A bite or dangerous act by your dog is stressful for any loving owner. Perhaps it was unexpected and out of character for your dog, or maybe you have been working with them on these issues for some time. Either way, it is critical to know what your next steps look like once your dog has been deemed a ‘dangerous dog’.

Under Toronto legislation, a first dog bite or dangerous act will result in a written warning. However, if there is a second act, or if this first act is considered as severe, your dog can be deemed a ‘dangerous dog’, and you will be forced to comply with a set of rules. You will need to purchase a dangerous dog sign to put up at your home; you will have to put your dog into training at your own expense; and your dog will have to wear a muzzle at all times when not on your property, amongst other rules[1]. While in many cases, these steps are for the good of public safety, you may believe that you and your dog do not deserve nor need these repercussions. Luckily, the Dangerous Dog Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) exists for cases like this. The role of the Tribunal is to either uphold or reverse dangerous dog decisions.

This Tribunal allows you to present your case on why you think your dog should not be deemed a ‘dangerous dog’. The tribunal considers a range of factors including but not limited to the severity of the bite or act and whether your dog was acting in self-defence[2]. The Executive Director (the issuer of the order) and the dog owner are both given chances to present their evidence, call witnesses, and answer and ask questions.

You can choose to represent yourself or bring in professional representation at a Tribunal hearing. Gartner & Associates can be of great help during these hearings. Not only will they help you navigate a stressful time for you and your pet, they have the legal experience to help you best state your case to the Tribunal and they can cross-examine the Executive Director and other witnesses brought forward during the hearing. Gartner & Associates focuses solely on mediation in all other matters. Mediation involves using a neutral third-party to resolve disputes, as Gartner & Associates want to help you stay away from costly court battles and believes that most matters can be solved efficiently and fairly this way. However, a Tribunal hearing will put you in a position where you need to advocate for yourself and your pet, and the professional help that Gartner & Associates can offer is very valuable.

All in all, the easiest way to prevent ending up at the Tribunal is to avoid the dangerous act in the first place. This is often easier said than done — dogs are animals and can sometimes behave unpredictably — but you are ultimately responsible for your dog’s behaviour. Preventative measures like professional training for you and your pet or proactively muzzling your dog can pay off in the end. Muzzles do not have to be a negative experience for you and your dog if you train your dog to accept the muzzle, and muzzles can put your mind at ease when your dog is in a new or stressful situation. However, if you think your dog will not be able to handle a particular situation (with or without a muzzle), it may be better to refrain from putting them in that position[3]. Long-term behavioural training is almost always the preferred solution to ensuring that you and your dog can be confident in familiar and new situations.

 

 

[1] City of Toronto, by-law no. 349-15, Dangerous dog requirements; order to comply (31 January 2019), s. A.

[2] City of Toronto, by-law no. 349-16, Appeal (31 January 2019), s. B.

[3] Stephanie Gibeault, “Dog Muzzles: When, Why, and How to Use Them”, American Kennel Club (23 September 2019), online: <www.akc.org> [https://perma.cc/SS96-X7UK]

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