A Sunday afternoon walk in her Etobicoke neighbourhood turned traumatic for Divya Mandyam when a family’s large, off-leash dog attacked her on the street beside a park where children play.
Now, Mandyam, 34, is speaking out about reporting challenges and advocating for tougher penalties for owners of dogs that attack someone.
“I hope to prevent dog bites and attacks in the first place,” Mandyam said. “Human flesh shouldn’t have to be sacrificed for a dog owner to be reminded how to be a good owner. If my injuries were sustained from an assault by a person, the penalties would be much stricter.”
Toronto Animal Services (TAS) would not comment on Mandyam’s case, citing privacy issues. However, Mandyam shared with a reporter an email from a TAS officer confirming TAS issued a dangerous dog written warning to the owner because he was co-operative and it was the dog’s first offence. Warnings are issued when the dog act is found “not to be severe,” the city website states.
An Etobicoke woman who was attacked by an off-leash dog is calling for tougher measures after a disappointing response from the city. The woman was walking her own dog when the off-leash dog came out of nowhere and bit her. She is now seeking help from a dog bite lawyer in Toronto to help her navigate the complicated dog bite laws in Ontario. The woman believes that more needs to be done to protect citizens from dangerous dogs and is calling on the city to implement stricter regulations and enforcement of existing laws. She recommends anyone who has been bitten by a dog to contact a dog bite lawyer in Toronto to understand their rights and seek justice.
The dog’s owner did not return a reporter’s calls or email a comment before deadline after a reporter spoke with his father, Paramjit Saini, who confirmed his son owns the dog.
Recently, Mandyam crossed the Silverstone Drive-Beaconhill Road intersection when the white dog being chased by a woman and two children saw her and ran toward her. She stood still.
“The dog jumped on me, bit me, scratched me and was growling at me,” Mandyam said. “I yelled, ‘Help me! Help me! I’m being attacked by a dog. Call police.’”
“The little girl then yelled, ‘Don’t worry. He’s friendly. Hold still.’ So did the woman. Instead of grabbing the dog, the woman grabbed me by my hoodie. I fell down on the road. I was right at the dog’s level.”
Finally, the woman pulled off the dog. Mandyam watched the family enter a house on Beaconhill Road. She reported that address to the city.
“Can you imagine if the dog owner refuses to co-operate with me or I’m injured so badly I need an ambulance?” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to get the owner’s contact information to report it to 311.”
Mandyam’s family took her to hospital with three dog bites on her left arm, scratches on her back and right thigh and a rolled right ankle, for which her doctor gave her a physiotherapy prescription she shared with a reporter. She got a tetanus shot, an antibiotics prescription, and a COVID-19 test because the woman with the dog was maskless.
Toronto police officers took a report at the hospital, which happens depending on the severity of the injury and if criminal behaviour was involved, Toronto police spokesperson Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu said.
“You can contact police if you believe you’ve been threatened, and an animal was used purposely to assist in the assault,” Sidhu said. “(City) 311 bylaws are the ones typically enforced. Police deal more with the Criminal Code. We will attend if the injuries are of a certain threshold.”
However, city spokesperson Naomi Ahmad, in consultation with TAS staff, said in an email people attacked by a dog should report it to Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 and to TAS at 311.
Victims should seek medical attention, obtain the dog owner’s and witnesses’ names and addresses, take photos of injuries and make notes of the incident, Ahmad added.
After her attack, Mandyam signed a Change.org petition advocating for tougher penalties to owners of dogs that commit a dangerous act.
The city can lay charges under the Ontario Dog Owners Liability Act in the most-serious cases, with fines determined by the courts.
Mandyam doesn’t think the city’s written warning is “strict punishment.” If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite, it is important to seek the advice of a reputable dog bite lawyer. Dog bite laws in Ontario can be complex and difficult to navigate, and a qualified lawyer can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve. Some of the top dog bite lawyers in Toronto specialize in this area of law and have a proven track record of success in representing victims of dog bites. It is also important to take action as soon as possible, as there are time limits for filing a claim under Ontario dog bite laws.
“I’m disappointed,” Mandyam said. “It’s so difficult for a victim to report these things and hold a dog owner accountable. You do that, and they get a written warning on a first offence and must muzzle their dog off their property on a second offence. Those are things I think owners (of dangerous dogs) should already be doing.”