Toronto wants future condo towers to be more pet-friendly

From providing places for dogs to pee, to considering ventilation for cat litterboxes, the city is looking for the best ways to keep pets and their owners happy.

City planners bringing in consultants to come up with design guidelines for new buildings

City planners are looking at ways to make Toronto more pet-friendly. But while many owners would like more off-leash areas, the focus will likely be on improving condo designs. (John Rieti/CBC)

There are between four and eight pets on every Toronto highrise floor, city planners believe, and now they're looking for new ways to handle that.

The city is turning to consultants to come up with a set of design guidelines to make high-density areas better for pets, and will also be looking for advice from the public.

"We are a pet-friendly place — the question is how to we make it more so," James Parakh, a program manager for urban design at the city.

Parakh says the review will look at everything from how new towers are dealing with dog pee — yes, that's a serious issue — to ensuring there's enough space for animals to be walked outside.  

And it won't be just dogs, planner Ran Chen adds. One idea that's been floated is having condo ventilation hooked up to areas where cat owners keep litter boxes to cut down on smell.  

That may sound far-fetched, but Mona El Khafif, a professor of architecture with the University of Virginia, says it's definitely possible.

"They have ventilation for all kinds of things … For sure you could incorporate that," she said.

"You could also have, in the entrance area of a condo, a little room where you can wash your pets before you go upstairs to your condo — there are so many things."

City shouldn't miss a chance to rethink urban design, architect says

She says the city's right to rethink how buildings are dealing with animals, but her concern is that this is actually a "lost opportunity" to discuss how public spaces can be improved for everyone.

The city estimates four to eight pets live on every floor in most Toronto condos. (David Donnelly/CBC)

"This is a design question," she said, pointing out that more green areas are needed for a range of reasons, not just for dogs.

Parakh says it's premature to say what will be in the guidelines, but said the city will also be holding consultations with pet owners as well as those concerned about the presence of pets in buildings.

At a downtown dog park, many owners were quick to share their suggestions.

As a dog-walker and frequent dog-sitter, Aaron Anderson told CBC Toronto that finding a pet-friendly building near a park was his goal the last time he went looking for an apartment.

"It's a selling feature for me and a lot of people, I think," he said.

Some condos lack green bin to throw out waste

Anderson has also noticed some buildings starting to offer amenities, primarily to dog owners, like wash stations.

Samantha Driscoll says her small dog, Roxy, is happy in her condo, although sometimes it can be a challenge to find a place for her to pee. There are planters, she says, but many explicitly say "No dogs." Driscoll's other complaint is that the building lacks an outdoor green bin, where she could dispose of dog waste.

Despite the downside, Driscoll, who also walks her colleague's big Labrador, says the city does offer some good services.

"I think having these off-leash dog parks downtown is really helpful — especially for these bigger, more high-energy dogs," she said, watching several dogs chase one another around Clarence Square Dog Park, near Front Street and Spadina Avenue.

The city is set to choose a consultant for the project by this fall and hopes to have the design guidelines in place by next summer. 


John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.