Man Bites Dog It’s Not – The Eagle on Wednesday’s Dog Fight in Brooklyn Heights

The Brooklyn Eagle gets to the bottom of this morning’s dog fight as mentioned by several folks on today’s Open Thread Wednesday:

Brooklyn Eagle: Witnesses said that Sophie, possibly part Maltese, allegedly snapped at a brown pit bull/Lab mix named Luna, sparking a ferocious fight. When the owners attempted to separate the howling dogs, Sophie allegedly bit both of them. The sound of the fight and the screams of the owners drew dog-walkers from across the park.

Eventually Sophie sped out of the park, ran across Cadman Plaza West and Henry Street and made it to her home on Cranberry Street, with her wounded owner chasing after her. Witnesses called 911 to summon help for Luna’s owner, still in the park, bleeding from the left hand.

Luna’s owner alleged that Sophie’s owner cursed at her during the fray. “She called me a b****,” she said as a FDNY paramedic bandaged her hand. “She said, ‘You b****, get your *** dog off my dog.’ But her dog bit Luna. Everyone thinks that because Luna’s part pit bull, he’s to blame.”

“That’s racial profiling,” said one of the dog owners remaining in the park.

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  • north heights res

    I’m a huge animal lover, but feels like this is a reason for animals to be kept on leashes: more safety for both canines and humans. Not good for anyone to have Sophie tearing around the neighborhood petrified and aggressive.

    I feel bad for all involved; clearly just a freakish situation, but perhaps could have been avoided.

  • Carrie

    Dogs need exercise just like humans and fenced-in dog parks, such as Hillside (where, I assume, this originated) allow dogs to be trained and properly socialized. Dogs need to interact with other dogs and need to learn how to interact with humans. Just like humans, from time to time, there’s a disagreement or an event. Dogs are not “things,” they are living, breathing entities with feelings, needs, and opinions. It’s unfortunate that this occurred. It would seem that, but for the hands of the owners, there is no grave harm. Sophie had a disagreement with a pit bull. Predictably, she bit off more than she could chew. The pit bull (being a pit bull) scared the bejesus out of her and she high-tailed it home. Super points to Sophie for knowing her way home and navigating the streets safely. Demerits to both owners for not knowing how to break up a dog fight.

    It has long been my impression that “little dogs” tend to be spoiled by their owners and are not always properly socialized as puppies. They frequently don’t know the social cues and lack the dog radar that, for other dogs, gets established in puppyhood.

    Also: There is an area at Hillside that is specifically fenced off for small dogs. And for those of you who want to indict the pit bull …. if the pit bull intended harm, Sophie would not have made it out of the park.

  • Matthew Parker

    @north heights resident:

    I must take strong exception to your “feeling”. In 89 designated offleash areas and over 50 enclosed dog runs in all five boroughts tens of thousands of dogs and their owners each week recreate in a park enviornment with the fellow city residents.

    This dog-on-dog incident represents a rare exception to the hundreds of thousands of daily dog-on-dog interactions in NYC. Compare that to the hundreds of human-on-human reports of assault and other forms of human aggression every day in NYC.

    Dog runs and designated park off-leash areas have been with us in NYC for approximately 20 years. What’s happened during that time? A drastic reduction in the number of dog on people bites (over a 90% reduction). Don’t take my word for it. The NYC Health Board unanimously voted in 2006 to amend the leash law to codify the right for the NYC Parks Commissioner to designate off-leash areas in NYC Parks. The Health Board, which is comprised of 13 health professionals (doctors, epidemiologist, public health practioners) looked at the data over 20 years and unimously agreed that off-leash recreational opportunities have contributed to a better and healthier city for all residents (not just dog owners), and therefore amended the Health Code.

    The result for people? Great friendships made, life partners introduced (I met my wife at Hillside), an outlet to properly excersise one’s dog (a tired dog is a good dog), a reason for citizens to go to a NYC park every day of the year in all weather, increasing the usage and safety of our parks for all, dog owners and non dog owners alike. A 90% reduction in the number of dog on human bites in NYC over the past few decades.

    The result for dogs? Needed socialization, exercise, and a drastic reduction in aggression. I can’t tell you how many times people from the suburbs comment on how well behaved and socialized city dogs who attend dog runs and off-leash areas, compared to territorial suburban dogs who bark and show aggression toward anyone approaching their property and owners.

