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‘People just feel squeezed’: Toronto councillor says building more dog parks could help reduce off-leash incidents

As Toronto sees an uptick in off-leash dog incidents, a Toronto councillor says the problem could be mitigated if the city adopts a strategy to create more dog parks.

“We’ve never really had a plan when it comes to dog parks. It’s always been the local councillor working with community and staff to actually have dog parks in certain parts of his or her ward,” Coun. Chris Moise told CP24 Friday.

He said the puppy boom during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing problem.

“As of currently, there’s about 300,000 dogs in Toronto and growing and it’s been a big problem because people with dogs and without dogs are sharing the same spaces and there’s been some tensions.”

Moise is planning to present a letter to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee recommending that the city create a master plan to proactively add dog spaces in the city.

“I’m hoping that the city staff will have a plan in place so that when they are building new parks and also revitalizing existing parks, that you know, there’ll be consideration for a dog park,” he said.

His motion comes amid rising tensions between dog owners and others over where dogs can be walked, especially when owners take them off-leash.

In May, a boy had to go to the hospital after being attacked and bitten in the face by an off-leash dog on school property at Rawlinson Community School, near St. Clair Avenue West and Oakwood Avenue.

Another incident in July saw a woman violently attacked by a dog near her home in East York. The incident was captured on video and the owner in that case is facing criminal charges.

The city said last month that it has seen a surge of off-leash incidents involving children, pedestrians and cyclists, and reminded people that they are obliged to keep their pet on a leash in public.

Neighbours have expressed a concern around a lack of enforcement of pet bylaws. But observers have also pointed to a surge in dog ownership during the pandemic, coupled with difficulty accessing dog-training services, as well as a lack of proper green space and off-leash areas to accommodate the exploding dog population.

While the city has 75 dog parks, Moise said “there should be a lot more” across Toronto.

“People are walking their dogs in school grounds, you know in spaces they probably should not be walking their dogs,” Moise said. “People just feel squeezed. “We know that dog owners walk their dogs at least three times a day. You know, I’ve had dogs most of my adult life. I walk my dogs three times a day. And it wasn’t always in a safe space for dogs or for the owner of the dog.”

He pointed to cities like Vancouver and Winnipeg as places which have implemented best practices around dog spaces and said he’d like to see Toronto do the same.

Moise is expected to present his letter to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Sept. 20.

A day later, Coun. Paula Fletcher is presenting a separate letter at the Economic and Community Development Committee asking staff to review Toronto Animal Services’ compliance and enforcement procedures around Dangerous Dog orders in the wake of the July 30th attack in East York.  

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