Toronto: 2.8 million people. More than 230,000 dogs. With so many people who love dogs and many others who don’t, here’s how we can all work together to live in harmony:

  • Keep dogs leashed in public, unless in designated dogs off-leash areas.
  • Stoop and scoop. Put poop in the green bin.
  • Respect natural environments in parks.
  • Spay/neuter and license your dog.

Learn more about the requirement to keep dogs on leash and find dogs off-leash areas in your neighbourhood.

The City has Green Bins for organic waste in all dog off-leash areas in parks, other select locations in parks and a few street litter bins that accept dog waste across the city. In parks that do not have a Green Bin, residents should dispose of dog poop and other organic waste in garbage bins or take it home and place it in the Green Bin (organics).

Dog owners in Toronto must comply with the Animals Bylaw and the Province of Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA). You are required to follow the rules below.

Keep dogs leashed in public.

Dogs must remain leashed in public, unless in designated dogs off-leash areas. Your dog must be kept on a leash no more than two metres long. You must be holding on to the leash; leashing your dog to a pole or bike rack is not allowed. You can be fined $365 if your dog is off-leash.

Learn more about the requirement to keep dogs on leash. You can also find dogs off-leash areas in your neighbourhood and view amenities, such as small dog designation, fenced, availability for use by commercial dog walkers.

Stoop and scoop.

Pick up after your dog on private and public property. The City has Green Bins for organic waste in all dog off-leash areas in parks, other select locations in parks and a few street litter bins that accept dog waste across the city.

Bag and dispose of dog waste in Green Bins if available. Any bag can be used as the bags are removed at City organics processing facilities. In parks that do not have a Green Bin, dispose of dog waste in garbage bins or take it home to dispose of in your own Green Bin.

Your dog must be licensed.

Dogs go missing every day and a licence helps to bring them home. The licence must be renewed yearly and the licence tag must be worn. When you pet is licensed you automatically become a BluePaw member and receive exclusive offers and discounts on pet-related products and services.

You can have up to three dogs.

The maximum numbers of pets that you can own is six cats and three dogs. You cannot walk more than three dogs at once anywhere in the city, including sidewalks and parks, without a commercial dog walker’s permit.

You can tie up your dog at home for one-hour maximum

If you are tying up your dog on your own property, there is a time limit of one hour. The tether used to tie your dog must be more than three metres long. You cannot use a choke collar, choke chain or pronged collar for your dog at any time. Martingale collars, which are consider a humane choke collar are still permitted.

Be aware of weather conditions.

Your dog must be protected from the cold and heat. Leaving your dog in the yard without shade or water in the summer and adequate shelter in the winter is risking your dog’s life.

Make sure your dog isn’t disturbing the neighbours.

The Noise Bylaw prohibits persistent barking, whining or other animal-related noise in a residential area. Respect your neighbours and make sure your dog isn’t disturbing others.

If you have a problem with a noisy animal in your neighbourhood, consider speaking with the owner first. If this approach does not work, call 311. If the animal owner does not fix the issue, officers can issue notices of violation, written warnings, and may lay charges.

You are responsible if your dog bites a person or animal.

As a dog owner you should exercise reasonable precautions to prevent your dog from engaging in a dangerous act.  A dangerous act is defined as any bite, attack, act of menacing behaviour or any combination of a bite, attack or act of menacing behaviour.

Dog Owner’s Liability Act (DOLA)

The Province of Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) is legislation that governs dogs, including pit bulls, intended to increase public safety. If you are found guilty of an offence under DOLA, a court could issue a control order, fine or a destruction order for the dog.

Owning a pet is a long-term commitment. Although the following are not requirements of the Animals Bylaw, the City encourages following these steps to make sure that you have the best experience possible with your dog.

Spay or neuter your dog.

Spaying and neutering prevents and reduces a number of serious and expensive health problems, unwanted behaviour related to mating and prevents pet overpopulation.

Microchip and vaccinate your dog.

The City’s Chip Truck offers a microchip, rabies vaccine and a pet licence for $35. If your pet has a current City of Toronto licence, the cost of your microchip is $10. No appointment is necessary.

Exercise, train and socialize your dog.

Walk your dog often and on a leash (no longer than two metres). If you would like to give your dog additional exercise, consider visiting one of the City’s dogs off-leash area. Learn more about what you need to know to use dogs off-leash areas.

Respect the natural environment

Dog owners should respect the natural environment in parks and trails. Dogs should be allowed off-leash only in designated dogs off-leash areas so that they don’t trample or endanger plant material and other park resources. Dogs should not chase wildlife.

