City sniffs out possible leash laws change

Taking a lead from New York City, the City of Toronto is asking residents whether to allow off-leash dogs in some city parks in the early morning and late evening.

A dog walks off-leash along the boardwalk at Woodbine Beach Park. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
A dog walks off-leash along the boardwalk at Woodbine Beach Park.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Such “courtesy hours” would apply only to parks with no off-leash dog areas that meet a checklist of neighbourhood criteria.

Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon says the idea was raised at the parks committee in November by councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong after he visited New York City, which has such a bylaw in place.

“Different wards in the city don’t have as many dog parks as we do, and they’re expensive to put in,” McMahon said, adding that Ward 32 has more dog parks than any other in Toronto.

Until May 31, the city’s parks department is hosting an online survey about the idea. McMahon said all park users, not just dog owners, should take the opportunity to weigh in.

Besides the new off-leash hours, the survey asks related questions such as whether the city should set a minimum distance between homes, schools and off-leash dog areas.

The survey also asks dog owners if they would pay an extra $5 on dog licensing fees so the city can hire more bylaw officers to enforce off-leash laws.

Kim Smithers, an enforcement supervisor with Toronto Animal Services, says her unit had 810 complaints about off-leash dogs across the city last year. Along with 474 warnings, they issued 95 tickets, which cost $240 each.

With 16 officers in total, Smithers said her unit has an average of six officers on patrol on any given day.

As well as off-leash dogs, the officers respond to calls about stray or dead animals, animal bites and animal abuse.

“They cover the entire city for all of those services,” she said. “So it is a stretch.”

Given the challenge, Smithers said Animal Services does target high-complaint areas, including the string of beach parks from Ashbridges Bay to Silver Birch.

Chris Yaccato of the Toronto Beaches Dog Association says that when it comes to owners who let their dogs go off-leash, “a few bad apples are ruining the bunch.”

While some members have told Yaccato  they want all the beach parks to be leash-free, Yaccato supports the current bylaw.

“It’s just uncontrollable,” he said, “Not everyone likes dogs, not everyone’s friendly with dogs. Everyone should get free and fair access to our parks.”

As for the extra $5 fee to hire more bylaw officers, Yaccato said he supports the idea in principle, but it needs refining.

“To be honest with you, a lot of our members just simply ignore them,” he said. “Bylaw officers don’t have the powers of the police to arrest, to detain, or to really force someone to hand over their ID.”

Watching her dog Beauty play in the sand near the Leuty Lifeguard Station last week, owner Beth Campbell said she likes the idea of more off-leash hours.

“It’s just nice to give her the freedom to run around,” she said.

Campbell said that when Beauty goes off-leash she can socialize freely with other dogs, likely with less tension than if all the dogs were leashed.

Campbell said it’s true there are many bad dog owners out there, but in a nearly empty park with a well-behaved dog, it shouldn’t be a problem.

“I mean, kids are more destructive on the beach than my dog is and I don’t leash them,” she joked.

To fill out the City of Toronto survey, visit

Was this article informative? Become a Beach Metro Community News Supporter today! For 50 years, we have worked hard to be the eyes and ears in your community, inform you of upcoming events, and let you know what and who is making a difference. We cover the big stories as well as the little things that often matter the most. CLICK HERE to support your Beach Metro Community News!


Perfect, another tax targeted at dog owners! This City Council is out of control. As pointed out in the article, anyone with half a brain simply refuses to identuify his or herself to a by-law officer. The City’s scarce resources would be put to better use issuing tickets to those who despoil our beaches with litter on a daily basis.

Hey Joe,

Apparently dog urine and feces where kids play all day is better than a chocolate bar wrapper? Seriously?

The city parks are for people. Not dogs. If you don’t have the property to support a dog, don’t force your choices on others. Buy a farm in the country.

hey Daniel,
You’re wilfully ignorant. Who breaks beer bottles, who litters fast food waste, who throws cigarette butts onto the ground? Who drives in cars that pollute our air? Who uses diapers that fill up landfills? Who do we have to pay taxes for to educate and house and keep healthy? Who do we spend the vast majority of our time and energy on so that this cycle of pollution and waste can continue forever? Your kids. Dog poop, while it should absolutely be picked up, pales in comparison to the filth you and your kids generate.

Hey Daniel,

I completely agree with Margo. We pay taxes the same as you, so we should be able to use the parks for our dogs the same as you use them for your kids. It’s your choice to have kids that may scream and run around disturbing other people that want to enjoy the peace and quiet of a park. The city parks are for everyone!

