Cable down? Check out a town hall meeting
Town hall meetings have all the elements of great entertainment; drama, passion, conflict, betrayal, defeat, ax grinding, and good old fashioned chipped shoulders.
This being a public gathering about Responsible Dog Ownership it was fairly civil and I was really impressed with the City’s efforts in working with the public to establish a better dialogue and hear and consider our input.
The meeting was on Thursday, June 23 at the East York Civic Center. This was the final public meeting for the proposed amendments to the Toronto municipal code chapter 349 – Animals. Since 2015 the Municipal Licencing and Standards Services have been reviewing changes to the by-law to better address dangerous dogs and dogs that have attacked or pose a risk to public safety. If you missed this last meeting you have until August 31, 2016 to have your say via email, snail mail, or phone (details at the end of this post).
I arrived a few minutes early, there were six City staff members, four from Animal Services and one other civilian. “Joe Civ” was already letting the panel know that he was against any type of regulation, “Stay out of my business, yard, and bedroom”, I mentally rubbed my hands together and settled in a couple of seats down from him. In all about 30 people showed up, I’ve attended various other dog related meetings over the years I was surprised at the low number. Interestingly the room chosen for the meeting comfortably accommodated everyone.
The meeting started with a review of the proposed changes
For a full copy of the report visit here
As is the norm with these things exuberant folks started jumping in voicing their concerns ignoring several requests to wait until the end to have their say. “Joe Civ” reiterated his sentiments several times and was told to “sit down” and let others talk. Kudos to Jessica Walters, Senior Policy and Research Officer for calmly keeping order, as best she could.
Three stories of note:
Anna-Maria Mountfort’s daughter 6 year old Audrey was mauled by a neighbor’s German shepherd/collie cross in 2012 requiring 40 stitches leaving lifelong physical and emotional scars. Mountfort wants a better response system, communication, and clearer language about what deems a dog dangerous. She claims Animal Services was lacking in their handling of the case.
See video of Mountfort just before Thursday’s meeting here.
Maryanne Leishman was bitten the day before, she held up her bandaged left hand. She had been walking her doodle dog, Snowy in the calm of the early morning on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. A large mixed breed dog charged off the property of a house they were passing and attacked her and Snowy. The owner came out and asked if she was OK, she responded no, he brought his dog inside, said he had to go to work, and left her there bleeding. She called 911 and police arrived but would not charge the owner due to “lack of criminal intent.” Concerned for the rest of her East York community Leisman felt compelled to put up warning posters in her neighborhood. Leishman expressed her concerns about owners not being held accountable and the lack of enforcement from the police. She added, “I just want my voice to be heard”
Paul Dupuis was in Ramsden park in the Avenue Rd. and Roxborough area on the evening of May 30 when a large black dog attacked his miniature schnauzer Skye resulting in a broken leg, fractures and dislocated bones. All Dupuis had was the dog’s name, Milo (the community eventually helped track down the owner). He would like to see cameras, proper enforcement, and signage explaining who to contact in the event of a dog attack. When someone suggested he litigate against the offending dog’s owner to recoup the $8,000 vet bill Dupuis said there was no point based on the social and financial status of the owner.
- More signage in parks
- More cameras in parks
- Better education in schools and general public
- Dangerous dog registry and obvious indicators of a dangerous dog ie. warning sign on property, special licence tags
- Liability insurance for dog owners
- Add info relating to dogs on the City website
- Better communication and clearer language pertaining to dangerous dogs
- Increase fines and penalties
- Additional resources and enforcement
These suggestions are yet to be implemented.
What can be done now?
Obey the laws regarding dogs in your community
You may have the nicest, friendliest dog and you know he’s great off leash but if you are in a space that is not off leash you are breaking the law and putting your dog and others at risk. What if “that guy” feels the same but his dog is not nice and friendly? What if that dog decides that your dog is fair game? What if your nice, friendly dog bounds up to a nasty dog that is on leash and that dog takes a chunk out of your dog’s nose? Who’s at fault there?
What if my dog is attacked?
It’s been my experience (I’m a commercial dog walker in my other life) that if the owners of an aggressive dog quickly pack up and leave chances are this has happened before. If you can, follow them and either get their licence plate or address. Of course this is easier said than done especially if your dog is need of medical attention. Perhaps you can enlist a friend or fellow park visitor to help you.
If it’s the first time most people will stick around and check to see if your dog is OK. Get their contact info, they should take responsibility and pay for the vet bill. I ask them to call my cell phone right then and there, that way there are no mistakes in taking down the correct info. Hopefully they will cooperate. Also get the contact info from any witnesses, this will be a big help later if things get messy.
Contact Animal Services @ 416-338-7297 , or you can do this via 311 and report the attack.
Be considerate and use common sense
Sounds simple enough but it’s astounding how many folks out there feel they are above the law and do whatever they like with complete disregard for others. Pick your battles, I’ve seen these things escalate to barroom status. If you feel you and your dog are at risk, leave. You may be completely within your rights but it’s not worth it, go and get yourselves home in one piece.
Licence your pets
Many people feel this is a cash grab but when you think about it it’s fairly cheap, annually it’s $60 for an unaltered dog and $25 for a spay/neutered one. If your pet is picked up they have your info and can get it home to you. If your pet has no info and God forbid is in serious medical duress you don’t want Animal Services making a decision without your input.
If all the Toronto dogs were licensed the City would have an accurate account of the number of dogs and they could direct the revenue to specific services like more dog parks.
Licensing fees support:
- food, shelter and sterilizing of animals in City care
- 24/7 emergency animal rescue services
- returning lost pets to their homes
- veterinary services to animals in City care
- rescuing sick, injured and/or distressed domestic animals & wildlife
- spay/neuter programs
- adopting homeless pets to new families
- investigating animal care issues
- keeping neighborhoods safe for people and pet
It would be great to see some licence revenue going to the re-implication of primary school education. That program was cut due to lack of funding. Children really need to know how to approach a dog.
It is estimated that more than 400,000 people are bitten by dogs in Canada each year (2010). Health Canada reports that most of the victims are children and that the most common bite site is the face. Most bites are caused by the family dog or another dog known to the child and occur at a family home. (source http://doggonesafe.blogspot.ca/)
Pet licence details here.
Have your say
The City is doing it’s best to make positive changes, they want to hear from as many of us as possible. You can submit your suggestions via email, snail mail or phone until August 31, 2016
Senior Policy and Research Officer
Municipal Licensing and Standards
City of Toronto
16th Floor, West Tower, City Hall
Animal Services 416-338-7297