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Woman charged after dog attack left child seriously injured in Toronto

A 38-year-old woman from Toronto is facing charges after a dog attack at a Toronto waterfront playground left a child with life-altering injuries over the weekend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Police Service

TORONTO — A dog attack at a Toronto park that left a child with life-altering injuries had led to multiple charges against the owner, police said Monday, days after the city took steps to address concerns over dangerous dogs. 

Toronto police said a woman was with an off-leash dog inside the playground area at a waterfront park at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday when a man approached the area with his child. The dog charged toward the child, police said, biting and dragging the child to the ground. 

The woman and the father attempted to get the dog to release the child, police said, with the woman fleeing the area with the dog after the animal released the child. 

"The child was taken to hospital with serious, life-altering, but non-life threatening injuries," police said. 

Toronto police said a 38-year-old woman was arrested after they executed a search warrant on Sunday. She is charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, failing to prevent a dog from biting or attacking and allowing a dog to run at large, along with other charges.

Police said a dog was seized and handed over to Toronto Animal Services.

Local city councillor and deputy mayor Ausma Malik said the dog attack was horrifying. 

"I send all my care to the child and family impacted, and hope for the most complete recovery possible," Malik wrote in a statement. 

She said Toronto Animal Services is working closely with Toronto police and Toronto Public Health to investigate and take appropriate action.

"I am in touch with city staff and community members in the neighbourhood about what is needed and am working on urgent solutions," Malik said. 

"I’ve been working with communities across Spadina-Fort York on concerns about off-leash dogs, and that work will continue with seriousness."

Esther Attard, director of Toronto Animal Services, said the city identified an increase in dog attacks last year and reviewed procedures for dangerous dog cases with an eye to making improvements. 

Last week, city council approved several recommendations, including posting a public list of dangerous dogs that includes the dog owner’s postal code, ward number, the dog’s name, breed and colour, and the date of the dangerous act. 

Council also approved a recommendation on a standard dangerous dog warning sign that dog owners are required to post on their private property when dangerous dog orders are issued. 

"In our experience, most dog attacks could have been prevented if dogs are on leash. We strongly urge all dog owners to please keep their dogs on leashes when out in public," Attard wrote in a statement Monday. 

"We need all dog owners to step up and help prevent these horrific incidents by always leashing and keeping their dogs under control in public."

The City of Toronto said there are approximately 450 dogs in the city under an active Dangerous Dog Order, and of that staff estimate about 10 per cent are related to a very severe injury or mauling.

Last year, there were 2,726 service requests registered for potentially dangerous acts by dogs, up from 2,653 in 2022, the city said. 

The city's animals bylaw requires dogs to always be kept on a leash in public, except in designated off-leash areas in parks, and under their owner's control.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2024.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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