Toronto woman mauled by 2 dogs says city report doesn’t go far enough to prevent attacks

By Faiza Amin and Meredith Bond

A motion has been passed in the Economic and Community Development Committee recommending several actions to help prevent dog attacks, but a woman who was the victim of a mauling last year said it doesn’t go far enough.

Currently, following a dog attack, Toronto Animal Services can issue a “dangerous dog order.” That means the dog must be muzzled and microchipped. It would be prohibited from off-leash dog parks and the owner must put the dog through socialization and obedience training as well as have a warning sign posted outside their home.

The report recommends that City Council take several actions, including publicly listing dangerous dog orders, standardizing dangerous dog signs, spending up to $500,000 on a public education campaign and requesting changes to provincial legislation that expediates dangerous dog hearings.

Out of the 300,000 dogs registered in the city, there are 2,000 dogs with dangerous dog orders, of which 400 are considered serious.

The report was ordered after Coun. Paula Fletcher wrote to the committee after the mauling of Cara van der Laan who was attacked by an off-leash dog that was already under a Dangerous Dog order.

In a deputation to the committee, Van der Laan said she was attacked by two dogs on the evening of July 30, 2023.

She was treated in hospital for serious injuries that required stitches to her head, neck, back and leg. Residents who live in the neighbourhood told CityNews at the time they heard dogs barking and a woman screaming around the time of the attack.

“I do think all of the things that have been put forward are good suggestions. I do not think they would have prevented that attack,” said Van der Laan, noting one of the dogs that attacked her had already been issued a dangerous dog order but feels it was never properly enforced.

“I want this to lead to further safety for the community. I want to know, more clarity on, when a dangerous dog has been designated, how are you ensuring compliance? How often is somebody ensuring compliance? How are you making sure that this type of thing doesn’t happen again? What is the responsibility of following up on the owner?” asked Van der Laan.

Fletcher said the main message of this report is they are going to crack down on dangerous dogs.

“I think the real onus is on the owner, and there isn’t enough pressure on the owner to live up to the requirements of the dangerous dog orders, and I think that’s what’s going to happen with this report,” said Fletcher.

University/Rosedale City Councillor Diane Saxe spoke with CityNews about a dog attack that she had witnessed on her driveway two years ago.

She said that this was a badly trained dog which was known for attacking other animals and people in her neighbourhood, and despite the city having this information and being alerted by residents about this, nothing was done until it was too late.

“Even when we know of a problem and even when the dog has killed, we don’t respond effectively,” said Saxe.

She said nothing has changed since then until this report, which will hopefully improve the system. “This is a problem. Dogs can be wonderful companions, but only if they’re trained and exercised properly,” said Saxe.

Personal injury lawyer Jasmine Daya agrees and argues the focus does not need to be on awareness. 

“I think the public is educated enough. I don’t think signs are going to be helpful in stopping dogs from attacking other individuals. I would rather see that money spent on enforcement officers,” said Daya.

The report is expected to go before city council on March 20 and Fletcher said they hope to see the impact of some of these changes by September.

With files from Erica Natividad

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