Provide veterinary care for your dog.

Keep your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date and visit a vet yearly for a check-up.

Your dog probably loves summer, and for good reason! Here are some helpful tips so you both can enjoy the season safely.

Never leave your dog alone in a hot, parked car.

A dog being let out of a vehicle on a hot summer's dayLeaving your pet in a hot car for even a short period of time can be very dangerous. Even with all windows cracked, the temperature of a car’s interior can quickly rise to deadly levels. Shade offers little protection on a hot day and moves with the sun.

Remember, dogs do not sweat the way we do. They cannot cool their bodies in hot temperatures. When overheated, they can go into shock, leading to irreversible organ failure and death. Young, old, overweight dogs and breeds with short muzzles are most at risk of overheating.

If you see a dog unattended in a parked car, call 311 and stand by the car until help arrives.

It’s flea and tick season!

Make sure your pets are protected from fleas and ticks from June to September. Talk to your vet about the best flea and tick prevention product to meet your dog’s needs.

Dogs have allergies too.

Your dog also may be allergic to one or more seasonal items, including grass, plants and mold. If you think your dog has allergies, is scratching and maybe even losing fur, be sure to visit your vet.

Water is essential.

Always keep your dog hydrated. Provide lots of cool, clean, fresh water. During a long walk, take breaks and look for water for your dog. Even better, carry a water bowl with you.

Exercise at dusk and dawn.

Try to exercise your dog during the coolest parts of the day (dawn and dusk). In summer, asphalt on sidewalks and streets can become so hot that they can burn a dog’s paws.

Putting booties on your dogs paws can protect them from salt on the sidewalk.

Winter is a fun season, but can present some hazards for your dog. Here are some helpful tips so you both can enjoy the season safely.

Number one tip: if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside or walks short when possible.

Preparing for walks

Remember never to shave your dog down to the skin in winter; longer coats provide more warmth. If your dog is short-haired, think about getting a warm sweater or coat that covers from tail to belly.

Before going outside, put booties on dogs to protect paws from salt and ice. Or try massaging a protectant into paw pads, and bring a towel on long walks to clean off any irritated paws.

The City works to reduce the environmental impacts of road salt use as much as possible by actively managing salt use. Learn more about the City’s salt management plan.

At home

person wiping paws of a small white dog
Remember to wipe your dog’s paws after a walk.

After walks, wash and dry your dog’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals, and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.

Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can give them dry, flaky skin.

Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm. Talk to your veterinarian to see if your dog needs extra food during the cold weather months.

Remember that antifreeze is a lethal poison for your pet. When possible, consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Always clean up any spills from your vehicle.

Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. Think cozy dog bed.

Your dog should be sheltered inside your home if at all possible. Dogs kept outside may be unintentionally exposed to bitter cold temperatures in the winter and scorching heat in the summer.

To protect your dog from harsh weather, provide a well-constructed dog house. Proper outdoor shelter for dogs must meet the following standards:

Weatherproof construction

The shelter must be well constructed, have a roof, enclosed sides, a doorway and a solid level floor raised at least two inches from the ground. There should be no cracks or openings other than the entrance. The shelter must be insulated. Rainproof openings for ventilation are required in hot weather.

Protected and weather proof entrance: the entryway must be protected by a self-closing door, an offset outer door, or covered by a flexible flap.

Bedding: a sufficient amount of dry bedding such as cedar shavings or straw must be provided to protect against cold and dampness. The bedding should be changed weekly to prevent mold and to keep the doghouse sanitary.

Shelter size

The shelter should be small enough to allow a dog to warm the interior of the structure and maintain body heat, but must be large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around comfortably and lie down.

Placement

The shelter should be placed where it will be adequately shaded in the hot weather and have the best protection from the wind in cold weather. In addition ensure your dog has:

  • open/adequate access to fresh, non-frozen water
  • adequate food
  • continuous access to an area (e.g. kennel, run, backyard) with space for exercise
  • daily lighting cycles of either natural or artificial light
  • appropriate veterinary care.

Recognizing problems

If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them inside quickly because they may be showing signs of hypothermia.

Frostbite is harder to detect and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.

If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Public Health (call 416-338-7600) and Toronto Animal Services (call 311) as soon as possible. If you are transported to the hospital, report the bite or attack to Toronto Public Health and Toronto Animal Services as soon as possible after treatment is complete.

