CNIB Requests Toronto Bylaw Amendment to Accommodate Guide Dogs (with Resolution)

3/30/2017

March 12, 2017, TORONTO – CNIB is asking the City of Toronto to amend and clarify the wording of a new by-law banning the use of "a choke collar, choke chain, pronged collar or any similar device at any time on a dog". It is standard practice for guide dog schools to use correction collars (such as Martingale, half-check and full-check collars) in the training of dogs used by people with sight loss so they can safely move around the community. The City has not made clear if any of the standard collars used for guide dogs fall under the new ban. As the by-law stands today, the vague language could put guide dog owners, using standard harnesses issued by guide dog schools across North America, in violation of the law.

"CNIB is in favour of banning anything that is harmful to animals and we appreciate the intent behind the by-law. We support a ban for pronged collars and any form of choking a dog. However, we need to ensure that people who rely on guide dogs for their safety and independence are not unfairly punished," said Diane Bergeron, Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement, CNIB.

"CNIB is urgently requesting three things. First, we want an interim measure that ensures guide dog users are not charged while this matter is being resolved. Second, we want the by-law amended to include new language precisely defining the type of collars that are banned. Third, if the ban applies to collars commonly used with guide dogs, then guide dogs should be added to the list of service animals who are exempt," said Ms. Bergeron. Currently the by-law exempts Toronto Police service animals.

The by-law potentially affects hundreds of guide dog users – Torontonians without sight who are guide dog users, as well as people from other parts of Canada and the world who visit Toronto with their guide dogs as their main source of safe navigation.
"We want to ensure that people with sight loss are not treated as law breakers," said Ms. Bergeron. "We have already heard from a community member who has advised us he will not attend a CNIB meeting in Toronto because his unwilling to risk being charged under the by-law."

CNIB was not consulted by the City, and learned of the new bylaw from concerned members of the community. "CNIB and other organizations serving the blind community should be consulted on any future municipal legislation relating to dogs, so we can ensure the community is represented when decisions that affect us are being made," added Ms. Bergeron.


Update - March 23, 2017

In response to CNIB’s concern, we have been notified that the following review item has been recommended:

Councillor Jon Burnside, seconded by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, recommends that:

City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to review Chapter 349, Animals, consult with service animal stakeholders and report back, if necessary, to the June 14, 2017 Licensing and Standards Committee meeting with amendments as necessary to ensure that service dogs are able to use any and all collars as appropriate.

Summary

Recent changes to Chapter 349, Animals, have raised concerns amongst organizations that use choke or prong collars for training purposes for service dogs. Some of the concerns point to lack of consultation with the organizations that rely on these types of training. I believe further review on the by-law is required to ensure no undue burden is placed on those that rely on service dogs.

Update - March 28, 2017

In response to CNIB’s concern, here is a statement from Tracey Cook, the City of Toronto’s Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards Department confirmed by Councilor Jon Burnside:

"I would like to reiterate that the collar prohibition is about certain types of choke and prong collars, only. Martingale collars/half-check collars are permitted for use on all dogs. It was never an intention to hinder the use of necessary harnesses/collars in respect to service dogs. Please pass along my apologies for causing disruption/concern amongst those who rely on these service animals for their daily living.
 
Thank you for bringing this concern to my attention. As a result, I will ensure my staff will work with stakeholders and review the bylaw to ensure that guide dogs are permitted to use any other equipment needed to train and/or control service animals. Should bylaw amendments be required, I can undertake that this will be brought to the next meeting of the Licensing and Standards Committee.
 
In this regard, I can confirm that the City will not be undertaking any enforcement action on the prohibition of collars, as it relates to any recognized service animals."

Update - March 30, 2017

CNIB would like to commend Toronto city council for their decision to overturn the new collar ban, after acknowledging the concerns raised by service dog trainers and users.

Read more about this decision in the Toronto Star piece Toronto city council overturns ban on pronged dog collars, choke chains.

Update - April 7, 2017

"Council directed staff to undertake public consultation on the use of "prong, choke and slip" dog collars and to report back to the Licensing and Standards Committee. Council approved the repeal of a section of the Animals chapter of the Toronto Municipal Code that banned use of the collars. Information accompanying a motion before Council indicated that some organizations use dog collars in a humane and professional way in their training of service dogs, for example."


About CNIB

CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. To learn more, visit www.cnib.ca/en/ontario or call the toll-free CNIB Contact Centre at 1-800-563-2642


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For more information, please contact:
Shannon Simpson, Manager, Communications, CNIB
519 685-8420 ext. 5147
shannon.simpson@cnib.ca


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