A 14-year-old boy was seriously injured after he was bitten by an off-leash dog at a west-end elementary school on Friday, Toronto police and a school board trustee say.
Police said they are investigating the attack, which happened outside Rawlinson Community School on May 12 at about 6 p.m. Neither the dog nor its owner have been located, police say.
The boy was taken to hospital, where he underwent surgery, according to Alexis Dawson, a Toronto District School Board trustee for Ward 9, Spadina-Fort York. Dawson, who has spoken to the family of the teen several times, said the boy’s younger siblings witnessed the attack.
Dawson said a number of students were on school property when then dog approached the group. There was no owner around, she said.
“The children are in shock,” she said.
“[The] dog jumped up and bit one of the students in the face, causing extensive damage. That student had to be rushed to Sick Kids for emergency reconstructive surgery and will need future surgeries as well. It’s quite serious.”
Dawson and parents at the school said many dog owners use the school yard to allow their dogs to run off leash. While dogs need space to run freely, if owners use a school yard as an off-leash dog park, it puts children and teens at risk, they said.
It’s not only after hours that dogs run off-leash in the school yard, Dawson said. She says they show up during school time as well.
It’s an issue she says isn’t limited to Rawlinson, but is rather citywide. Off-leash dogs in the school yard have become a growing problem, particularly since the pandemic with an increase in the dog population, she added.
“Our elected officials must think critically around providing infrastructure for dogs and dog owners. Dogs have a right to access our city amenities as well,” she said.
‘Dog owners should be responsible for their dogs’
Laura Quibell, a dog owner, said she feels terrible for the teen, saying no one wants their child to be injured.
“I think dog owners should be responsible for their dogs, and know that if they have some aggressions, they should keep them on a leash and keep them in check,” she said.
That said, there isn’t a lot of green space in the area, said Quibell.
“This is the closest green space we have in this area for our dog. We do let her come here and run around and burn off some energy, because it’s the city, people live in apartments and condos and you want your dog a free space to run. But at the same time, you need to take precaution because there are other people around.”
The city said in an email that Toronto Animal Services has not received any complaints about dog attacks at the school from 2022 until now.
For information on what to do after a dog bite or attack and how to report incidents to the city, the city said people should see its website.