A photo of people picnicking in Pastorius Park taken by a near neighbor.

by Brendan Sample

In the months following two pit bull attacks in Pastorius Park, Chestnut Hill residents are taking notice of several changes that have occurred in the park since then. In short, the dogs are gone.

After a pit bull attack was first reported at Pastorius back in October, a number of Hillers began voicing their concerns about the abundance of unleashed dogs that could frequently be found in and around the park. Many claimed that, especially in the wake of the attack, they felt unsafe going to the park for fear of any one of the dogs potentially biting one of them or their children.

These arguments became more numerous after a second attack in February, which ultimately helped lead to further efforts to curb unleashed dogs.

While the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation did not have the resources to enforce the city’s leash law themselves, it did commit to distributing educational pamphlets that outlined the terms of the law and where owners were allowed to take their dogs. A new sign was also installed at one of the park entrances, which now clearly displays that all dogs must be kept on a leash.

Despite Parks and Recreation’s claim that enforcement of the law would not be a viable option at this time, several Hill residents have stated that police officers have begun patrolling the park and have issued citations to owners letting their dogs run loose. This new enforcement policy has largely reduced the number of unleashed dogs in Pastorius, with the park being mostly empty during weekday mornings and afternoons.

These changes have certainly proved to be controversial among residents, many of whom have written the Chestnut Hill Local over the last two months to comment on the new enforcement. Some have argued that dogs should have been able to keep running around unleashed as they have been for years.

“This has never been a problem for me before because Chestnut Hill has ample parks with the added benefit that someone else has already mowed the lawn,” wrote Hill residents Meredith Markham and Travis Gold in May to decry the crackdown. “But apparently my kind is no longer welcome at Pastorius Park. What is ‘my kind’? A dog owner.”

Others have praised the changes, saying that a lack of dogs and a new pond with fountains have made Pastorius more people-friendly than before.

“If they want to have their dogs run loose and disobey the law – go somewhere else,” wrote park neighbor Jack Georgiou last month. “What makes them think that Pastorius Park is their domain to do what they wish with total disregard to the rest of the community?.”

Other Hillers are still hoping that a compromise can be reached that will satisfy everyone with some kind of investment in this issue.

“I’m glad the leash laws are being enforced, but I can see that a lot of dog owners aren’t happy,” said Vicki Martin, who lives near the park but stopped bringing her dog there because she feared for her dog’s safety. “I’d like to see an enclosed area for dogs to run free … I’d personally be willing to contribute to it if there needs to be a fundraiser or something.”

With the increase in people coming to the park without dogs, there has also been an increase in picnicking at Pastorius, which has come with its own drawbacks. According to Tracy Gardner, president of the Friends of Pastorius Park group, a number of picnickers have been leaving behind trash both on the ground and in the new pond.

“Last Saturday [June 10] I fished several plastic soda bottles and little kids’ yogurt cups with M&M’s out of the pond,” Gardner said. “This saddens me, and makes me wonder why people do not respect public spaces that we share with one another. Ironically, FoPP put up three temporary signs to ask the public not to throw anything in the pond. All of these signs were eventually removed by someone and thrown in the trash.”

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

  • Gabriel Barros

    pit bulls ruin it for everyone.

    • DB Bell

      Agreed, sadly.

      What’s the use of owning a bully dog if you can’t use it to bully others?

      Letting their bully dogs roam, BULLY people can experience vicarious power virility violence aggression and cruelty, currently with little personal risk.

  • James

    I go to the park everyday and have extreme hatred for anyone who litters. I routinely pick up trash and put it in the trashcans. While I have noticed a decrease in dogs off leash, I have not noticed an increase in trash. I’m pretty skeptical of that claim… I think it’s silly and dangerous to relate the two. Today, upon my daily trip to pick up my daughter, I walked through the park again. No trash in the pond… but I did notice 1 floating green tennis ball and one sunken baseball and one blue throw arm thingamajig – all dog related items. On the way out of the park I noticed a little blue baggie filled with dog poop. No juice boxes or picnic supplies. I’ll post here in exactly what I find each day. Maybe I’ll even take pictures.

    • DB Bell

      Thank you

    • CH

      Ageeed, no noticeable increase in trash from me either. Felt like the author was just trying to even the argument out. Love the park the way it is now

  • James

    James from before reporting back: I just got back from my daily walk through Pastorius to pick up my daughter. I witnessed 7 dogs off leash, 3 of which were pit bulls. As i passed, i took out my phone and took pictures. I looked in the pond, and the surrounding area… and saw no trash left by children or picnickers – thats not to say trash is uncommon, but if anything, the more dogs the more trash. I noticed 2 children with their mom (without any dogs) sitting on the benches up by the bathroom. I sat next to them and their mom was telling them to not go near the dogs.

    I then called 911 and reported the incident. As soon as they saw me on the phone they started to leave – I think they knew i was calling the police. I decided to follow one of the young men with 2 pits (i know, bad idea) i followed him all the way to the border of chestnut hill and Montgomery county then i turned around.

