dog poop toronto

Toronto neighbourhood plagued by poop as selfish dog owners give up on decency

As George Costanza once famously screamed: "You know, we're living in a society! We're supposed to act in a civilized way!"

That iconic outburst may have been inspired by someone cutting in line to use the payphone at a Chinese restaurant back in 1991, and it may only have happened on television, but the sentiment remains just as relevant today as it was 31 years ago (minus the involvement of payphones.)

Whether it's holding the door open for someone behind you, wiping down machines at the gym or offering your bus seat to an elderly person, we all abide by certain rules, many of them unwritten, to function as members of a society.

In Toronto, "don't leave piles of poop in public spaces" is a pretty important rule — one that dog owners are expected to follow, both as a matter of courtesy and per official city bylaws.

"Every owner of a dog shall immediately remove excrement left by the dog on property anywhere within the city other than the property of the owner," reads Chapter 349 of the Toronto Municipal Code.

Those who fail to do so and are caught face fines of up to $240, but few ever do get caught in the act by bylaw enforcement officers, who can't be everywhere at once.

It makes sense that people aren't eager to pick up warm feces with their hands, buffered only by a thin bag, and carry that stinky bag around until they find a green bin — but many dog owners in Toronto would never even think of leaving a mess behind.

Imagine how embarrassing it would be if someone happened to see (or worse, take photos) of your rude move and share them online?

For an increasing number of dog owners who seem to have totally given up on even trying to participate in society, this is no longer enough of a deterrent — and it's grossening up parts of our fair city.

"There is a growing number of complaints to our office," said Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak, who represents Ward 6 York Centre, to blogTO when asked about a reported uptick in dog excrement around Earl Bales Park.

"It is a growing problem as household pet ownership increases, our overall population increases (and subsequently more pet ownership), the increasingly vertical nature of the city (owners would have reduced backyard options for pets) and a lack of funding in city enforcement.”

Toronto photographer and tech professional Dan Levy is one of many locals who say that poop piles have been popping up more frequently in their neighbourhoods lately.

"To my eyes, it has been getting progressively worse in the city and in the parks/trails. Many dog owners in general seem to be getting more and more irresponsible with their pets letting them run rampant off leash through parks and nature areas," Levy told blogTO this week.

"Earl Bales Park which connects to the city owned Don Valley Golf Course is particularly bad for this, even though Earl Bales has a massive off leash dog area."

Pasternak, whose ward in which Levy recently shot a video containing a startling amount of dog poop, says that while the vast majority of pet owners are responsible, a small number are creating a big problem.

“There was a time when the city relied on duty of care among dog owners. But that approach is no longer working among a small minority. We see the problem in parks, in school yards, on the public right of way and on private front yards," said the councillor.

"We've had particularly brittle battles about dog use on school grounds to the point where one principal threatened to lock the playground off after school hours to everyone."

Levy and other residents of Clanton Park are hoping that the city can do something to help deter this behaviour, even if it's unconventional.

"Maybe we can encourage dog owners to pick up the poop through positive reinforcement. Like, we could have bylaw encouragement officers instead of enforcement. They would give gift cards, dog treats, or something small at random to dog owners who they see following the bylaws."

"No one thinks they'll get caught by enforcement, but we all like to think we'll get lucky and 'win' the award if we get noticed," he continued, expressing support for the idea of using DNA testing to identify poop polluters, as some condo building managers have done.

Pasternak agrees that the problem is growing, but explained to blogTO that it's not an easy thing to fix.

"The city does not have anywhere near the resources to tackle this issue," he says. "While enforcement must be better funded, the most effective approach is public education, increased fines, and the availability of dog litter bags and disposal containers in our parks, off leash zones and trails."

A media representative for the City of Toronto says that municipal staff work "to balance the needs of park users and local communities, which includes providing space for dogs to relieve themselves and exercise off-leash."

The spokesperson says that there are more than 100 street litter bins across the city, as well as green bins in all 75 of Toronto's off-leash dog areas.

"To help reduce the amount of dog poop and organics ending up in the garbage or recycling, the City of Toronto has installed 320 green bins across the city," notes the spokesperson.

"In parks that do not have a green bin, residents are required to dispose of dog waste in garbage bins or take it home and place it in the green bin (organics)."

It would be lovely if everybody followed rules like this 100 per cent of the time and not only when they know someone can see them, but alas... people are the worst.

Lead photo by

Bruce Reeve

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