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Officials to visit all dangerous dog owners in Toronto as new compliance measures go in effect

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Owners of all dogs who have received a dangerous dog order in Toronto should expect to receive a visit in the near future from officials as the city begins rolling out new measures for responding to and preventing serious dog attacks.

During the visits, which started on Wednesday and will be prioritized based on the severity of the incident, city staff will hand out a new standardized sign that must be visibly posted on their property.

They’ll also be reminding owners of the requirements of their dangerous dog order, which include muzzling their dogs when they are in public, obtaining a dangerous dog tag, providing socialization and training to their dogs, and refraining from using dog off-leash areas.

Once the visits are complete, officials will “continue to conduct regular compliance checks and respond to complaints to ensure continued compliance,” the city said in a news release announcing the new rules.  

Currently, there are 373 dangerous dog orders across Toronto. A full list of all dangerous in the city can be found online.

Owners who are found to be non-compliant with a dangerous dog order could face fines of up to $615 or a court-issued fine of up to $100,000 upon conviction.

“Making our city safe means preventing negative encounters with dangerous dogs in public spaces. … The City of Toronto is committed to ensuring residents and animals are safe,” Mayor Olivia Chow said in the release.

“If someone observes a dangerous dog without its muzzle or in an off-leash dog park, a complaint can be made to 311 and the matter will be investigated as soon as possible. The simple act of keeping dogs on leashes protects everyone in the community.”

Dangerous dog measures reviewed after East York woman attacked

Last September, Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher called for a “comprehensive review of serious dog attacks and the implementation and follow up of dangerous dog orders” after an East York woman was attacked by two dogs near her home and seriously injured.

The two dogs involved in the July 30, 2023 incident were under a dangerous dog order at the time, while the owner also had two other dogs in their possession that were also under dangerous dog orders, Fletcher said in a Sept. 6, 2023 letter to Coun. Alejandra Bravo, chair of the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee, along with its members.

Following that attack, Toronto police charged a suspect with criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection with the incident.

Since then, there have been at least two more serious attacks involving dogs – one in Rexdale in February and another at the Little Norway playground along the waterfront last month.

Both of these incidents involved dogs that were “unmuzzled and unleashed, despite previously being issued a dangerous dog order prohibiting them being in public without a leash or muzzle,” Fletcher noted.

On March 20, Toronto City Council approved a series of new measures for addressing dangerous dogs in the city, including a public list of dangerous dogs, increased enforcement, and access to discounted dog training for those with dangerous dogs who cannot afford it. Councillors also requested that the province amend the Dog Owners' Liability Act.

During an interview with CP24 on Wednesday evening, Fletcher said that these new measures are a way to hold dangerous dog owners accountable.

She pointed to the new signs they’re required to display on their home as well as the city’s more fulsome online dangerous dog order registry as ways to let neighbours know that a dangerous dog lives in their community and that their owner is expected to follow a set of strict rules.

“You've seen what happens, to this young child and this woman in East York. It's a life-altering experience and we need to make sure it doesn't happen,” Fletcher said, adding that the new measures have been put in place to help all dangerous dog owners, regardless of their income level, do better and have access to proper training.

“A dog owner must always be in control of their dog when you're in the city of Toronto and they’ve got to live up to that,” she added.

Lastly, the east-end councillor noted that these increased measures also aim to provide assurance to victims that steps are being taken by the city to manage dangerous dogs.

“The people that have been bitten, sometimes they think, ‘Well, nothing's really going to work,’" she said.

“They feel very betrayed that a dog had an order, and they’ve still been mauled, such as the woman in East York who was just out for an evening walk and ended up getting mauled,” she said, adding compliance, enforcement, education, and any changes to legislation that let the city move more quickly once a dog has done something extremely bad are the ways to address this issue.

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