Scarborough councillors weigh in on off-leash dog hours proposal

A city committee will consider a proposal next week to implement off-leash dog hours in early mornings and late nights in select local parks.

In his proposal letter to the Parks and Environment Committee, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong suggests Toronto should follow the approach of New York. It allows owners to walk their dogs off leash from the time the park opens until 9 a.m., and then from 9 p.m. until park closure.

Minnan-Wong said dog bites have been significantly reduced since the introduction of off-leash hours in New York.

“The benefits of off-leash exercise for dogs are numerous and help contribute to well-rounded, socialized, and obedient dogs,” he wrote.

Six-month-old German Shepherd Lucky plays at Allan Gardens Park at Gerrard and Jarvis Street, one of the 54 off-leash areas in the city. A Toronto city councillor is asking the city to introduce off-leash hours in select local parks. (Sunnie Huang/Toronto Observer)

There are currently 54 off-leash areas spread out in Toronto parks, three of which are from Scarborough. Botany Hill Park, L’Amoreaux Park and Thomson Memorial Park all offer fenced areas for dogs to play freely and allow commercial dog walkers.

Also, fencing is underway at Warden Woods Park for a recently-approved off-leash area. Two more locations, at Confederation Park and Scarborough Heights Park, are currently under review.

Jason Chapman, constituent assistant to Coun. Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough-Southwest), said etiquette and city bylaws should be enforced regardless of the off-leash status.

“Our only worry is that residents would think that all of a sudden you can take your dog off leash and let them run and have no responsibility over them. That’s not the case,” Chapman said.

“You still have to have control over that dog.”

Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said the proposal reflects reality, where dog owners frequently disregard city bylaws to let their dogs loose, but off-leash hours should be implemented on a case-by-case basis.

“There does have to be a process where we would consult the public and look at each park individually,” he said, “I wouldn’t support a blank cheque.”

The city’s Parks and Environment Committee will consider the proposal on Nov. 9.