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Leash law to see boost in enforcement

Dog owners who let Rover off-leash outside the 63 off-leash areas in Toronto parks this summer may get a reminder of up to $360. Bylaw officers and local police are teaming up to better enforce leash rules after a spike in complaints.

In the last six months, city staff have received over 400 complaints about off-leash dogs in parks — more than triple the complaints made in all of 2013.

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.
FILE PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

“People enjoy pets. We’d just like to see a lot more owner responsibility,” says John DeCourcy, who became the city’s new director of bylaw enforcement this January after 33 years with the Toronto Police Service.

DeCourcy said the city recognizes that dogs need exercise and a chance to play with other dogs, which is why it has designated 63 off-leash areas and made it easier to request new ones. Speaking on July 17, the first day of the stepped-up summer patrols, he said officers will start in parks that get the most complaints. About 75 fines have been laid this year for dogs “running at large.”

In the Beach, dogs can go off-leash in a fenced area by the Leuty Lifeguard Station, or on the beaches between Silver Birch Avenue and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. There are four parks with off-leash areas in the Upper Beach and Beach Hill neighbourhoods, and another three in East Danforth.

Last spring, city council considered adding early morning and late evening “courtesy hours” when dogs would be able to go off-leash in some parks that don’t have a permanent off-leash area.

The city ran an online survey about that idea and other dog policies. It got 3,041 responses, about two-thirds of which came from dog owners. Owners and non-owners were split, with about 80 per cent of owners in favour and 70 per cent of non-owners opposed. And while both groups agreed Toronto parks need more bylaw officers – only eight of the city’s 125 bylaw officers are tasked with parks enforcement – 91 per cent of dog owners voted against adding an extra $5 to dog licence fees to pay for them.

City council has yet to revisit the courtesy hours idea since the survey was done last May.

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