    To extend your logic which extrapolates a single rare incident and seeks to generalize, what should we do after reading the BHB crime blotter each week where we see daily human on human assaults, muggings, and murder? Put humans on leashes? Close the parks to humans because they often do bad things to each other and sometimes even to animals, and in parks? .

    So I hope these words, facts, and experience about the tremendous net good that off-leash areas and enclosed dog runs have done for all of the people of the City of New York, and also the canine residents (estimated at between 500k to 1.5mm) over the past few years help you re-examine your assertion about how this rare single incident makes you “feel.”

    Submitted with respect.

  • beth

    Carrie, I think this happened at off-leash hours at Cadman Plaza Park (or whatever it is called.) No fences.

    Just glad to hear no dog died as reported in the initial comments here!!!

  • north heights res

    Matthew Parker: I neither dispute nor disagree with anything that you say. I still don’t think that it’s a good idea for dogs to be off-leash in unfenced areas. Other people in/around the park at that time, who might have no interest in being near dogs, who may be afraid of them, are put at unnecessary risk – and I thought this long before this incident. I’m in full support of fenced dog runs; I don’t think that anyone else should have to be a part of whatever occasional canine skirmishes happen…and I don’t think that folks who are afraid of dogs should have to avoid parks during off-leash hours, especially when fenced-in dog parks are nearby.

    And close to the top of the list of my concerns here is what could have happened to Sophie as she ran petrified around the neighborhood.

  • Liza Dunn

    I take my dog Henry to Cadman for off leash play time every single day. This type of free, open play time is essential to his happiness. The dogs are well behaved and the people are delightful. We are a community.

    But like anything, there’s always the exception to the rule. This is an isolated incident and should be seen as such. The benefit of this dog/people community far outweighs the extremely infrequent cost.

    I wish a speedy recovery to those who were hurt (the two owners?).

    Liza Dunn (brown Henry’s mom)

  • Matthew Parker

    @North Heights Res:

    Of course you’re entitled to your opinion.

    My point is that the data, facts, and experience don’t bear out your feeling. But you’re still entitled to it.

    I don’t like hardball baseball games or speeding bike riders in parks. They are dangerous and bystanders get injured. I was hit by a speeding cyclist in Prospect Park a few years ago.

    However, I recognize that people use parks for all types of recreational activities, some of which I like, some I don’t like or participate in.

    I don’t advocate for abolishing those activities. I simply avoid the ballfields during games, and try to avoid speeding cyclists (though that’s often hard to do and also navigate a park).

    Off-leash hours in the 89 parks where it currently exists are subsections of a park. For instance in Cadman, the designated offleash area before 9am and after 9pm is at the very north end of the park. It’s not an unreasonable accomodation that if you don’t like off-leash dogs, to simply avoid that area before 9am and after 9pm, while your fellow citizens who utilize Cadman every day for offleash get to use a small portion of the park.

    Regarding your comment about enclosed dog runs vs. offleash areas, dog runs are quite expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and maintain. Most of the City doesn’t have dog runs, but off-leash areas are a way to maximize existing parkland for multi-use functions. It costs little to nothing to designate an area a 9-9 offleash area.

    Though Hillside is convenient for residents of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, it’s a very long walk for Downtown, Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill residents, most of whom don’t have access to an enclosed run. Cadman is significantly closer to some of these areas, and has been providing this outlet for over a decade.

    In fact, there’s such a need for more off-leash areas in the Downtown Brooklyn area that the MetroTech BID recently presented in front of CB2’s parks subcommittee as the process for site selection for a new off-leash area (or if funding can be found for an enclosed dog run) to be built to provide services for the thousands of new and existing Downtown residents who don’t have access and many of whom now go to Cadman.

  • Janet Austin

    What happened at Cadman could have easily happened in a fenced in dog run. If the dog is a problem than it is a problem anywhere, not just at designated off-leash areas.

    As a part of the vibrant Cadman Plaza morning group, I can speak volumes to the positive dog to dog and dog to human interactions. Many of our members bring their children to the park, which only shows the good behavior and beneficial effects it has on the community. Since the dogs are not fenced in, they are extremely obedient and well-behaved. The pitbull in question has never in my time there been part of the crew in back of the war memorial. Also, there has never been any other problem during off leash hours reported.

    A feeling doesn’t justify reactionary behavior. We have to look at the sum total of good we achieve at Cadman. Good that far outweighs an isolated incident.

