The Dog Mom Movement Birthed Central Park Karen

3 ½ min

Between Coronavirus and the unrest beginning in Minneapolis, another news story briefly reared its head: the confrontation between dog owner Amy Cooper and bird watcher Christian Cooper (who are not related).

On social media, the story is being called #CentralParkKaren because of the “Karen” meme that refers to bossy white women.

Coverage of #CentralParkKaren has mainly focused on the racism that was exposed. That’s entirely appropriate. But there’s another angle that also deserves at least a mention: These types of confrontations are what happens in a society where dogs are treated like children.

On May 25, Amy Cooper was letting her dog run without a leash in a spot where leashes are required. According to a Facebook post by Christian Cooper, it was “tearing through the plantings in the Ramble”, an area in Central Park. This disrupted his bird watching, so he called her out on her rule breaking. She told him, “The dog runs are closed. He needs his exercise.”

Christian Cooper then said, “Look, if you're going to do what you want, I'm going to do what I want, but you're not going to like it.” He then proceeded to take out one of the “dog treats I carry for just for such intransigence” and also began filming her on his iPhone. He is black. She responded by calling the police and telling them, “There is an African American man. I am in Central Park. He is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.”

Some of the commentary on the incident has suggested that – while Amy Cooper’s racism is appalling – Christian Cooper was also out of line by “deciding to enforce park rules unilaterally and to punish ‘intransigence’ ruthlessly.” I disagree. He was completely right in the way he acted. Dog owners have gone too far and need to come back to reality.

We live in a society where adopting a dog instead of having children is presented in the media as a normal lifestyle choice. An article in The New York Post quotes a dog owner who says, “It’s just less work and, honestly, I have more time to go out. You… don’t have to get a baby sitter.”

Every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we see increasing numbers of tributes to “dog moms” or “dads of fur babies” on social media. Oprah Winfrey posted a photo on Instagram of a woman with a dog in a stroller with the caption, “Happy Mother’s Day to Mothers of all varieties of children!”

In my neighborhood, I regularly see dogs being pushed around in strollers. Once, I even saw a woman carrying a tiny dog in a sling like a baby. Dogs are kitted out in ribbons and frilly coats, even little shoes.

French author Michel Houellebecq observed, “The love of a dog is a pure thing. He gives you a trust which is total. You must not betray it.” Unfortunately, people like Amy Cooper seem to believe that means letting their dogs flout the rules.

Despite dog owners’ delusions, dogs are not the same as children – legally, ethically, or biologically. Rules requiring dogs to be leashed acknowledge that. These rules prioritize the needs of human beings over those of dogs, but that clearly sticks in some dog owners’ craws.

I’ve had run-ins with people like Amy Cooper. For example, I once took my baby daughter on a walk in a small park where dogs are required to be leashed. The park was full of other children playing, but one man was letting his dog run around unleashed. The dog ran over to us and started jumping up against my daughter in her stroller. She recoiled in fear. Then it jumped up against my legs. “Your dog is scaring my daughter!” I said. The man gave a patronizing chuckle and responded, “He is scaring the adult."

If I frequently encountered dog owners like him, I might also start carrying around dog treats like Christian Cooper.

Amy Cooper has been fired from her job and her dog has been taken away from her. Even Christian Cooper acknowledges that punishment is overly harsh.

Her racism is inexcusable, but it is also worth briefly noting that she should have simply leashed her dog in accordance with the park rules. No matter what popular culture tries to tell us, dogs are not the same as children.


[Image Credit: Pexels]

Image Credit: [Image Credit: Pexels]
Emma Freire

Emma Freire

Emma Freire is a writer living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has also been published in The Federalist and The American Conservative.

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Truth Holder
"He was completely right in the way he acted." Nonsense. He made a threatening statement and then acted like he was going to take her dog away from her. People can argue about whether this passive-aggressive tactic is an acceptable "grey area" given her flouting of the rules, but what he did next is just as indefensible as what she did. In additional to what he had just done to her, she suspected that he was recording her with the intent to put her on social media and destroy her life. She was not wrong about that. It's disgusting how many news stories gloss over or completely ignore these facts and claim that she called the police for "nothing more" than being told to put her dog on the leash. If the situations had been reversed, i.e. if she had been the bird watcher and he had been the dog owner who flouted the rules, the same people would still be calling her the K-word for being "bossy" toward someone who was "minding his own business" in the park.


If you felt what that man said was threatening, you are pretty thin-skinned. Why can't people be more self-possessed and solve their verbal disputes like adults, without summoning either the social media mob or the police? Honestly, was that man so offended that he felt he needed to ruin that woman's life? Both just needed to let it go. Talk about "people behaving badly" all around.
Very simple-minded explanation. Annoying dog owners have been around much longer than this "dog mom" craze. It's about them feeling entitled and not that their dogs are children. It shows in plenty of other ways than not leashing their dogs. A suggestion for you. Remove your head from your, uh, "bubble" and consider the many, many women who want children and cannot have them. If they choose to have a dog and treat is like a child, what concern is that of yours? Mind your own business, enjoy your kid(s), and leave the rest of us alone. Besides, most dogs are better behaved than kids in this day and age. p.s. The next time an unleashed dog approaches, don't be a victim, push the dog off of your kid or don't let it approach in the first place.