Dogs in the City
Toronto: 2.8 million people. 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.
- Leash and control your dog in public.
- Stoop and scoop.
- Exercise, train and socialize your dog.
- Spay/neuter and license your dog.
The City has expanded Green Bins (organic waste) to all Dog Off-Leash Areas in parks across the city. In parks that do not have a Green Bin, residents are encouraged to dispose of organic waste in garbage bins.
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: toronto.ca/salt.
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.
Dog owners in Toronto must comply with the Animals Bylaw.
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.
- 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 (sidewalks, parks) without a commercial dog walker’s permit.
Stoop and scoop.
- Pick up after your dog on private and public property.
There is a one-hour maximum for tying up your dog at home.
- 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/or 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.
Respect your neighbours.
- If your dog is continuously barking or whining and disturbing your neighbours, you can be charged under the Noise Bylaw.
Leash and control your dog in public.
- Some people fear dogs – respect their feelings and concerns.
- 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 are responsible for your dog if it bites a person or another animal.
Every owner of a dog shall exercise reasonable precautions to prevent their 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.
Owning a pet is a long-term commitment. Although the following information is not part of the 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.
- It prevents and reduces a number of serious and expensive health problems
- It reduces unwanted behaviour related to mating and
- It 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 off-leash dog parks.
- Some dogs are excluded from off-leash areas, including unlicensed dogs, female dogs in heat, and dogs that must be muzzled or leashed under order from Toronto Animal Services.
Provide veterinary care for your dog.
- Keep your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date.
- Visit a vet yearly for a check-up.
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Public Health (416-338-7600) and Toronto Animal Services (311) as soon as possible. In the event that the victim is transported to the hospital, the bite or attack should be reported 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, defined as any bite, attack, act of menacing behaviour or combination of the above. 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 has been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Animal Services (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 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 (311) as soon as possible.
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
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.
- If the dog is with the owner and under control, an officer will respond within 24 hours.
Toronto Animal Services’ staff 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
- request the victim and any witness prepare a written statement detailing the incident
- request medical documentation (if applicable)
- take photographs
- any other evidence pertaining to the incident.
The officer will consolidate all evidence as part of the investigation.
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.
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.
There are a number of bite scales available to assist in the determination of the severity of a dog bite or dangerous act, including the following:
Dangerous Act Scale / Guidelines
- Level 0: Obnoxious or aggressive behaviour but no skin contact by teeth & 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.
Dr. Sophia Yin – Canine Bite Levels:
Depending on the circumstances, an officer may use one or more of these bite scales to assist the officer in the determination of severity required in Chapter 349, Animals. The use of these bite scales depend on the nature of a particular investigation and there will be instances where it is not appropriate to refer to these bite scales. An officer may consider different factors or additional factors when investigating a dog bite or dangerous act.
A dangerous dog order will include requirements for an owner to comply with, including muzzling the dog, microchipping the dog, having the dog wear a dangerous dog tag and having the dog take mandatory training.
During an investigation into a dangerous act, an officer will consider whether the dog was acting in self-defense at the time of the dangerous act. If the officer determines the dog was acting in self-defense, the officer may determine that the dog is not a dangerous dog.
When determining if a dog was acting in self-defense, 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
For further information, read Dr. Sophia Yin’s tip sheet about Canine Bite Levels.
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 Municipal Code, Chapter 349.
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. In order to do so, the owner must submit an appeal in accordance with City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 349, Animals.
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.
The Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal, which hears appeals, 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 Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal has the authority to confirm the determination of a dangerous dog and uphold the dangerous dog order or rescind the determination of a dangerous dog and exempt the owner from all requirements of the dangerous dog order. The Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to exempt an owner from some or part of the requirements on a dangerous dog order.
At an appeal hearing, both the dog owner and the City are welcome to present evidence. All documents/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 to interested parties 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 bylaw.
- The City and the dog owner will have provided the Tribunal with copies of all documents/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.
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
- The Province of Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) is a piece of legislation in relation to dogs, including pit bulls, intended to increase public safety.
- If a dog owner is found guilty of an offence under DOLA, a court could issue a control order, fine or a destruction order for the dog.
- You can read DOLA here.
- 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:
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/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.
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.
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.
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.