    I am happy to discuss Cadman and the community we have created with anyone who is interested.

  • BKPup

    Thank you Mr. Parker for putting facts first and opinions/feelings where they belong. Off-leash unfenced park areas for our pups are a necessity. Like humans not all dogs are created equal and some dogs fare much better in open unfenced areas. I am a proud owner of a beautiful pitt mix who has issues with the often frenetic energy of a fenced in dog park with dozens of dogs. The Hillside park is not an option for us as a result. Instead, we find our own space at Cadman Plaza and I’m able to give my pup the workout she needs and loves.

    Also, I was there when the incident took place and can personally attest the account reported above is well documented. Luna and her owner handled the situation as best they could. The small dog bit off way more than it could chew and, as often is the case in small dog v big dog incidents, the small dog owner claimed they were the victim. Nice try but it is simply not the case by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Jill Mijanovic

    This is an odd incident that should just be treated as such, an unfortunate anomaly.

    Dozens of dogs play peacefully every morning and night at Cadman Plaza. As they playfully and joyously exercise, their care-takers chat with others. So, Cadman Plaza is not just a park, it’s an outdoors community center.

    It is gems like this that make Brooklyn Heights special: a friendly neighborhood where everyone is welcome and there’s room for all to grow and live in.

    So, let’s all just pray that Sophie, Luna and their care-takers get well soon and that we all continue to use Cadman Plaza as we presently do.

  • Chris Y

    I think the off-leash areas are very important for many reasons aside from the dog/owner benefits.

    There is often no one else in the park during those early morning/late night hours. Trash and other debris is picked up, often we often leave the park cleaner than we found it.

    It is also safer when there are people around during the hours when few, if any, eyes are out in these areas of the neighborhood.

  • BigDave

    Maltese and pit bull
    embark on confrontation —
    off leash dogs untrained?

  • Meryl Blackman

    I too appreciate the facts Matthew Parker states, and have experienced the positive effects of both fenced and unfenced off- leash dog areas. My dog and I frequent both Cadman Plaza off leash area and Hillside Dog Park daily. The overwhelming majority of the time,there are well balanced happy dogs playing, (and in my dog’s case), sunning, and enjoying themselves, while owners socialize and trade information about their dogs and local dog services. I strongly agree that there is a need for more of these “gems”- that are a great asset to dogs, their owners, and to the community at large,for lowering the amount of cannine aggression in our city. In Cadman I have never observed any non-dog owners inconveneinced in any way;they still run or walk the track and frequent all the other parts of the park. As a local Real Estate Broker, I always inform my clients with dogs about the off-leash areas and most often they choose to focus their housing searches to live near them.Let’s all keep a healthy perspective here; the off leash areas add to making our city a better place to live for dogs and humans alike.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Dear Meryl,

    As a non-dog owner I was once inconvenienced. Let me state, I have nothing against dogs or respectful dog owners but here is my tale of woe.

    One Saturday morning in August, my son asks if we can go to the park to toss a baseball. We head to Cadman at 8:30 and of course, there is no room on the carpet because the international soccer federation has taken over the entire lawn (as we all know that’s another topic).

    We proceeded to the north end of the park and found many dogs and owners. If i had to guess, 20-25 owners with their dogs. Not a problem, we go to a side of the oval put our bag down, grab our gloves and start to toss.

    I had some food in the bag and a Jack Russell comes over and starts to sniff. I gently shuss him away. His owner comes over and tells Jack to come with her. Two minutes later, Mr. Russell makes a b-line for my bag, starts ripping through it, finds the pear I was looking forward to and goes to town.

    The owner offers no apology, no acknowledgement of what her Jack has done. I’m a little peaved and say something to the effect of “Excuse me but you should really have better control of your dog.”

    The president of the Cadman Park Saturday Morning Dog Owners Coffee Clutch comes over and starts in on me. He claims that this area of the park is exclusively theirs every Saturday morning and tough if I don’t like it. I told him that I had a right to be there, and understood that he and his friends, canine and otherwise, had a right to be there as well. He continued to give me a hard time. I tried nicely (and firmly) to tell him that dog owners have the responsiblilty to control their dogs while off leash.

    He wanted to pick a fight. I exercised proper restraint, after all, he had a dog, but couldn’t resist reminding him to make sure he and his followers pick up after themselves on the sidewalk!

