping their dog heal her wounds, but hope to see changes in the way that police handle cases like this in Inwood.
“We want them to find the guy,” Gologursky said. “And in the future, we just ask that the police handle things differently.”