Walking our dog last weekend, we came upon a stray. He was a young, friendly and well-groomed dog, but with no collar, and we had never seen him in our neighbourhood before.

We leashed him and phoned the city’s animal control service (416-338-PAWS), the place that requires that we license dogs, apparently so they can be identified when lost. It was 8.30 p.m. and the answering service said it was closed.

We asked where the pound for strays was, but the voice said there was no such place and we would have to keep the dog overnight. That wasn’t an option for us. Was there anything else we could do?


No, the voice said, nothing.

Reluctantly (given what we have read recently about how it is run), we took the dog to the Toronto Humane Society shelter on River Street, and it happily took the dog in, awaiting an owner to call.

I phoned the city’s animal control division the next day. Manager Cathy Quinn confirmed that the city doesn’t deal with strays after 6.30 p.m. I asked what the city expects people to do and she says it’s been like this since amalgamation. I asked why the voice never mentioned the Humane Society as an option.

Quinn said that after 6.30 p.m. the phone is operated by an external company, “and it doesn’t respond to information very well. We have tried to work with them, and tell them how to respond, but it has not been satisfactory. They give out incorrect information. There’s a lot of staff turnover.” The city keeps hiring this company, she said, because “it puts in the lowest bid.”

So the city doesn’t provide a basic service where one can take strays, even those with dog tags, after 6.30 p.m., and it hires a company that gives out bad information. These are pretty simple matters to fix, but city hall doesn’t seem to care. Dogs, let alone city residents, deserve better.

Maybe a dog should run for mayor.

John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto; torontoletters@metronews.ca.

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