Hey Dan,

Nice Straw Man arguments! No one is arguing that dog waste shouldn’t be picked up and it is 99.99% of the time. Have you been in our parks, especially along the beach, and seen the trash that is left on a daily basis for City workers to pick up at great expense to taxpayers? And don’t trivialize the trash problem by talking about one candy bar wrapper. A large part of it is alcohol containers, including glass ones. I suppose you won’t have a problem with that when you and your kids go wading in the lake and cut your feet on broken glass? And Margo referred to diapers filling landfills, but you’d be surprised how many soiled diapers are left on the beach.

And Dan, last time I checked, dog owners were people too. I have a right to use our parks along with my dog as much as you do. Good luck banning dogs from the city. I’d rather ban people like you who can’t get along with others.

You seem to assume that I think it’s fine to litter, but not to pollute our beaches and parks. The two are not mutually exclusive. I’m equally disgusted when I see people litter. To assume that because I want control over where dogs should be allowed to roam means that I endorse littering and various other illegal acts is confusing. I do get along with others, including dog owners. It’s not about not getting along with people, it’s about people respecting one another. When dogs destroy other people’s property, when they charge other people only for their owner’s to say they’re friendly, when owner’s don’t pick up after their dogs or let them off leash wherever they want, that’s when I get annoyed. It’s not that I don’t get along with others, but I don’t understand when people that own dogs think that they are special and don’t have to follow any rules.

Sorry to have upset all of you, but there is a problem, and to attack people with a different point of view is not the answer.

Daniel, you aren’t addressing the issue, you are just putting up more straw men. My dog is always under control. If my dog is off leash and another dog or person approaches, she is put back on leash. I hardly think walking a dog unleashed in a deserted park in the early morning or late evening hours shows disrespect towards others. In fact, dog walkers out at these hours provide security in our parks by deterring unlawful activity.

And you were the one who attacked, suggesting that people with dogs should get rid of them or move to a rural area! I’m not sure how that statemnt showed respect for anyone!

Daniel is 100% right. I love how the argument turns to who is being more destructive dogs or the human race. And then to think that dog owners are less destructive or less impact to waste and citing diapers as some sort or thing consuming our landfills (not plastics or any thing else). Its a baseless argument. BTW – all my diapers go into the ‘organics’ bin for compost – not a landfill. Why I even need to justify this is ridiculous.

As a jogger on the boardwalk I am constantly having to avoid off leash dogs. Usually its not a problem, but occasionally they run right into me. Should the city change the bylaw, it will only take the first lawsuit from an injured jogger, bike rider or elderly walker naming the city as well as the dog owner that will warrant a rethink.

Ed, like Daniel you are just putting up straw men.

The Dog Owners Liablity Act will continue to govern in the situations that you posit.

Your statement about having to evade off leash dogs is nonense. I am on the boardwalk or in the vicintiy for about two hours per day all year round. Joggers do not “constantly” have to avoid off leash dogs! Please avoid hyperbole and your arguments will carry more weight. And the proposal under discussion in no way gives carte blanche for off leash dogs on the boardwalk, and suggesting greater opportuniites for off leash dogs does not mean anyone is advocating for dogs to be able to approach other park users.

I’ve lived in the Beaches area for more than twenty years, and my kids have been run at, knocked over, and accosted by dogs while minding their business in public spaces many times, and I’ve seen other kids treated similarly. I’ve had to throw out shoes that were so covered in dog feces that they were not salvageable.

Dogs are animals. Animals need to be under control of their owners, and for dogs that means being on a leash in public spaces. There are plenty of lovely “off-leash areas” in the east end to be enjoyed by dog owners and their animals. I’d like to see by-law enforcement be more rigorous about leash use in public spaces in our neighbourhood.

Most dog owners are thoughtful and have no problem following a few simple rules designed to keep everyone safe. As with so many things in life, a small percentage of the (animal owning) population spoils it for the rest of us, and I suggest that they spend more time with people, and less with animals – their lack of socialization is showing.

Diane, actually there are NOT plenty of off-leash areas available. The only one I can walk to, at Kew Beach, is out in the hot sun and on sand, which I cannot walk on. And, since the whole point of walking a dog is WALKING, I shouldn’t have to drive to a decent off-leash area.

