Amy Cooper was walking her dog Henry, an American Cocker Spaniel, in an area of Central Park known as the Ramble, which is famous for its birds! Avid bird watchers gather there to observe nature. So it's no surprise that the Ramble is an on-leash area for dogs, which is exactly what started this chaotic encounter.
A close call for Henry
When Christian Cooper asked Amy to leash her dog, she refused, despite the signs clearly indicating that she was in breach of park rules. Knowing that an off-leash dog could easily destroy the plants and scare off the birds in the area, Christian decided to pull a dog treat out of his pocket. If the dog started coming to him, Amy would have no other choice than to put Henry on a lead.
That’s when things took a dark turn. Amy, suddenly taken aback, decided to call the police and accuse Christian of threatening her and her dog’s life. The entitlement, dehumanization, and racism of her words which were caught on tape were, to say the least, appalling.
But to make matters worse, in her panic, Amy restrained Henry by the collar. Instead of being safely attached to his lead, the poor dog is dangled by the neck for almost a full minute. His paws hardly touching the ground, he gesticulates, whines, and tries to wriggle free of Amy’s hold. It’s clear the pup is struggling to breathe. Not to mention as an American Cocker Spaniel, he is at risk of respiratory issues due to his brachycephalic skull. The footage is hard to watch.
Black man out bird watching: Please follow park rules and leash your dog.— Resist Programming 🛰 (@RzstProgramming) May 25, 2020
White women: “I’m taking pictures and calling the cops. ...I’m going to tell them there is an African-American man threatening my life.”
This is terrorism. pic.twitter.com/kmzwQjqUvQ
Two days after the incident took place and went viral, Henry the dog was “voluntarily surrendered” to the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue he had been adopted from a few years ago. While there are likely not to be any updates on Henry while the situation with his (ex)mum is unfolding, we are relieved to know that he is safe and now in good hands.
What to do if someone asks you to leash your dog
Leash your dog. It’s as simple as that! Of course, it goes without saying for an on-leash area, but it applies even to off-leash areas. You never know why someone may be asking you to restrain your animal. Perhaps their pet is dog aggressive, or reactive, or has some sort of health issue. Maybe the person asking you to leash your dog is afraid of big dogs or worried about their tiny Chihuahua getting trampled. Though the reason may not be valid for you, it is for them.
As demonstrated in the video, holding your dog by the collar is not a good alternative to a lead. It can cause serious pain and distress to your animal. If Amy had immediately put her dog on a lead when she was asked to, Henry’s welfare would not have been questioned, and the emotional violence of the encounter would’ve never taken place.
So, no questions asked. Work on a strong recall, and always leash your dog when you are asked. You can release them again once the situation allows it.