    9:00 comes and his dog is off-leash and drinking from the water fountain. I walked over and read the posted regs – which clearly state that dogs are not to be off-leash after 9:00 and are not to drink from human fountains.

    Two younger dog owners came over to me afterwards and apologized. They described the President as a little nuts.

    I hope this give you some perspective.


  • kcgrace

    The off leash area of Cadman has been a wonderful social opportunity for both my dog and myself. Yes, we utilize the dog parks throughout the day. But every morning both my dog and I look forward to 30 minutes at Cadman. Moving from the mid-west last winter, the opportunity for my dog to socialize off leash at the park did wonders to help him adjust to city life. It helped me as well. My first friends in NYC were made at Cadman. The owners who use the park in the mornings are diligent and respectful of others based on my experience. The dogs are well behaved and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to run, chase balls and play. Most of the park use is between 7-9 am which is a small segment of the day to share the park with these dogs and their owners who not only watch their dogs but what is happening around them in the park. There are also numerous people who come and sit and watch the dogs play. This option to be off leash for a small period of time provides the opportunity for people with similar interests to utilize the park during a otherwise low usage time and become a community.

  • cat lover

    It’s sort of hard to tell which is the more entitled group around here, the parents of humans or the parents of dogs. And I LOVE dogs.

    Really? The FOUR extra blocks from Cadman Plaza to the dog run is an inconvenience?

    And the people who don’t like dogs, or who are afraid of them, or who don’t for whatever reason want to be approached by your friendly or otherwise dog while we’re out for a jog before work or having a cup of coffee in the park or strolling through should just put up with it so that your dogs don’t have to go to their designated spot in the fenced off dog run because you don’t feel like it.

    Got it.

  • kids

    Get your kids away from me. Dont want them to be around me or anywhere I go. Drop them off at the playgrounds @ 6 AM and pick them up at 10 PM so I wont have to deal with them and all the yackinging stroller moms, dads and nannies.

    My taxes pay for their schools. Give me back my money.

  • Dog backwards

    They are dogs, they bite. They bite each other. They bite you. They bite their owner, strangers, sticks, bottles, etc… They are not people. It’s NEVER the dogs fault. Why? Because they are DOGS.

  • dismantled

    it all comes down to the owner and how they raise their dog. dogs aren’t born vicious. these people don’t know how to take care of their dogs and have them only because they are “cute”. it’s the human beings fault as always. if these yuppie stoller parents can’t handle their obnoxious rugrats ya think they will have a well behaved dog?

  • Kim G

    Last summer an unleashed dog lifted his leg and peed on my 9 year old…just thought I would share. By the way I have nothing against dogs but would prefer that they are leashed or in designated dog parks and cleaned up after

  • Roberta

    It is surprising how viscous you people are to each other. Many of you sound like a bunch of attack dogs and hissing cats, instead of concerned humans.

  • BigDave

    I reiterate my somewhat lame haiku. My cousin has been training dogs for thirty years. She has always maintained that it isn’t the breed it is the owner. She had a rottweiler who was really sweet, but also a well trained protection dog at her command. In an urban environment, a dog should only be off leash in a fenced in dog run, unless the owner has absolute control. I do not think there are many dog owners in NYC whose dog(s) are trained like they could be.

  • NS

    This was the kind of incident that easily have happened with dogs who were on leash. As someone who takes their dog to Cadman Plaza every morning, I can attest that both the dogs and people are wonderful– well behaved and respectful of everyone in the park. In fact there are very few people in that area before 9 am. The positive effects on my dog of being able to socialize with both people and other dogs every morning, as well as get a good workout, are tremendous. I don’t believe that this incident should be used as an reason for closing down off-lease times and areas, as the incident is esentially unrelated to that issue.

  • Matthew Parker


    >In an urban environment, a dog should only be off leash in a fenced in dog run, unless the owner has absolute control.

    Similar to North Heights Res’ “feeling”, BigDave, the facts, data and experience simply do not support your assertion.

    Some examples: Every day in NYC, 89 parks have 9-9 offleash hours. Each day thousands of people and their dogs take advantage of this hard won privlidge. And each day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year things go smoothly. Each year, there are millions of visits to parks for regulated off-leash hours without incident.

    If you’ve been to Prospect Park before 9am (especially on a weekend), you’ll see hundreds and sometimes over a thousand dog and their owners in the Long Meadow, Penninsula, and Nethermead having a great time. It’s a sight to be seen, and one of the many things that makes Brooklyn great.

