When Dog People and Kid People Collide

If you’re a dog owner living in a big city, chances are you’ve felt the wrath of the stroller brigade.
For those not in the know, these are the dog-o-phobic parents of wee ones who think canine kids and human kids can’t co-exist. They’re often the most vehement supporters of no-dog policies for condos and apartments.

The worst neighbor I ever encountered was “Mean Mommy.” She owned the apartment directly across from me when I lived in a co-op in New York City’s East Village. She’d take pictures of poop she spotted outside within a 3-block radius of our building and display them in the lobby. The best part: Each picture came with an accusatory note directed at the building’s dog owners.

Mind you, this was the early- to mid-’90s and the neighborhood was still less than fabulous. I’m pretty darn sure many of those images were of human excrement. And for the record, I always picked up after my dog.

Unfortunately, I got the bulk of Mean Mommy’s dog-hating wrath. Her son developed asthma and since we lived on the same floor, she blamed my dog for his condition. One time she even asked me “to do the right thing” and put down my pup for her son’s sake. She added my dog was “getting on in years anyway.”

I put up with her harassment for two more years before my dog and I finally moved out.

And while I wish I could say face-offs between dog owners and neighbors are a rare occurrence, they’re not.

In September, one NYC dog owner filed a lawsuit against his apartment building’s management company for not stopping a dog-o-phobic neighbor’s baseless complaints about his dog barking.

Over the summer, one hater poisoned and killed four neighborhood dogs.

Last January, after one condo adopted a hardline pet policy, a home owner killed himself after euthanizing his dog to appease his neighbors, who started harassing him after the tough new rules were put in place. Neighbors would complain that his dog was barking, although one neighbor said, “The dog was not a barker, but somebody complained that the dog would bark.”

If parents were harassed every time their kids made a sound, there wouldn’t be one child living in Manhattan.

Now, I’m not saying dogs should have the same rights as children. But let’s cut responsible canine guardians some slack.

The day before Superstorm Sandy hit NYC, it was decided that dog owners where I live could use the complex’s backyard to walk their dogs. The area is a concrete slab that’s sealed off by four six-story buildings. It’s the only place where you could go outside and be shielded from high winds. Later that night, someone scattered broken glass all over it. Nextmorning, one dog-hating daddy was heard bragging that he did it to keep the area safe for his kids.

Hmmm, I didn’t realize glass shards would only hurt dogs, not kids.

Then there’s the dreaded maintenance fee some buildings, like mine, charge dog owners for the privilege of pet ownership. This fee, ranging from $150 and up per year, is assessed to cover the cost of additional building cleaning. My pup has never made a mess in the building. But every weekend kids leave soda cans, wrappers, and other garbage in the lobby. How come their parents aren’t slapped with a slob tax?

Many buildings also require dogs to pass a test similar to the American Kennel Club’s Canines Good Citizens test. Passing this test proves a dog is well-mannered around people. Frankly, I support this requirement. But on the flip side, parents should also teach kids how to be responsible around dogs and other pets. We’d have fewer problems if kids were taught not to be loud and obnoxious when they are around strange dogs. My parents did when I was growing up.

I say it’s time to call a truce. While we all know there are terribly selfish dog owners out there who let Fido run amok, there are just as many insensitive parents who think pets are chattel.

I’m not saying dogs should have the same rights as kids, but my dog is a cherished member of my family.  Just like it’s your job to love and protect your children, it’s my job to love and protect my dog. If we can all agree to respect that, we just took our first step toward becoming good neighbors.


By: Deirdre Sullivan