    Next i called the FOW (friends of the wiss.) the lady i spoke with was very understanding and suggested that i call the phila parks and recreation to get the rangers number and then call them. I have not done that yet, but i will.

    Ideally (anyone who is listening) the new signs at pastorius need to include a phone number for the park rangers or something similar. Most people see dangerous dogs without their leash on… and don’t know what to do. They don’t feel 911 is appropriate for this sort of thing (but it is) and i don’t suggest confronting or following them – that’s dangerous. These people tend to think the law doesn’t apply to them, refuse to see others points of view and act very indignant. In my experience most of them are not even from Chestnut Hill. Honestly, if they were… and they were not pits i wouldn’t really mind. I know a lot of the neighbors around pastorious… i don’t know one with a pit. I also don’t know one that isn’t super mindful of their dog and related waste etc. I’m pretty sure this is (mostly) people who don’t live in Chestnut hill.

  • Krista Ardito

    Negative & hateful comments won’t solve anything. I think designated times for dog owners to visit the park would be ideal. This would allow both dog owners & those without dogs to enjoy the park. I truly believe we can find a compromise to this ongoing debate/issue. Dogs are beautiful animals that bring love and joy to many people. Most dogs are good spirited and simply running around and playing with others pups brings so much happiness to the dog and dog owners. I agree about putting rules in place and reaching a compromise, but I don’t think hating on dogs or breeds of dogs and having cops constantly circulate the park is the answer. Instead of causing a divide, let’s try and come to a resolution.

    • Gabriel Barros

      Your comment, “Dogs are beautiful animals that bring love and joy to many people.”

      These people can no longer voice their opinion on the pit bull problem.

      December 2014
      Portage, IN Edward L. Cahill, 40, Fatal pit bull attack (Christmas Day)
      Corpus Christi, TX Rita Woodard, 64 Fatal pit bull attack

      November 2014
      Robeson County, NC Alemeaner Dial, 83 Fatal pit bull attack

      October 2014
      Stanislaus County, CA Juan Fernandez, 54 Fatal pit bull attack

      September 2014
      Sharp County, AR Alice Payne, 75 Fatal pit bull attack
      Benton County, MS David Glass Sr., 51 Fatal pit bull attack

      August 2014
      Miami-Dade County, FL Javon Dade Jr., 4 Fatal pit bull attack
      St. Charles County, MO Deriah Solem, < 2 Fatal pit bull attack
      Levy County, FL Joel Chirieleison, 6 Fatal pit bull attack
      Butler County, OH Cindy Whisman, 59 Fatal pit bull attack

      July 2014
      Montgomery County, OH Johnathan Quarles, Jr., < 1 Fatal pit bull attack
      Hillsborough County, FL Logan Sheppard, 4 Fatal pit bull attack

      May 2014
      New Haven County, CT Rita Pepe, 93 Fatal pit bull attack
      Kent County, DE Kasii Haith, 4 Fatal pit bull attack
      Lee County, AL Katie Morrison, 20 Fatal pit bull attack

      April 2014
      Highlands County, FL Jessica Norman, 33 Fatal pit bull attack
      Bexar County, TX Petra Aguirre, 83 Fatal pit bull attack
      St. Clair County, AL John Harvard, 5 Fatal pit bull attack

      March 2014
      Kaufman County, TX Dorothy Hamilton, 85 Fatal pit bull attack
      Holmes County, MS Christopher Malone, 3 Fatal pit bull attack
      Terrebonne Parish, LA Mia DeRouen, 4 Fatal pit bull attack
      Maricopa County, AZ Nancy Newberry, 77 Fatal pit bull attack

      February 2014
      Guilford County, NC Braelynn Coulter, 3 Fatal pit bull attack
      Bell County, TX Je'vaeh Mayes, 2 Fatal pit bull attack

      January 2014
      McLean County, IL Kara Hartrich, 4 Fatal pit bull attack
      Comal County, TX Betty Clark, 75 Fatal pit bull attack
      Harris County, TX Christina Bell, 43 Fatal pit bull attack

      • Krista Ardito

        Looking for a resolution. Fenced in dog area, designated times…

        • Bill

          The problem with a fenced in dog area is that it costs money and in my experience dramatically increases the traffic and wear and tear to the park. It’s already listed online as a dog park – which it isn’t. If it becomes one, the park will be ruined for sure. I think designated time in the AM is a better solution. This would keep it for use by mostly locals. However, even I hesitate at even that compromise. People are always throwing bills in the pond… I found a dead (mauled) turtle the other day… and those dogs off leash poop where their owners don’t see. It’s just not a good idea. There are legit “dog runs” around… why not take dogs off leash there ?

          • Krista Ardito

            That’s awful about the turtle and it’s sad to hear that people are destroying the park and being disrespectful. Where are these dog runs? I only know of a few downtown none in this area or the surrounding areas.