My dog is beautifully trained, and I deliberately put him in a sit-stay when kids and bikes are around. But I’ve still been screamed at by people with a pathological fear/hatred of dogs. And I should mention all the darn bikes are on pedestrian-only walkways.

I spend plenty of time with people, BTW. But my dog doesn’t lie, criticize, grumble, expect anything from me and always listens. He has a place in my life. Maybe you should try having fun with a dog some time!

Dianne, you are throwing up the same straw men as Daniel, highlighting the small minority of irresponsible dog owners to argue for more restricitions on those who are responsible.

I know that there are children who urinate in public pools therefore all children should be on leashes. An equally outrageous statement.


Hardly straw men arguments here. They are valid in attacking the position of why dogs need to be on a leash. My kid was lunged at today by a dog off a leash while on the playground. This is after it knocked over another 1 year old. For sure there are good and bad owners, good and bad people, the real straw man argument is yours around babies or kids and trying to make them look bad to justify your dog being off leash. Unfortunately (and most dog owners with kids will agree) you are not going to win an argument comparing a dog to a kid, it isn’t even on the same level. Kids will grow up to pay taxes, dogs will not. Kids will contribute to society, dogs will not. Should kids have more rights than dogs, absolutely. It isn’t a kids or dogs decision, it is a respect for other people decision (keyword here is people – not dogs).

Uh, mola, dogs actually DO contribute to society. They’re service animals to people with many kinds of disabilities, they’re therapy animals to kids (yes, KIDS!) who are troubled or at risk. They bring cheer and life to elderly people and folks in hospitals. They bring affection and a touch of home to military men and women serving overseas. (Just take a look at some of the stories on the Web.) They help our police fight crime (even giving their lives to do so). They’ve helped offenders and people with drug problems build a new life for themselves. The list goes on. They’re our oldest animal partner, and the human-animal bond is beneficial in countless ways. I certainly wouldn’t think of comparing a dog to a child, but that doesn’t mean they have no value. Loosen up, lady.

Ronna, so you pick up one thing I said but do not address anything else. My main point states that dogs are not equal to kids and should not have more rights (which they seem to have). Whether or not they bring joy to peoples lives or are useful does not make them on par with children. I wont lighten up while dog owners ruin parks or I have to be on constant guard while people let them run rampant near kids that can barely walk. Did you not read my post? Would you not care if your 1 year old was toppled by a dog twice the size? Lighten up, sure.

And I am not a lady, I am a father and if a dog comes close to my kid, so help the dog and the owner.

Ya kids will grow up to be criminals, dogs will not, kids will grow up to be sexual deviants, dogs will not, Kids will grow up to be politicians (shudder) dogs will not….meh I really hate kids…noisy, greedy, needy loudmouth terrors…give me a charging dog anyday

Diane: Why do you assume that dogs on leashes don’t poop on the sidewalk? They do, just as much as dogs off leash. So the leash isn’t the problem. The bad dog owner is.

Why does everyone assume a dog on a leash is more under control than a dog off one? My dog walks off leash all the time, and is more under control than many I see on leashes, dragging their owners all over the place with no regard for the word “heel.” My dog doesn’t run at people or jump on them or leave behind piles of poop, because I clean up after him. He’s well trained and respectful. He gets it that he’s a dog and that there are rules for him, and he complies. He doesn’t bother anyone, off or on leash. It’s not an issue.

Maybe the law should be that you have your dog under control, whether it’s via a leash or good training. If you ask me, it’s the people who don’t bother to properly train their dogs that are the problem, and that problem is exists both on the leash and off it.

And by the way, I walk on the beach daily and I have yet to find a pile of dog crap there, but the amount of gross garbage – including bottles, used diapers and even used tampon applicators – is unthinkable. So let’s not use dog feces as the reason to bash dogs. They are not the problem.

Diane, the question is why do I need to worry about dogs at all? I am glad your dog is so great, unfortunately not all are especially some younger puppies that are still learning. You can’t really have rules around certifying which dogs can or cannot be off so it stands to good reason they should all be on a leash with no exceptions unless dedicated area or private property. I think it is pretty common sense that an owner has a better chance to control a dog from lunging or running rampant when they have a leash tied to their neck. Your argument is synonymous with saying handcuffs don’t guarantee your safety against that person, so why use them at all.

Diane, please don’t suggest that a dog should have “a leash tied to their neck.” That’s called animal cruelty, and is punishable b law.

