WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn (PIX11) — Part of McCarren Park in Williamsburg shut down on Monday amid reports of dog deaths linked to rat activity, according to a local official.
The closure will last up to a week, Councilmember Lincoln Restler said. The New York City Parks Department will do emergency repairs in that time to improve drainage and install rodent resistant garbage cans.
“My heart goes out to people who have lost their beloved pets,” Restler tweeted. “Reports indicate dogs played at McCarren Dog Run before becoming sick & dog owners are concerned about leptospirosis.”
Leptospirosis symptoms range from mild to severe for dogs, according to the American Medical Veterinary Association. It can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and painful inflammation in the eyes. More seriously, it can cause kidney failure, severe lung disease and bleeding disorders.
One dog trainer posted to Instagram about the death of a frenchie named Oreo.
“We need your help dealing with this issue as it spreads like wildfire,” the trainer wrote. “A lot of you need to turn to your local vets and vaccinate your dogs ASAP.”
New York City’s Health Department had not confirmed reports of canine leptospirosis related to McCarren Park as of Sunday afternoon. A department official noted dogs usually become sick one to two weeks after exposure, not within hours.
“We are working with NYC Parks to inspect for rat activity in the park. Dog owners who are concerned should consult their veterinarian about vaccination and seek vet care early if their dog is ill,” a spokesperson said. “We urge veterinarians who receive positive results of leptospirosis to report it to the Health Department as required by the NYC Health Code.”
There is no formal dog run at McCarren Park, according to the Parks Department. The area being investigated has been unofficially used by dog owners.
After the reported deaths, the Parks Department changed out park trash cans to rat-resistant versions, officials said. They were set to refresh the area starting on Monday.
Only two 311 complaints regarding rodents in McCarren park were made in the past year, officials said. Despite the low number, a Parks Department exterminator treated the area for rats within the last month.
“We like our four-legged friends happy and healthy, and are sad to learn that some pups may have recently been impacted by leptospirosis,” a Parks Department spokesperson said. “We are actively engaged with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and exploring options to mitigate any related risks.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria that cause leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals. It gets into the water and soil, where it can survive for months. Animals and humans can become infected by coming into contact with contaminated water, soil or urine.
More than a dozen cases of people with leptospirosis were reported in New York City as of October of 2021, according to a Health Department letter. The 15 cases were more than the total reported in a single prior year.
Around 15 cases of leptospirosis in dogs are investigated by the Health Department each year. Clusters are uncommon.
Pet owners concerned about leptospirosis can keep their homes free of rats and keep their dogs from having contact with rodents and other small mammals outdoors. They should not let their pets drink from puddles or other water sources that may be contaminated, health officials said.