|If you're a pooch living in Manhattan, your choices for frolicking are few. Thanks to the city's mandatory leash law, dog owners often complain that their pets can't get the right exercise. And because the majority of us live in apartments smaller than Jerry Seinfeld's broom closet, indoor space is at a premium. So what's a city-dwelling dog to do?
The city's answer is the dog run, an enclosed place where Fido cansort ofroam and play off-leash. New York's Parks
Department touts the dog run as being the Big Apple's version of a country backyard. That may be true if your idea of a rural yard is a tiny, cramped and often filthy fenced-in space with few trees and a concrete base. But for city dwellers with few choicesshort of relocating to New Jersey or winning the lotterythe dog run is about as good as it gets.
As an added inducement for dog owners, metropolitan myth has it that Cupid hangs out at New York's dog runs. These pens may be smelly and less than sanitary, but what better place to strike up a conversation with the attractive golden retriever owner or debate dog food brands with that collie's mom? This reporter, of course, has yet to benefit from a dog run's alleged romantic powers. But the promise of passion brings out the city's most scantily clad dog owners on balmy weekend days.
Of course, given that living in New York subjects you to more rules and regulations than "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" naturally each dog run comes with its own set of posted Dog Run Commandments. The basic ones are based on simple common sense and follow the city's standard pet laws. Dog owners must clean up after their dogsthat means pick up poop. Each hound has to have its shots and be healthy (i.e. free of parasites). Aggressive dogs should be kept out of the dog run. Each dog should be wearing its ID tag and official New York dog license (call 212-566-2456 for more information).
Lest you presume that the rules of private dog runs are more relaxed, think again. In fact, think more like day care. Here's a sample rule from the Mercer-Houston Dog Run Association, which regulates its members-only dog run: "During peak times, approximately from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., do not bring a dog's personal toys to the run. At other times, please ask permission of others to prevent possible conflict."
Each of New York's major neighborhoods boasts its own dog run. Some are about as appealing as a grimy trash bin; others are leafy, shady and reminiscent of Central Park on a good day. The quality and appeal of each run varies dramatically, so we took it upon ourselves to visit some of the best-known canine commons to see what they had to offer.