Animal Bi-Law Changes Effects Dog Owners

The City of Toronto is suggesting significant changes to existing animal by-laws in an attempt to hold dog owners liable for dog bites or attacks.

Potential by-law amendments could include collar tagging for “dangerous” or “potentially hazardous” dogs, the ability of bylaw officers to come on private property if responding to complaints and increasing fines up to $10,000 for owners who do not abide by the rules.

A dog could be placed on the Dangerous Dog List based on the number of dog bite occurrences, if the dog is aggressive, and if there are objections about the dog, which would lead to city investigations and determinations about what steps to take.

“Dangerous” dogs would be defined as:

  • A dog that has bitten or attacked a person or animal more than once;
  • A dog that has bitten or attacked a person or animal and the bite is found to be severe.

A “potentially dangerous” dog would be defined as:

  • A dog that has been impounded for being at large on one or more occasions in any 12 months;
  • A dog that has bitten or attacked a person or animal, unless it is determined that the dog was acting in self-defence.

Further proposed amendments for dogs that pose a risk to public safety include:

  • proof of owner liability insurance;
  • dog behavioural training;
  • signs warning of the dangerous dog;
  • a special licence tag; and
  • the owner must confine the dog to their property.

The proposed amendments would allow the city to issue a financial penalty for each day the offence continues, and by-law officers would have the right to enter the owner’s private property. Fines would increase, from at least $500 to as much as $10,000.

With these changes looming, it is important to remember that ultimately, dog owners are the ones responsible for controlling their dogs at all times. The owner is liable for a bite on another person or animal.

The following tips can help dog owners be proactive when it comes to being responsible for their pets:

- Provide training and socialization for your pets.

- Your dog must be kept on a leash no more than two metres long.

- You must be holding onto the leash - leashing your dog to a pole or bike rack is not allowed

- Don't let your pets run loose. Take your dog to one of the city's off-leash parks.

- If your dog is nervous or uncomfortable around people or other animals, be honest and take precautions.

Some people fear dogs – respect their feelings and concerns.