Ontario Dog Bite Victims Demand Stronger Government Laws Following Horrific Attacks
Separate Dog Attacks on Ontario Trails Reveal Gaps in Municipal Justice System
Frustrations Mount as Dangerous Dog Owners Evade Accountability Calls for Enhanced Coordination to Ensure Public Safety
Two women who fell victim to harrowing dog attacks on different trails in southern Ontario are raising concerns about the deficiencies in the current municipal laws, which have left them feeling that justice is out of reach.
Tamara Dufour and Leanne Schmidt endured separate yet eerily similar incidents involving menacing dogs.
Both women believe that these attacks, occurring almost a year apart, involve the same dogs and owner, who may have evaded authorities after the animals were labeled as “dangerous.”
Seeking Justice Amidst Challenges
Schmidt recounts the terrifying moment her son Kai was attacked by one of two German Shepherds on the rail trail between Paris and Glen Morris in May.
Frustratingly, this incident echoes a distressing experience endured by a Hamilton woman on an Ancaster trail, resulting in 30 stitches and a nine-hour trauma center visit.
Dufour, too, faced a lack of assistance from the dog’s owner during their June 23, 2022, encounter, leaving them to navigate a demanding investigation process to officially file a complaint with the city.
Through shared posts on social media, Dufour and Schmidt discovered a Hamilton-area man who was later reported and charged under the city’s Responsible Animal Ownership By-law 12-031. The dog owner received a “dangerous dog” designation, requiring the dog to be muzzled whenever outside its residence.
An Alarming Similarity and Lingering Concerns
Schmidt’s story takes another distressing turn as her son Kai fell victim to a similar attack while cycling on a Brant County trail.
Despite the elder man’s dogs biting Kai, they swiftly left the scene, leaving Schmidt to contact emergency services and notify her parents. Although Leanne and her husband Matthias rushed to the trail, Kai had already been taken to the emergency room.
Coincidentally, Dufour learned about Schmidt’s attack 11 months to the day after her own traumatic experience on the Chedoke Radial Trail. The victims connected on Facebook Messenger and discovered both incidents involved bites from the same dog.
Concerned about rabies, the Schmidts sought the dog’s vaccination record through local law enforcement, eventually receiving confirmation from a Hamilton Public Health inspector.
Inadequate Enforcement and Communication Challenges
The victims decided against pursuing legal action after realizing the accused dog owner lacked liability insurance or assets.
When contacted for details regarding the May 23 attack, Brant County authorities confirmed that an individual was charged under the County’s Animal Control By-law, with ongoing investigations pending further proceedings.
Hamilton’s animal service manager confirmed that the dog owner faced charges for failing to license the dog and allowing it to bite a person.
Both dogs were designated as “dangerous” and subjected to a mandatory 10-day confinement under the owner’s care. However, frustrations arise from the perceived inadequacy of controls and regulations when dogs are in public spaces.
Seeking Stronger Laws and Coordinated Efforts
Under Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act, individuals can face charges if their animals pose a danger to people or pets. Penalties include fines up to $10,000, imprisonment, and strict control mandates.
However, enforcement of animal control laws lies primarily within municipal jurisdictions, resulting in varying degrees of punishment across communities.
Advocate Ian Brisbin, who has been working pro-bono with Dufour, emphasizes the need for better coordination between provincial and municipal levels of government. He urges the establishment of robust processes to address breakdowns in communication and ensure accountability.
Lingering Trauma and Calls for Personal Safety Measures
The traumatic incidents have left lasting impacts on the victims. Dufour, plagued by panic attacks while on trails, now carries dog repellent spray during every trip.
The fear and uncertainty caused by potential animal attacks have become a new concern for cycle safety and trail users.
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