Toronto looking to create ‘dangerous dogs’ list

Feb 20, 2024 | GTA/Local News, Headlines, News

Toronto is reviewing a list of recommendations that could bring new measures on how the city responds to severe dog attacks.

The report tabled on Feb. 5 would create processes for dog-attack related incidents including publicly listing people with dangerous dog orders.

The city’s Economic Development Committee voted to adopt the motion Tuesday and the proposal is being sent to the wider city council for consideration in March.

Toronto-Danforth city councillor Paula Fletcher has been heading the push for a review since Sept. 2023 after a resident in the area was mauled by two dogs and it was discovered the owner already had previous charges.

“The horrific dog mauling in my ward last summer shook our community,” said Fletcher in a news release Tuesday. “The city’s response was concerning to many residents and highlighted issues in our processes for dealing with dangerous dogs.”

A Toronto woman was recently attacked by two dogs in Etobicoke on Feb. 7 while waiting at a bus stop and was left with life-altering injuries. Police confirmed in a news release that the dogs were off-leash and they are still searching for the owner who left after the attack happened.

Jasmine Daya, a Toronto personal injury lawyer, said adding a public list may be helpful but it’s not enough to prevent dog attacks. She wants the city to create more deterrents.

“What happens if you are in a park and a dog is off-leash and they come and attack you and then they leave,” Daya said. “If you can’t identify the dog that attacks you or the owner of the dog that attacks you, then there’s no teeth in the amendment. There’s nothing that can be done.”

Daya wants the city to toughen its penalties compared to what the current laws set out.

“We need to have people actually being charged. If their dog is off leash, it doesn’t matter if they’re harming someone or not,” she said.

The city’s recommendations also include $500,000 in funding to create public educational campaigns.

Beverley Mckee, senior manager and public support services at Toronto Humane Society, said there’s a lot of value in what can be done by the city and highlighted the importance for dog-owners to learn from certified trainers.

“I’m a firm believer in educating people. I think that people love their animals and want to do the best for their animals,” Mckee said.

She recommends owners let their dogs socialize from an early age and engage with certified dog trainers.

In response to recent dog attack incidents, Mckee said pets should stay on a leash unless in a public space that does not require one.

“No matter how well trained a dog is, something could startle it, and that dog could bolt or get themselves into a situation or someone could scare them,” she said. “We’re advocating for our animals when we keep them safe by not letting them roam loose.”

Samantha Mabee, master dog trainer and behavioural therapist at Bark Busters, said that the city’s educational campaign is a proactive approach and can lead to a reduction in dog attack incidents.

She said that the programs will also be beneficial to non-dog owners if the city creates the right pathways.

“I think it would be good to have community classes or seminars that people could attend to learn just about dog behaviour. Understand how to interact safely with a dog, how to make sure kids interact safely,” Mabee said.

She said dog-owners have a responsibility to recognize what is needed to raise their dogs safely.

“They really need that sense of leadership and trust from their owner,” she said. “If they don’t want to end up being on that list of aggressive dogs, it’s important to always come at it in a proactive and preventive manner”.