Mitchell was zapped.
BY HEATHER DUBIN | Stray voltage from a sidewalk in the East Village shocked three dogs during early-morning walks with their owners last Sunday.
Con Edison workers later determined a burned piece of service cable was to blame for the voltage, which was discovered in scaffolding at a construction site on Second Ave. between E. Ninth and 10th Sts. where Icon Realty Management is transforming an old mortuary into luxury apartments.
Meghan Serrano, an East Village resident, was walking Georgie-Girl, her year-old Border Collie mix, by the site when the rescue dog yelped, jumped and then fell down.
“She’s only about 48 pounds — she really felt it,” said Serrano, who realized the culprit was stray voltage. Georgie-Girl was able to get up, but she was limping, and had to be carried home.
“I was scared, very scared, it really freaked me out,” Serrano said. “I didn’t feel anything, but I was wearing rubber boots.”
After calling 311, she returned to the site to show a Con Ed employee where Georgie-Girl was shocked. The worker measured 29 stray volts on the spot — which was more than enough for a dog to feel — and 10 stray volts on the other side of the street.
Georgie-Girl, here exercising safely in Tompkins Square Park, was shocked outside the construction site.
According to Serrano, Con Ed informed her the construction group did not ground the lights to the scaffolding. The problem was not immediately fixed since the work site was empty. Instead, the area was cordoned off with tape. However, no warning signage about the voltage was posted.
Around the corner from the site, Jodie Lane was killed by stray voltage while walking her dogs on E. Eleventh St. near Second Ave. on Jan. 16, 2004. Her dogs had been shocked when they walked on an electrified junction box on the street. Lane wound up getting shocked as well, then fell down in the slush-covered street and was electrocuted.
“When I called Con Ed, I told them someone had died two blocks near there, and this was unacceptable,” Serrano said.
The second reported dog to experience a shock on the concrete Sunday was Mitchell, a black Labrador Plott Hound, 13 months old, who belongs to Amy Miketic and her husband Jim, East Village residents.
“Mitchell was basically bucking like a horse and violently crying,” Miketic said. “My husband panicked, grabbed a 100-pound dog and lifted him 4 feet away. If my husband wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have been able to control my own dog.”
The couple thought Mitchell was reacting to salt in his paws. They suggested to Khalid Haaziq, a neighbor, to avoid walking Sadie, his 9-year-old Rottweiler, by the site.
Haaziq and the 90-pound Sadie stuck to the front of the building — however, that was not safe enough.
“My dog screamed and jumped 3 feet in the air like a rabbit,” he said. “I could feel a little tingle myself — I had on some real thin tennis shoes — so I knew she had been electrocuted.”
Haaziq used to work for the transit system in Washington, D.C., and was shocked by the third rail, which caused him to retire prematurely.
“That’s how I knew what was going on — I had that feeling from before,” he said.
Sadie needed five minutes to recover, and was on tiptoes for the rest of the walk.
Haaziq also called 311, and waited a half hour at the site warning people of the danger nearby.
All of the dogs were unhurt from the incidents. Their owners plan to avoid the block for now, and are wary and skeptical that the damaged line was properly corrected.
Sidney Alvarez, a Con Ed spokesperson, stated that the amount of stray voltage at the site was 27 volts. He explained that the current, or amp, defines these types of situations.
“You touch the electric socket in your house, it would be 120 volts,” Alvarez said. “Depending on where the dog, animal or person steps, it can be a very low range or a high number, with tons of variables, such as conduit factors of water or steel, and how much of a current or volt a person can withstand.”
Alvarez also noted that salt and snow can get into the system, or cables can suffer wear and tear from street traffic, causing problems.
According to Alvarez, the cable at the site was repaired, and the stray voltage was eliminated.
Sadie was also victimized by the stray voltage.
“It’s an extremely serious matter,” he said. “We actually ask the public for assistance — if you notice something, say something. Tell us so we can get a crew out there immediately.”
Stray voltage is not new in the neighborhood. During December, several dogs sustained shocks on E. Seventh St. near Avenue C.
Community Board 3 is scheduled to address this issue at its Transportation Public Safety Subcommittee meeting on March 11. Along with concerned dog owners, a Con Ed representative will be there to discuss signage and protocol.
Early Wednesday morning, Mitchell and another dog were shocked on the sidewalk in front of Japadog, a hot dog restaurant on St. Mark’s Place near Second Ave. According to his owner, Mitchell, along with another dog, yelped and jumped right before reaching some scaffolding. Both dogs are fine.
Meanwhile, Garrett Rosso, an East Village dog activist, is working with C.B. 3 to urge Con Ed to change the utility’s protocol when stray voltage is detected. Specifically, where areas are electrified, Rosso wants Con Ed to incorporate signage in the future, to clearly notify pedestrians of the danger and warn them to avoid it.
Rosso has been involved in raising dog owners’ awareness about stray voltage ever since Jodie Lane’s tragic death.
According to Rosso, the owner and training director of Village Dogworks Obedience & Behavioral Training in the East Village, many dog owners in the city inform him every winter of stray voltage shocks that they or their dogs have experienced.
“It’s important that Con Ed understands the unique danger stray sidewalk voltage poses to dog owners,” Rosso said. “Normal pedestrians are insulated from sidewalk shocks by their shoes. However, a dog owner will stop the second their dog yelps in pain, and will then bend over to inspect their dog’s paw, placing their bare hand on the ground, where they may possibly receive a life-threatening shock.”
Rosso is also on the board of the New York Council of Dog Owners Groups (NYCdog), which promotes dogs’ use of city parks.
Currently, when an area is suspected of having stray voltage, Con Ed uses tape or cones to section it off, but no warning signs.
“It’s also important for dog owners to know that if they think their dog received a shock to immediately turn 180 degrees around and walk away from the area,” Rosso stressed.
He suggested that the voltage could increase if the dog and owner continue to walk forward in the same direction, and that the dog probably first reacts where the current is at its weakest.
If the dog collapses from a shock, Rosso recommends using a leash or an insulated object to move the dog.
“You are not going to be able to offer assistance to your dog if your hand touches the ground, and you receive a shock, as well,” he added.
Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, spoke with a Con Ed representative Tuesday to help facilitate action on signage, and to secure the March 11 meeting with the community board.
Con Ed anticipates new signage and rules being in place prior to the meeting. Until then, Stetzer has urged community members to be proactive.
“Signs aren’t ready. We need to take matters into our own hands,” she said. “If someone is aware of a shock, they have to call 911 immediately. I’ve taken it upon myself to tell people we need to put up signs that say, ‘Possible electrical hazard,’ to make sure people are alerted.
“Snow and salt will continue, and we can’t blame Con Ed that it’s going to keep continuing,” she added. “It’s how it’s dealt with that can be managed.”