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This is not an official statement of any sort from TAS (but it should be).

From Nicola Ware:

My reply to the National Post columnist who thinks police should not be called for 'Hot Dog' complaints (dogs left in hot vehicles). A police spokesperson suggested calling Animal Services, instead.

His column: Peter Kuitenbrouwer: The hot dog circus on Queen’s Quay


While I agree this case was somewhat of a "fiasco", and that police resources need to be allocated responsibly, there are a few things about which you may be unaware with respect to incidents like that involving Parker the dog.

Calling 311 to request Animal Services respond to a complaint of an animal confined to a vehicle would seem the reasonable and logical thing to do. However, much of the public is unaware of the degree to which TAS is limited when called with such complaints.

Officers with Toronto Animal Services have no legal authority to enter private property - including a vehicle - to either assess or remove an animal in distress.

Even if it's 38 degrees outside, and the animal has been confined for three hours, and is exhibiting signs of heat-related illness.

Even if multiple complaints are received, and media is on scene.

Even if both of the OSPCA agents assigned to Toronto are already attending to priority calls, or state a response time longer than the animal has to live (their assigned regions are extensive).

Even if police resources are strained, and they have other priority matters and emergencies to attend.

Even if one of the three (yes, just three thanks to cutbacks) TAS officers on duty within the city could get there in time, and didn't have to drive with the 'flow of traffic'.

Even if the vehicle's doors are unlocked.

Even if - following an assessment by an experienced officer - it's determined the animal will presently suffer irreparable brain damage or die if not extricated within minutes.

Even if it collapses before an officer's eyes.

Even if the animal is unresponsive or moribund.

Even if it dies.

Would this be more acceptable than calling the police? When no other agency, organization or service can intervene, who else is there to call?

911 dispatchers handle calls that deal with life and death situations. While human life takes precedence, I would like to think that when an animal's life is willfully endangered by a negligent owner, that police would respond appropriately. After all, under s.446 of the the Criminal Code which addresses animal cruelty, it is an offense to cause or permit distress.

Simply put, current legislation renders TAS powerless to deal with these situations. Consequently, when such incidents occur in Toronto, only the police have the ability to respond quickly, and - more importantly - have the authority to remove the animal from the vehicle. When minutes count, their timely response can be the difference between extricating a pet, or removing a body.


Nicola Ware
Toronto, ON

6 Comments to “Nicola Ware responds to National Post Opinionator's suggestion that police shouldn't have to rescue dogs dying in hot cars because they've got more important things to do”

  1. Anonymous says:

    YAY, Nicola!

  2. Selma says:

    'Peace officer' includes an animal control officer. I interpret this clause from Ontario's Dog Owners' Liability Act to cover the situation of a dog locked in a hot car.

    Exigent circumstances
    14. (1) Where the circumstances in clauses 13 (1) (a) and (b) exist and it would be impracticable to obtain a warrant because of exigent circumstances, a peace officer may exercise any of the powers of a peace officer described in section 13. 2005, c. 2, s. 1 (16).

  3. Nicola says:


    Peace officer status is, indeed, granted to Animal Control Officers under DOLA. It permits us to seize an animal in a public place if said animal has violated DOLA regulations, but not if the animal itself is endangered. In essence, if a TAS officer observed a person allowing his or her dog to attack another animal, that dog could be seized given its threat to the safety of other animals. However, if the owner of the victim animal refused to seek veterinary care for their dog, then the TAS officer is, again, powerless - that dog cannot be seized under DOLA. . DOLA is a public safety statute; it does not address
    the welfare of the animals themselves as does the OSPCA Act - which, of course, we have no authority to enforce.

  4. SA MVH says:

    Excellent, excellent, excellent!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    and this is why I don't read the National Post! Some columnists in Toronto newspapers just open their mouths and let their stomachs rumble. Hoping to convince their publishers/editors that they do indeed have readers if those of us they offend deign to respond. I applaud Nicola Ware and her excellent explanation of the limits to animal rescue In Toronto. Various politically connected officials have gutted the power of those services and societies we call upon to help animals in distress. So now the only resource we have is to call the police or take the rescue in to our own hands and risk facing the police another way!

  6. Selma says:

    Nicola, thanks for clarifying.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.