Out in the Open

Designers of Toronto condo lands apparently didn't plan for all the poo

Professional dog walker Gilleen Witkowski says urban communities need to better accommodate for pets.
Dogs interact while out for a walk at an off-leash dog area in Toronto’s Clarence Square Park. (Sam Colbert)

"I wouldn't sit in the grass unless you had a very thick blanket with you."

Professional dog walker Gilleen Witkowski says this as she strolls through Victoria Memorial Square Park in downtown Toronto. This patch of green space has become a de facto dog park in a condo-filled neighbourhood otherwise bereft of open spaces in which pets can pee and poop. 
Gilleen Witkowski is the owner of Walk My Dog Toronto. (Sam Colbert)

"I think people didn't really realize until the last five or ten years what was happening with the increase in dog population, and they're only getting more and more popular," Gilleen, who owns Walk My Dog Toronto, says of downtown's love of dogs. "So you have to take them into account. Otherwise, things get literally messy."

Dog waste has become a source of conflict in the crowded neighbourhood. "No dogs allowed" signs line the lawns of the buildings. "They don't want 50,000 dogs walking in and peeing here," Gilleen says.

Dog owners in the area complain of being harassed and threatened over dog waste. Some buildings have tried banning new pets, and a company launched in Toronto last year that would help building managers catch irresponsible pet owners by doing DNA testing on feces that isn't picked up.

"We've got to figure out greenspaces, parks, new technologies to deal with it," Gilleen says. 

"New developments that do go up, they have to plan extra green space and things like that. They can't just pop up a condo and then not add to the community infrastructure."

This story originally aired on December 1, 2017. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Unintended Consequences".