    A similar scene is repeated every day in Ft. Greene Park, and Marine Park, and Central Park, and Alley Pond Park, and Juniper Valley Park, Mt. Prospect Park, in total 89 parks in all five boroughs.

    This one single incident of dog-on-dog aggression at Cadman (taken over a decade of daily use) when compared with the great good that stems from the off-leash hours policy is beyond negligable.

    Also, there are rules for Off-leash Hours. The rules can be found here: See paragraph (i)

    So when you say that that dogs and their owners should not have regulated off-leash hours, over 25 years of daily experience, data, and public health and parks experts, as well as the tens of thousand of people who take advantage of this parks policy must disagree with you.

    But just like North Heights Res, you’re entitled to your feeling or belief.

  • north heights res

    And none of that research addresses the fact that I, and many others, don’t want to be approached by dogs, friendly or otherwise, because their owners think that the social elements – for themselves and their dogs – outweigh the desires of nearby humans. More times than I can count, I’ve had to deal with dogs who want to come talk, play, whatever, and I don’t think that I should be subjected to that.

    And even more so, those who fear dogs shouldn’t, especially as there’s a dog-specific area right nearby.

    But I get it: if it makes you and the dogs happy, the rest of the community should just deal with it.

  • Demonter

    Well trained dogs are a reflection of well informed pet owners. A working understanding of the canine instinctive drives and pack socialization behaviors are paramount to acceptable conduct of all involved. Here is a helpful link to an website of an excellent dog trainer whose tips are most useful:

  • Matthew Parker

    @North Heights Res:

    As I stated in my previous post, not everyone is a “North Heights Res[ident]”. So if you’re referring to Hillside as the other off-leash area nearby, that’s not the case if you’re coming from Downtown, Boerum Hill or parts of Cobble Hill. It’s another 10 block walk r/t for those folks. That’s tough to do everyday when you’re trying to get some parktime in for off-leash recreation before work, as is the case with most dog walkers at Cadman each morning.

    And as stated in my previous post, there are other park activities I don’t like or are fearful of. But since most parks are multi-use, I don’t have the right to walk through a baseball game, football game, soccer game, organized and approved cycle race whenever I feel like it. So I stay away from those areas at those specific times.

    The same holds for park off-leash hours. From 6am (when Cadman opens)-9am and after 9pm until 1pm that small percentage of parkland in Cadman where there’s a designated off-leash hours area is where park goers may encounter unleashed dogs and their owners, obeying the law and following the rules that govern that NYC Parks-approved activity that’s been around for over 25 years, and was formally codified by the NYC Department of Health and NYC Parks Dept in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

    As I don’t like hardball baseball, and speeding cyclists in parks, if you don’t like to encounter off-leash dogs and owners, simply avoid that small percentage of the park for that limited time. It’s a big city and everyone’s not necessarily going to love what other people do. But as long as it’s legal, designated, regulated and enforced, we all should extend courtesy and reasonable consideration to our fellow citizens.

    I know you get it, and appreciate your consideration and understanding, even though you might not like it or agree with it.

  • Amy

    There is one, relatively small, off-leash area at Cadman Park. Dogs are only allowed to be there off-leash before 9:00 AM and after 9:00 PM. It makes a gigantic difference for the dog-owners in this area to be able to use it.

    I know that Hillside is 4 blocks away (or something like that), but that’s a lot further for those of us who have smaller (slower) dogs and who have to get to work in the morning.

    As dog owners we need to be responsible for our dogs, and understanding of those who don’t wish to be bothered by them. On the other hand, there are many other places in the park itself, where people can sit, play ball, do yoga, etc. without canine interference.

    The responsibility for keeping this tenuous balance in place falls to the dog owners. I hope it can continue!! We use it and love it.

  • my2cents

    I’m still laughing about carrie’s comment about dogs having “opinions.” It’s a shame they don’t also have opposable thumbs so that they too could add their thoughts to this increasingly mind-numbing debate.

  • north heights res

    Amy, and for those of us who also have to get to work in the morning, it’s a real bummer to have to contend with off-leash dogs on the ONLY running track in the area. People with dogs have another option; runners who’d like to run on a cushioned surface don’t.

    MParker: reasonable courtesy would be making sure that I don’t have to deal with your dog on my morning run. And that is in very, very, very short supply in that area when dogs are off-leash.