Mola, where did anyone try to make babies and kids look bad?! I suggest that you first gain an understanding of what a “straw man argument” is before you try to make use of the phrase! So, if I accept your questionable assertion that your child was “lunged at by a dog while in the playground”, does that mean that all dogs should be subject to restrictions? Carrying that agrgument to its logical conclusion, if one human commits a crime, we should all be incarcerated? Wow!

The park by my house is an on-leash park, yet almost no dog owners obey it. They allow their dogs to play in the playground, even though it is signed no dogs allowed. I have see some people with major fear of dogs jump up on the monkey bars to get away from the dogs, and yet the owners will not remove their dogs from the playground.

I have seen elderly people and children walking through the park run into and knocked over by very large dogs (great danes, old English sheep dogs, etc). I have had dogs jump up on me when I am wearing a suit, and I am told by the dog owners that it is stupid of me to wear a suit while walking through the park.

Dog owners are allowing their dogs to mount other peoples dogs. I saw one gentleman with his dog on leash get mounted by another dog off leash. When he pulled the other dog of his, he was yelled at by the owner for touching his dog.

One dog owner, opens the door to his house and his dog runs into the park, does his business and runs back home, and the owner cannot be bothered to clean up.

Just the other day I witnessed on dog owner get threatened by another. Why? Because as I heard it (the one dog owner was very loud and aggressive), the one dog owner had his dog in the park on leash, and the other dog owner had both of his dogs off leash. When the one dog owner left the park with his dog (on leash) the other dog followed him. The owner just sat and called for his dog to come back. The dog continued to follow the other person out of the park. He was leaving to get home as he was cooking dinner for his kids and wife. He stated that the other dogs should be on leash and he is not responsible for other dogs leaving the park. IF the owner cannot control their dog, then they should have them on leash. At this point the other dog owner (off leash) started to verbally insult and said that he was going to watch for him, and he’ll pay if it ever happens again.

The bylaw enforcement officers have not been seen anywhere near this park in two years.

If you are ever in need of some free entertainment, go to Orchard Park. Just east of Coxwell on Dundas Street. The off leash owners are fun to watch!

I just got attacked by a dog tonight while nordic walking along the boardwalk at 9:30 pm. Luckily, my nordic poles were able to persuad the dog to keep its distance (albeit snarling and trying to bite me) without my needing to injure the dog — until the owner could catch up to it and put it back on its lead. Then she proceeded to comfort the dog, when she should have been whacking it and re-establishing herself as alpha and giving that dog what for.

I was borderline these past few years about allowing leash free south of the snow fence, because so many people abuse the rule and take it to mean leash free north of it as well. Now, whenever the opportunity arises I will do what I can to repeal leash free south of the snow fence, and restrict it to the gated and fenced area only, which is already quite huge.

I know your pookums wouldn’t hurt a flea, mine wouldn’t either, but really we cannot absolutely know or predict the minds of our animals and the risk of injury to pet or other human in a crowded city is just too great. I don’t blame the animals; I grew up with well-trained dogs and I can tell you the problem is poorly-trained humans as owners.

“…should have been whacking it…”? Please post your address so I can have the SPCA come and remove your dogs from your “care”!

To provide privileges without responsibility is wrong.

Animal Services has abandoned the Beach.

To accept privileges without responsibility is wrong.

There should not be off-leash areas anywhere until there is accountability.

A simple system of identification is all it takes. Microchip and DNA ID every animal. Bites and droppings will cease to be a problem when $1000 fines are issued to offenders.

Remove the impunity, solve the problem.

It is very fortunate that the issue has really broken down to sides where people are getting angry at dog owners. I am not a dog owner myself but my entire family is. I understand the need for dogs to have space to run. The city has accommodated that in many locations. They have also posted restrictions that are repeatedly ignored by dog owners. Is this common…yes. Is this a nuisance to others. Yes.

I have read the by laws and Unfortunate as they are in the lack of real content – unless you own a pit bull or very angry dog. There is no help for the general population. Please don’t yell at the dog owner, the results will not be positive. We all need to live in this city.

I detest dogs pooping, peeing and killing my yard and the owners thinking it is fine, I also am not happy the mayor pees in public. It is on all of us to help each other and get along to make Toronto a great place to live, raise our families (and dogs, cats, bunnies, fish, or what ever).

The final thought is this, dog owners, please please respect the property of others. The general public will return the act of kindness and respect you and your family pup.

Comments are closed.
Click here for our commenting guidelines.