How to keep downtown Toronto from going to the dogs - and their poop
Craig Kilander calls his Boston terriers, William and Henry, the "little princes" of Spire condominiums, taking his pampered dogs out for their regular pee and poop rituals three or four times a day.
Like other dog-owners in the condo communities springing up around Church and Adelaide, Kilander prefers the park at nearby St. James Cathedral, rather than the parkette that's part of his condo property.
"It's disgusting," says Kilander. "I only use it as a last resort."
The parkette is so contaminated from other dogs' urine, Kilander says, that his dogs have gotten sick when they've used the parkette as an emergency pit stop.
"It doesn't look healthy," Kilander says of the fuzzy, black fungus on the soil near a badly trampled area in the parkette. "You can smell the acidity because of the heavy concentration of urine. Not pleasant."
There's never been a census taken of dogs in Toronto. But an informal study based on dogs registered at a pet store near CityPlace suggests an average of at least seven dogs per floor at that condo complex.
That could mean as many as 280 dogs in the average 40-storey condo tower in Toronto.
That's a lot of poop.
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation used those numbers to calculate the volume. One dog produces about a third of a kilo of poop per day (more than 124 kilos per year). Multiply that by 280 dogs, and you've got almost 34,800 kilos — or 437 bathtubs full, or 1.4 dump trucks per year.
'People get very angry'
As the available green space gets more crowded, dogs are one of the leading sources of conflict between condo dwellers.
Mona El Khafif, an architecture professor at the University of Waterloo, says that conflict creates a perfect environment for research. She suggested it as a thesis project for grad student Sarah Gertler.
"It's cutting edge and very important," El Khafif said. "There is a very high conflict around this. People get very angry, especially those with children and those with dogs."
Most of those conflicts are about dog waste.
"Parents don't want their kid to play in an area that's a bathroom for dogs. There's crap everywhere," El Khafif said.
Call for action
El Khafif says the city needs new bylaws to force developers of condo towers to include dog relief stations, just as developers are required to provide parking for cars and bicycles.
She says better dog infrastructure also means a better environment for people.
For example, city sidewalks provide opportunities for linear gravel buffers where dogs can pee rather than peeing on grass.
And instead of banning dogs from the fountains in front of many condo projects, El Khafif wants developers to design fountains so dogs can drink or bathe. Some developers have already begun making room for amenities such as dog showers.
City-owned parking lots provide intriguing opportunities for dog runs, says El Khafif, if they could be turned into double-decker green spaces with a level for dogs.
But so far, the city has yet to do much about compelling condo developers to help solve the city's growing doggy-doo problem downtown.
It's on the "to-do list," said Gregg Lintern, the director of community planning for Toronto and East York.
"We'll likely develop guidelines, part of a green development standard — maybe a minimum size for a washing station and dog relief area, maybe a separate door."
Lintern says that effort will get underway "probably next year."
El Khafif says Toronto is uniquely positioned to lead on this issue.
"We have more condo construction than any other city in North America. And we can set a precedent," she said.
"People care about their dogs. This emotional connection to the dog and the city can be used to mobilize a lot of power."