If a dog bites or attacks you and breaks the skin

  • Seek medical attention (call 911 if serious).
  • Obtain the dog owner’s name and address.
  • Obtain information about anyone who witnessed the bite.
  • Immediately wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Apply an antiseptic to the wound, if available.
  • Take a clear photo of the bite injury – document the date and time of the photo.
  • As soon as practical in your own handwriting, make clear concise notes on the date, time and location where the bite occurred, what happened, and a clear description of the dog.

If a dog attacks or menaces you, but does not break the skin

  • It is not necessary to contact Toronto Public Health.
  • However, the dog may still have committed a dangerous act. Call 311 and provide:
    • a clear description of dog (if possible)
    • dog owner’s name and address
    • date, time and location where the incident occurred
    • witness information, if possible.

If your pet was bitten or attacked by a dog

If your pet has been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Animal Services (call 311) as soon as possible.

If you are the owner of a dog that has bitten

  • Leash your dog and isolate from causing further threats.
  • Provide your contact information to the person who was bitten.
  • Make clear, concise notes of the incident in your own handwriting.
  • If the person’s skin has been broken, isolate your dog until contacted by Toronto Public Health.
  • If necessary, consult an expert about your dog’s behaviour.

If your pet has been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Animal Services (call 311) as soon as possible.

Toronto Public Health

Depending on the details of the incident, Toronto Public Health may:

  • initiate an investigation within 24 hours
  • assist the healthcare provider in assessing the level of risk associated with the exposure
  • provide rabies vaccine upon request of the healthcare provider
  • confine the dog for a 10-day observation period, usually at home with their owner
  • ensure the dog is up-to-date for their rabies vaccination, which is required by law in Ontario.

Toronto Animal Services

Once Toronto Animal Services receives information about a dog that has committed a dangerous act, the following happens:

  • if the dog is still on the loose, an officer will respond within two hours but
  • if the dog is with the owner and under control, an officer will respond within 24 hours.

Staff from Toronto Animal Services will walk you through the process after you’ve had a negative encounter with a dog. An officer will:

  • investigate the incident
  • interview the victim, dog owner and any witnesses
  • request the victim and any witness prepare a written statement detailing the incident
  • request medical documentation (if applicable)
  • take photographs
  • collect any other evidence pertaining to the incident.

The officer will consolidate all evidence as part of the investigation.

If the dog committed a dangerous act

If it’s determined that the dog committed a dangerous act, one of the following actions will be taken:

  • A written warning will be issued when the dangerous act is the first on record with the City and the dangerous act is not found to be severe.
  • A dangerous dog order will be issued when the dangerous act is found to be severe, or was the second or subsequent dangerous act on record with the City.
  • A dangerous dog order includes the following requirements:
    • dog must be muzzled except when on the owner’s premises
    • a warning sign must be posted on the owner’s premises
    • dog is prohibited from using the City’s leash-free dog parks
    • owner must obtain a dangerous dog tag
    • dog must be microchipped
    • City keeps a photo of the dog on file
    • dog owner must ensure the dog receives socialization/obedience training within 90 days of issuance of the order.

When the dangerous act is the first on record with the City, an officer will examine all of the circumstances of the specific dangerous act when determining if the dangerous act is severe.

Bite levels and guidelines

There are a number of bite levels available to help determine the severity of the dog bite or dangerous act. Depending on the circumstances, an officer may use one or more of these bite levels to determine the severity of the bite or attack, as required by the Animals Bylaw. Any dangerous act at Level 3 or above will generally be considered severe.

  • Level 0: Obnoxious or aggressive behaviour but no skin contact by teeth and no injury. Dog growls, snarls, lunges, but no teeth touch skin.
  • Level 1: Skin contact by teeth. Includes skin nicks, scrapes, redness/welts caused by movement of teeth; may also include movement of dogs nails/claws against the skin. Mouth/teeth touch skin and there are pressure marks or indentations that leave scratches or abrasions and there may be slight bleeding caused by forward, backward or lateral movement of teeth against skin – no distinct punctures.
  • Level 2: One to four punctures from a single bite with no deep punctures (less than ½ the length of the dog’s canine teeth). There may be skin tearing (abrasions or shallow lacerations) in a single direction, caused by the victim pulling or owner pulling dog away, or gravity (e.g. dog jumps up).
  • Level 3: One to four punctures from a single bite with at least 1 deep puncture (deeper than ½ the length of the dog’s canine tooth. May include deep bruising around the wound (dog held on for a number of seconds and bore down) or lacerations in both directions (dog held on an shook its head from side to side). With this type of bite, the dog clamps down and there is not a quick release (bite –hold). Lacerations will often occur as the individual pulls away while the dog has a hold with their teeth.
  • Level 4: Multiple-bite incident with at least two level 3 bites or multiple-attack wounds with at least one level 3 bite in each. Includes severe injuries as a result of an attack (i.e. fracture). Dog bites multiple times in a row, connecting with the skin, causing punctures and often tears. Some bites may be bite-release and some may be bite-hold. The dog does not bite and back away but instead bites, releases and then lunges forward again immediately often directing the bite toward vulnerable areas. These are serious bites that can be life threatening.
  • Level 5: victim (human or animal) is deceased as a result of bite or attack.

