City of Toronto puts up sign limiting barking at dog park, removes it following public scrutiny

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City of Toronto posts sign at dog park limiting barking, removes it following scrutiny
WATCH ABOVE: A sign telling downtown Toronto residents to limit their dogs barking at a dog park has been taken down. Ahmar Khan reports – Mar 8, 2023

To bark or not bark? That was the predicament dog owners visiting St. Andrew’s Playground Dog Park were in at the popular dog destination on Wednesday.

A sign posted by the City of Toronto warned dog owners to “not allow your dogs to bark and disturb the neighbourhood,” and shocked those who frequent the spot.

“Living in a big city, there’s noises all around. The idea of not having dogs bark in a dog park is ridiculous,” said Nathan Long, who was visiting with his French bulldog R2-D2.

Long’s feelings were in line with those of many owners, including Lee-Tal Hatuka.

“I think this is lunacy. We’re at a dog park, so I think there being some form of barking or a little bit of commotion is highly likely. I don’t know why anyone would think this is a reasonable sign,” she said.

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The sign was posted to the double-latched and fenced-off dog park in late January, according to a City of Toronto spokesperson.

The sign read that “due to the closeness of area residents, do not allow your dogs to bark and disturb the neighbourhood. Excessive barking will not be tolerated. Please be a responsible dog owner and follow all posted off-leash area rules.”

The idea of not allowing dogs to bark or controlling dogs to limit them is confusing to Hatuka, who was confused at how the city expects owners to make their dogs be quiet.

“If my dog is barking, there is only so much I can do to help combat that. My dog is very well-trained, but he is still a dog,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Increase in dog poop reported around Toronto'
Increase in dog poop reported around Toronto

While Hatuka spoke with Global News, very few barks could be heard, but the dog owner pointed out that you could hear sounds from blocks away from different noisy ventures.

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“I hear garbage trucks, I hear traffic, I hear the odd siren from cop cars, from ambulances. We’re in the city, it’s expected,” she said.

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Long, who lives in the neighbourhood and visits the park daily with his dog, was shocked by the small, innocuous signs posted at both entrances of the dog park.

“What do you expect it’s a dog park? If you move into the neighbourhood, it’s easy to see: dog park here,” said Long.

In a statement to Global News on Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the city said the city needs to “balance the needs of a range of park users and local communities.”

“Signage was installed at this location to remind users of the off-leash area to be considerate of nearby residents. Although barking is expected at off-leash areas, excessive barking can be disruptive to neighbours.”

The concept of excessive barking makes no sense to Long, who noted that often dog owners are stopping by for 15 to 30 minutes, and there is no definition of excessive.

“This is a constant, but there’s always going to be cars honking, construction going. The idea of having a dog stop barking, it makes no sense,” he said.

But shortly after 1 p.m., the signs came down, as city workers used wire cutters to remove both signs.

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“Although the sign was placed at this location with the intention of helping users of the off-leash area and neighbouring residents coexist harmoniously, we recognize that the information did not meet the mark,” read a statement from the city.

“The City will be reviewing its sign approval process to ensure clear communication in future signs.”

Despite the change of heart, many are frustrated that this is where the city’s priorities were in the first place.

“It’s kind of funny considering everything else that is happening in the city. Toronto is the construction capital of North America, and why are we going after barking dogs instead of hammering hammers or squealing tires?” said Mike Witt, who has a miniature schnauzer.

Witt, who also lives in the neighbourhood added that downtown Toronto is busy and given its density, there’s going to be noise of this kind.

“Everybody is packed here in like sardines. It’s hard to live here without disturbing someone else,” he said.

Long, noted that if the issue continues to persist in the neighbourhood and if there are genuine concerns among residents and businesses, the city should facilitate dialogue rather than make sweeping decisions or proclamations.

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“Set up a forum where people discuss the idea of noise before implementing something definitely makes sense rather than people showing and realizing they can’t do that anymore. Some sort of information beforehand would’ve been nice,” he said.

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