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Animals left on condo balconies ‘grey area’ for Toronto police

Last Updated Jul 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm EDT

A Toronto resident contacted police after she said a dog was left outside on a balcony in 30 degree heat for hours. Photograph by Shannon Hunter

When it comes to animals being left on condominium balconies and how police can act, it is very much a grey area according to Toronto Police.

On Monday, police were notified that a dog had been left outside in the 30-degree heat on a City Place balcony for three hours.

Resident Shannon Hunter told CityNews that she came home from work to her condo in the Spadina Avenue and Fort York Boulevard area around 3 p.m. to hear a dog barking next door.

The dog, which Hunter described as being “skin and bones,” was allegedly left alone on the balcony with nothing but an empty vodka bottle and car tires.

Hunter said the smell of dog urine was immensely strong, as if the dog had been outside all day.

“There is nothing out there for [it], the door is closed and there is an empty vodka bottle and glass,” she said. “[It] is literally trying to squeeze through the tiny section between the balconies so he can come over here.”

 

Hunter said she was able to slip water over the balcony to the pooch and that she went to neighbour’s door multiple times to see if anyone was home. When no one answered she went down to the concierge to see if someone could contact the dog’s owners. Hunter said she then called the police.

“I want the dog removed, it is 37 degrees outside it is just as bad as putting a dog in a car,” she said.

Toronto Police Const. Craig Brister said that when it comes to dogs being left in vehicles and dogs being left on balconies they are two different situations.

“I can walk up to a car and look at the dog and go ‘ya, that dog is in distress.’ I smash the window, get my way into the car and get the dog out,” said Brister. “Things change a little bit when you are dealing with somebody’s house.”

Brister said that there is a higher threshold for police to enter someone’s apartment.

“Sometimes we have a hard enough time articulating grounds to go in and check on people,” he said. “Unless we can articulate an urgent need for us to go into the house or enter an apartment, it is difficult for us to do it.”

Brister said each situation is handled case-by-case and there is no hard rule as to what police will do. Unless the dog is visibly in distress it is difficult because they have to “form grounds to act.”

With Toronto condominiums there is a grey area, he explains, because sometimes condo security won’t allow access to the units without police being there or they may refuse access all together.

According to Hunter, the owners eventually came home and opened the balcony door to let the dog inside.

This isn’t the first time police have been called after a dog was spotted alone on a condo balcony.

Residents living in Liberty Village rallied together after they saw a Facebook image of a dog stuck on a balcony in frigid –14 C weather and worked together to get the dog brought back inside.

A petition was circulated by Toronto woman Nicole Simone calling for the city to step up and protect vulnerable pets.

“A residential balcony is not a yard,” Simone wrote.

“It is dangerous to dogs, residents, and the public. Dogs in [that] situation can face extreme weather conditions, violate noise bylaws, expel excrement on the public, and risk falling to their death. It therefore poses health and safety hazards for the citizens of Toronto.”

Under the criminal code (445.1), anyone “who willfully causes or, being the owner, willfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or bird commits an offence. The offence is punishable through a fine or imprisonment.

If the owner or person having custody willfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for an animal is also liable under the criminal code in section 446.

Brister said that a site-specific ruling may help.

“How you treat your animal, where you put it, when you are out is a grey area,” he said. “It is still your responsibility.”

But Brister said that people being involved in the community is a good thing because that is how things change.

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