Download a tip sheet about Canine Bite Levels by Dr. Sophia Yin.

If the dog was acting in self-defence

During an investigation into a dangerous act, an officer will consider whether the dog was acting in self-defence at the time of the dangerous act. If the officer determines the dog was acting in self-defence, the officer may determine that the dog is not a dangerous dog.

When determining if a dog was acting in self-defence, the officer will consider whether:

  • the dog was defending itself from a bite or attack
  • the severity of the injury was necessary for the dog defending itself from a bite or attack
  • the victim was committing a criminal act on the premises of the owner and incurred injuries as a result of being bitten or attacked.

The Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal is a local five-member board of the City of Toronto. The Tribunal was established under the authority of the City of Toronto Act and is conducted in accordance with the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. The chair and two panel members are present during a hearing. The panel listens to appeals of dangerous dog orders issued under section 15.1 of the Animals Bylaw. Download a brochure on the Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal.

When a dog owner disputes a dangerous dog order

The owner of a dog who is issued a dangerous dog order may request a hearing to appeal the order. The owner must submit an appeal as required by the Animals Bylaw.

A request for a hearing must be in writing and be mailed or delivered to the address that is listed on the order within 30 days of the issuance of the dangerous dog order. Owners must submit the applicable appeal fee and their written request must include:

  • the name, telephone number and address of the owner;
  • a statement of the reason(s) for the appeal and nature of the relief sought and
  • if applicable, the name, address and telephone number of the agent, representative or lawyer representing the owner.

Although a request for a hearing may be made, the order to comply (requirements) take effect once the order is served and remain in effect until a hearing is held, and the Tribunal decides if the designation of a dangerous dog is confirmed or rescinded.

Role of the Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal

The Tribunal will determine the following:

  • Did a dangerous act occur?
  • Was the dangerous act committed by the dog in question?
  • Was the order issued in accordance with the bylaw?

The Tribunal has the authority to confirm the determination of a dangerous dog and uphold the dangerous dog order or rescind it and exempt the owner from all requirements of the order. The Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to exempt an owner from some or part of the requirements on a dangerous dog order.

The grounds of appeal are limited and the dog’s behaviour after the act is not considered during the appeal process.

Providing evidence

At an appeal hearing, both the dog owner and the City are welcome to present evidence. All documents and evidence must be disclosed to the other party and Tribunal no later than 14 days prior to the hearing. If a party fails to disclose a document or discloses it late, the Tribunal may disallow the document from being entered into evidence.

Hearings before the Tribunal are public and documents provided to the Tribunal will be made available upon request.

What to expect at the hearing

  • Although there are some similarities, the Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal hearing is different from a court hearing or trial.
  • The purpose of a hearing is to determine whether or not the dangerous dog order was issued in accordance with the Animals Bylaw.
  • The City and the dog owner will have provided the Tribunal with copies of all documents and evidence.
  • The only two possible outcomes of a hearing are:
    • the dangerous dog order gets confirmed, meaning that all requirements of the order remain, or
    • all requirements of the order are rescinded.
  • Parties appearing before the Tribunal are free to arrange for legal counsel, but this is optional, not required.
  • If a party has been given a notice of a hearing and does not attend, the Tribunal may proceed in the absence of that party.

Written decision

The Tribunal may provide their decision at the time of the hearing, but is more likely to provide a written decision within 15 days of the hearing to both the dog owner and the City. The City will provide a copy of this written decision to the victim or victim dog owner.

Appeal fee

The fee to appeal a Dangerous Dog Order can be found in Chapter 441, Appendix C. Effective May 6, 2021, the appeal fee is to be reduced by 50% where the resident meets ALL of the criteria set out below. The applicant must:

  1. be a resident of the City of Toronto
  2. be at least 18 years of age
  3. be the owner of the subject dog
  4. have a current licence for the dog
  5. must have a household income of $50,000 or less
  6. have appropriate documentation that demonstrates financial need

Learn more about the Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal.

Need to make a complaint about the Tribunal process? Visit Municipal Licensing & Standards – Complaints & Compliments.