          • Bill

            Krista, i for one *do* understand what you are trying to say. For the record you are being very calm and solution oriented… people are pretty passionate about this issue in particular on account of the recent attacks in the park. Not sure if you have children… but i know most of these other folks do… when it comes to your kids, people get … well… like rabid animals 😉

            The dog park i was referring to was by the penitentiary in Philadelphia. It was about 10 years ago… and the turned the east side into a fenced in dog run. Primarily to keep dogs off the back lawn (with the playground) and where kids would play ball etc. Well, it was so over used… they couldn’t empty the trash cans full of poop quick enough. On the hot days the poop smell permeated the neighborhood. the trash, the constant barking. It just wasn’t fair to the people next door who actually helped pay and build the dog park. It is now a community garden and the dogs are still on the back lawn (although in less numbers) despite the signs clearly stating no dogs on the lawn.

            As far as dog parks nearby.. there is one in Manyunk… pretzel park… and one in Roxborough @ 4117 Mitchell St.

          • Krista Ardito

            Thank you Bill, I appreciate it. My dog was actually attacked at 9 weeks by a French Bull Dog that broke her jaw & she needed emergency surgery. That French Bull Dog was not on a leash on Germantown Ave (near the Bakery) & mine of course was! Unfortunately the owner of that French Bull Dog refused to take ownership of the situation and still walks her dog without a leash on Germantown Ave. We have reported her bc her dog is vicious, but the cops and the city did nothing, insanity! I’m all about following the laws and would love a place locally that would welcome our supervised pups. CH is such a pet friendly neighborhood and I know the community would work to keep the park clean. Someone suggested an idea about registering your dog (showing proof of vaccines etc) & provide those with a special collar that allows the dog to play in the park during designated times. I think that’s a great idea, ownership is key here. Thank you so much for the park suggestions! I appreciate your responses too.

        • Gabriel Barros

          fenced in area won’t hold back a pit bull. lots of pit bull owners can be quoted as saying, “somehow got out” after their pit bull mauls or kills something.

          • Gabriel Barros

            and, “never showed signs of aggression”. that too.

          • Krista Ardito

            I don’t own a pit, I have an aussie, but I’m an animal lover and love ALL animals. I would love to see a mutual resolution amongst all Chestnut Hill residents. I’m sure the dog owners who live in or around Chestnut Hill would be VERY willing to chip in to build a dog park or a fenced in area. Getting this approved by the city is probably the biggest issue/concern. Put some cameras in the park, hold people accountable. Maybe that will deter careless dog owners and people littering and destroying the park.

          • Gabriel Barros

            If you support pit bulls you are not an “animal lover”. Pit bulls are the un-dog. Bred for dog aggression and gameness.

            March 22, 2014

            How many other animals did pit bulls kill last year?
            by Merritt Clifton

            Pit bulls killed 99%

            Pit bulls appear to have inflicted not less than 95% of the total fatal attacks on other animals (43,000). Altogether, pit bulls inflicted 96% of the fatal attacks on other dogs (11,520); 95% of the fatal attacks on livestock (5,700); 95% of the fatal attacks on small mammals and poultry (16,150); and 94% of the fatal attacks on cats (11,280).

            About 30,000 pit bulls were involved in attacks on other animals. There are about 3.2 million pit bulls in the U.S. at any given time, according to the my annual surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption via online classified ads. Thus in 2013 about one pit bull in 107 killed or seriously injured another animal, compared with about one dog in 50,000 of other breeds.

          • Krista Ardito

            This is too much lol. You can send me every statistic under the sun, this is a very one sided conversation and you seem to not be understanding what I’m trying to suggest here. I never once mentioned pits in my original comment and instead was addressing dog owners and dogs as a whole. It’s the owners who don’t know how to properly care for their pet/specific breed that’s the issue, not the breed itself. I have to go to work. Bye

          • Gabriel Barros

            pit bulls should not be in dog parks. all pit bulls have some degree of dog aggression and no pit bull owner ever knows when their pit bull will go pit bull.

            I’m willing to bet most of the “dog” problems in your area are actually pit bull dog problems. If you’re not sure just read the plethora of pit bull attacks that occur every day. It’s a public safety issue in many areas in the USA.

      • Janet Cummings

        Any one with children should look at the ages here, be concerned, and try to enforce and uphold the regulations. If we don’t … things will revert and god forbid it may be your child that dies.

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  • L. Adams

    What I fail to understand is why some folks think their dog has to be off leash in public at all. For years I’ve walked my daughter’s dog around Chestnut Hill semi-regularly. The dog has NEVER been off leash. That’s what good citizens do, especially in an urban environment, to obey the laws, show courtesy to fellow citizens, and to avoid any kind of dog related issues.

    The need to have your dog off leash is a personal problem that should not impact the rest of us. Before getting a dog you should consider whether you’d want in off leash — though I don’t understand why that is necessary — and whether YOU have enough personal property to do that.