THE BLOG

Toronto's Animal Services By-Laws Are Broken

12/01/2015 12:14 EST | Updated 12/01/2016 05:12 EST
Germano Poli via Getty Images
A dog alone and abandoned behind a fence.

I'm sitting at my desk in my tiny home office on Queen Street West and an all too familiar and repetitive noise is bellowing through my open window.

The noise isn't what you'd expect; it's not sirens, construction or hipsters complaining about the lack of craft beers in Toronto, it's Buddy the rottweiler. Starved for attention and warmth, Buddy (given this name by the surrounding neighbours -- we're not sure of his real name) howls and barks for hours on end.

The closest neighbour and her husband feed him treats and pet him through the fence as he anxiously pushes his cold and wet nose against their hands, as if it's new to him. I've heard the stories of how sweet Buddy is, and how he's an amazing looking pure breed, but in 4.5 years of living here I've never seen him first hand. Buddy's owners don't proudly walk their gorgeous dog, and he never rushes to the door if you knock. The fact is the owners never answer the door. Either they're never there or they're tired of receiving neighbour complaints about Buddy. He's out there in that backyard, rain or shine, cold or hot and rarely goes inside. Buddy eventually tires himself out and falls asleep in his un-insulated doghouse around 10-11 p.m. and the neighbourhood calms down.

As a dog-loving human, I obviously began to show concern for Buddy. I chatted with the surrounding neighbours about their experiences and learned that nearly everyone in the area has made a noise complaint about the poor guy. But, as I learned, unless you start gathering evidence and take the owners to court on your own dime, the city won't do anything more than issue a complaint letter about the noise, over and over. So I decided to take it one step further. I jumped right to an animal abuse complaint and here's where it gets sad.

According to animal services, they've already made a visit to the home and their report shows the owners have complied to all City of Toronto regulations in regards to dog ownership. In the backyard, in which Buddy spends his entire life, he has "everything he needs." A doghouse, given it has no insulation or a door and has "access to the home" through a doggie door. The animal services rep I spoke to eluded to the fact that "if the dog doesn't choose to use the doggie door, there's nothing they can do" (however the fact that it's locked from the inside, or too big to fit, holds no merit).

The dog appears to be well fed and in no way unhealthy. However, Buddy is obviously lacking human contact, daily walks and most importantly love and attention. His owners ignore him each day and show zero concern for him or the neighbours. In their eyes, and with City approval, they're doing nothing wrong.

Tonight, like every night, he'll howl and bark himself to sleep with nothing more than a crappy, cold, store-bought doghouse and apparently, according to the City of Toronto, that's all he needs. I can't help but ask myself how this is okay and enough for a dog that will sadly and eventually be labeled a "local pest." He'll be known as that annoying dog on our street that barks all day and should be put down or taken away from his owners, and that's not his fault. My neighbours and I in no way endorse Buddy being put down, from what I hear from his immediate neighbours that have contact with him he's a sweet boy. But he's certainly not getting "everything he needs." Buddy needs attention, love, compassion, and a family.

The City of Toronto won't help Buddy or improve his quality of life, end of story.

There is an important lesson to be learned here and it's a short, easy one. If you can't give an animal a good life, don't get one. The next time you see that cute pug or French bulldog on the street and your inner parent screams " I LIKE, WANT A DOG SOOOO DAMN BAD" first ask yourself if your dog would have a life like Buddy's or a life filled with the attention and love a dog deserves.

To make a complaint or suggestion about the city's standards of animal abuse, contact your local MP or The City of Toronto's animal services department via 311.

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