The water in Central Park can be toxic, especially for dogs

This water in Central Park could spell out doomsday for dogs across NYC.

Toxic algae has been spotted within several water sources in Manhattan’s ecological jewel, and while the effects on people are minimal, pets can be at great risk.

Harmful algal blooms (HABs), which are found mostly in times of warm weather, have been reported as recently as Oct. 5 in the Central Park Lake and Turtle Pond near Belvedere Castle, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) confirmed.

NYSDEC also found HABs in the Harlem Meer on Sept. 13 and the park’s catch and release fishing has been suspended there due to the algae, according to the Central Park Conservancy.

“The toxins emitted from algal blooms can be especially dangerous for dogs,” a spokesperson for the Central Park Conservancy told The Post in a written statement.

Yuck! The algae in Central Park’s bodies of water can contain toxins that are highly dangerous for animals, especially dogs.
Stephen Yang

HABs can even be fatal for dogs, Manhattan-based veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lippman told The Post.

“We have a lot of patients who are concerned about it. Ingesting the algae can range in symptoms from mild to severe and can be deadly.”

According to Lippman, concerned dog owners should look out for symptoms such as excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, jaundice, seizures and difficulty breathing, all of which can appear days after ingestion.

“It’s very complicated because it’s difficult to tell how toxic the algae is just from looking at it.”

Since the toxic ones are difficult to identify by eyesight alone, “it’s important to avoid contact with any algae” in the park, according to NYC Department of Parks & Recreation press officer Megan Moriarty, who noted that pets should not be drinking from the regularly tested water sources — unless it’s in a specifically designated area.

While most people know to avoid lapping up green water in Central Park, the same can’t be said for canine companions.

Jorge Krauss steers Roma, his daughter Josefina Krauss' dog away from the lake in Central Park.
Jorge Krauss steers Roma, his daughter Josefina’s dog, away from the lake in Central Park.
Stephen Yang

“Some dogs will try running straight to the water but I never let them near it. I can’t have a dog die on my hands,” dog walker and sitter Ashley Vaello of Fordham told The Post, while keeping an eye on a client’s purebred Staffordshire named Boots.

An owner of both a pit bull and a miniature pinscher who frequents the park, Vaello said the challenge with her own pups is that they love playing with turtles and she has to constantly stop them from trying to lick their shells.

Kavita Shah's "very agile" dog Nina is chomping at the bit to go near water.
Kavita Shah’s “very agile” dog Nina is chomping at the bit to go near water.
Stephen Yang

Vaello, who is familiar with HABs, said she’s seen plenty of irresponsible dog owners break the park’s seemingly obvious rules and do the unthinkable.

“Dogs totally swim in that water, I’ve seen owners let their dogs in it during off-leash hours. I don’t get it. I was in the park last year when they pulled a body from a pond. How do you let your dog go in there?”

While the risks associated with incidental contact like licking a turtle’s shell are minimal, plunging into the infested water presents an extreme risk, Lippman said.

“A dog swimming in it who then licks their coat could become a fatal case.”

Warning signs for HABs appear throughout Central Park, especially where there is open water.
Warning signs for HABs appear throughout Central Park, especially where there is open water.
Stephen Yang

Meanwhile, Central Park has posted bright yellow warning signage near HAB-contaminated water.

Still, many pet owners are unfamiliar with HABs and the dangers they can present.

However, common sense usually kicks in.

“You can just tell by looking at the water that it’s bad news,” said nurse and Upper West Side resident Josefina Krauss, while walking her cavapoo, Roma, near Bethesda Fountain. “There’s no chance I’d ever let my dog in there.”

Josefina Krauss would never let her dog into the Central Park water, she said.
Josefina Krauss would never let her dog into the Central Park water, she said.
Stephen Yang

Other dog owners have a more laissez-faire attitude, such as Greenwich Village resident and jazz singer Kavita Shah, who was recently in the park with her border collie Nina.

“I think she’s intuitive enough to know that this water is bad … no, Nina, stop!” Shah yelled mid-interview as her dog lunged for the lake.

HABs were previously spotted in Manhattan’s Harlem Meer and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Lake in August 2019.

NYSDEC offers an interactive map that flags reports of HABs around the state. They have recently been spotted in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the Bronx’s Crotona Park, Kissena Park in Queens and on Long Island’s East End.

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