Windsor dog owners speak out after increase in off-leash attacks

Windsor dog owners speak out after increase in off-leash attacks

WARNING: This article contains an image some readers may find graphic 

Dog owners in Windsor, Ont. are being urged to keep their canines on a leash and under control as the number of dog attacks in the city increases.

Forest Glade resident and dog owner Erica McKenzie said she was bitten by a German shepherd last week one day after her neighbour was also attacked by an off-leash dog in Forest Glade Optimist Park.

“I feel like it’s just a disaster waiting to happen,” said McKenzie, who said there’s been a steady rise in the number of unleashed dogs in the park.

“I grew up playing in this park. I walked all my dogs in this park. It’s the first time this has ever happened to me and it’s sort of the trauma of that makes me very, I was already on edge to begin with because of the number of dogs off-leash, but now I’m just, I don’t want to be in this park unless I absolutely have to,” she said.

McKenzie is worried there are many children who play in the park as the weather improves and said the trails are ideal for dog walkers in the neighbourhood.

“I’m worried that this could escalate,” she said. “It’s getting worse. I’m a dog lover. I’m not trying to target large dogs or anybody’s dog. It’s just…all I’m asking is please keep your dog on a leash.”

Others, like Forest Glade resident Gabriela Hutar said they’re terrified to take their small dogs for walks in the park out of concern of an attack or engaging with confrontational dog owners.

“Yes, it’s very scary here,” Hutar said.

Windsor dog owners speak out after increase in off-leash attacksInjuries sustained by Erica McKenzie show her recent dog bite injury sustained in Windsor, Ont. in February 2024. (Source: Erica McKenzie)Hutar recalled a situation where she and her four-year-old dog Charlie were recently accosted.

“There was a dog going after me. So I grabbed him [Charlie] and I screamed so hard. I think I scared the dog because he stopped like this and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I scared him more than he scared me,’” she told CTV News Windsor.

“I was really afraid,” she added.

Craig Robertson, the city’s manager of licensing and enforcement, said there have been 17 reports of dog bites or attacks to Windsor police so far this year, and noted there were 70 reported incidents in 2023.

“We’ve seen an increase in dog bites and attacks,” Robertson said. “The city does have a by-law, a dog control by-law that requires owners to leash their dog. The leash should be no more than three meters in length. That’s what’s considered control under the bylaw.”

Robertson explained, “Voice command is not control or special snacks for your dogs is not control. It must be leashed. The only time the dog can be unleashed is if it’s contained in your own yard or if it’s over at one of our city parks that has leash free zones out there.”

Windsor currently has six off-leash dog parks within city limits: Ford Test Track Dog Park at 3001 Seminole Dr., Optimist Memorial Dog Park at 1075 Ypres Blvd., Remington Booster Dog Park at 701 Edinborough St., Elizabeth Kishkon Dog Park at 1415 Banwell Rd., Oakwood Dog Park at 2401 Pulford St. and Malden Dog Park at 4200 Malden Rd.

A by-law sign posted in Windsor, Ont.’s Forest Glade Optimist Park is seen on March 5, 2024. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor) Robertson said penalties are hefty ranging from $650 to $5,000 but admitted enforcement can be difficult.

“When responding to complaints our bylaw officers do have some challenges in that they only have specific powers. So sometimes it can be a challenge with getting cooperation from a dog owner to obtain ID. So usually our role out there is to educate and just ensure that people are leashing their dogs properly,” he said.

He continued, “Most of our officers, we utilize our provincial legislation called the Dog Owners Liability Act. And what that does is it gives us special powers where we can order destruction of a dog based on the type of attack and bite. We can also impose sanctions on dog owners to pay restitution. We can put conditions on a dog, or that they never own a dog ever again, or put sanctions on the dog if it is going to remain in the municipality. So it’s pretty serious stuff if you’re not leashing your dog, so again just encouraging people to comply with a simple rule of putting a leash on your dog.”

Robertson added if people are confronted with a dog attack or bite situation to contact Windsor police. 

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