Dogs deserve more from Toronto

The GTA should be willing to accommodate canine owners with more off-leash areas


My pooch, livin’ the dream in the big city

I like dogs. I have one. And, keep this between you and me, there has been more than one occasion when I’ve let the old girl off leash.

Especially after an ultimate Frisbee game at Sunnybrook Park when she plays around with the other dogs and mooches snacks from teammates. 

It happens.

In my neighbourhood, we have a Facebook chat group, and with increasing regularity someone posts about a dog and a leash. Mayhem ensues. Good for nothing dog owners should be arrested, publicly flogged and, gasp, licensed! 

Others say chill out. Everything is better with a dog. And pooch people pay taxes, too, gosh darn it.

I get the sentiment.

The parks are very crowded, and dogs get in the way, cause accidents, scare little kids, trip the elderly. All dogs are not created equal. Some dogs are just not as graceful, patient and loving as mine. Ahem.

maybe it’s beginning to become a problem, even as we honour our four-legged friends with fountains down at Berczy Park and have entire festivals dedicated to their betterment.

This month, we took to the streets to collect stories of heated encounters between the have-dogs and the have-nots and tried to piece together some idea of where it all went wrong or if it even did.

It’s a lot to take in. There are some seriously angry people out there. There are even dog parks that are notorious because of the number of fist fights that break out. We even heard one story of someone who was chased by a drunken dog owner looking to knock his canine-loving block off.

This just cannot stand. So, where do we begin?

First, there is a shortage of areas for dogs. For instance, the folks near Ramsden Park woke up one morning to find out their off-leash zone was going to be shut down. Seems a little harsh, if you and your pooch’s daily recreational routine has vanished overnight.

Thornhill has only one dog park and Richmond Hill is home to just two. The shortage contributes to dogs being off leash in non-designated areas.

In addition, perhaps we could relax some of the strict rules in areas that are, you know, empty. One confrontation of note involved a person who had his dog off leash at a school field. The only other people were 50 yards away. But there was still a problem.

If everyone simply exercised good judgment, there would never be an issue. But when has that ever happened?

There are over 200,000 dogs in Toronto and less than 60 off-leash parks. It’s time for solutions, not complaints.

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Ron Johnson is the editor of Post City Magazines. Follow him on Twitter @TheRonJohnson.

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