Toronto is now home to 91 dangerous dogs, six months after a new city bylaw cracking down on irresponsible dog owners came into effect, CityNews has learned.
City officers began handing out the orders after city council unanimously passed amendments to the Toronto Municipal Code, creating the brand new distinction and requiring those owners to muzzle their pet, put up warning signs and attend training classes – or face stiff fines.
“For people like me who are dog lovers, this is amazing legislation and it is working,” Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said. “It is wildly successful.”
Under a new definition, a dog that has severely bitten or attacked a person or pet will be considered dangerous, as will dogs that have given non-severe bites twice or have been subject to a muzzle order. The changes came into effect on March 1.
From March to Aug. 31, Toronto Animal Services officers have responded to 882 incidents of dog bites, attacks and menacing behaviour. Those investigations resulted in 91 dangerous dog orders.
“It’s interesting because I think it shows it’s more of a problem than people recognize,” said Anna-Maria Mountfort, who has been advocating for beefed-up animal bylaws for years.
Mountfort’s seven-year-old daughter was brutally injured in 2012 when a neighbour’s German Shepherd-Collie mix got through a fence and tore into her daughter’s face, resulting in 40 stitches.
Mountfort says while she’s still disturbed by the number of dog-to-human bites in the city, she’s pleased to see the city is stepping up enforcement.
“I’m happy with their efforts,” she said. “It’s not easy.”
Toronto has an estimated 230,000 dogs. Last year, 1,372 dog bites were reported to Toronto Public Health and 793 so far this year.
Phil Nichols, director of operations at the Toronto Humane Society, says the results of the bylaw are promising especially because the law is non-breed specific, unlike the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, which still restricts the ownership of pitbulls in Ontario.
“It’s very important not to target one specific breed and make them the case as to why the dog is dangerous because it’s not the dog,” Nichols said. “It’s definitely the owner.”
Of the 91 dangerous dogs in Toronto, German Shepherds and Rottweilers top the list as the most repeat offenders, with 14 and 11 orders respectively.
The city employs 11 officers to investigate dog complaints. Fines can be up to $100,000 for owners of dangerous dogs who fail to muzzle or undergo training for their dogs.