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Canadian City considers BSL

THE MAYOR of a Canadian City is considering the introduction of Breed Specific legislation following the death of a child due to a dog attack, writes Nick Mays.

Andy Wells of St. John's says he wants the City Council to consider whether some breeds of dogs should be banned from the city.

He questions whether dogs that are bred to be aggressive, such as Rottweilers and Pit Bulls, should be allowed.

Wells says he may raise the idea with city council following the death of a four-year-old boy who was mauled by Rottweilers outside his home in New Brunswick.

James Waddell, 4, was attacked and killed by three Rottweilers on the night of Saturday, March 1st.

Steve Waddell, Jim's uncle, said nobody knew how the little boy got out of the house or why the dogs attacked him.

He says the boy's father Ron, and another man who owned the dogs, went outside the front door and around the house to the basement where they were checking on an electrician.
They were only in the basement for a few minutes when they heard the dogs barking.

Mr Waddell said by the time they got up the stairs and into the yard, the boy was dead. A trail of blood indicated Jim had been dragged from the front of the house to the back.

After the attack the three Rottweilers involved in the attack, and another living in the house, were euthanased.

Mr Waddell said the owner of the dogs had been living at the house for several months, adding the dogs were well taken care of and usually kept in cages.

He said the dogs had never been aggressive before.

No charges have so far been laid in the case, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are waiting for autopsy results on the James and the dogs.

"We're looking at all the parametresor rationale as to why this would happen," says Sergeant Major Bob Gallop of the Hampton RCMP. "These animals have been around that home for sometime and there was never any indication of aggression before. So what we're doing now is we're trying to answer some questions as to why the animals would act in this fashion, to speak to some animal behaviourists to see if there is any reasoning for it or why it would happen."

Meanwhile, Mayor Wells said if it can be documented that certain breeds are more aggressive, then the city has a responsibility to look at whether the animals should be allowed.

The idea isn't winning support from the Newfoundland and Labrador Humane Society.
President Ernst Rollman says the mayor may have good intentions, but his idea won't work.

Aggressive

"If you get rid of Rottweilers or if you get rid of Pit Bulls, you're going to see a lot of aggressive German shepherds. You get rid of aggressive German shepherds, and perhaps you're going see a lot of aggressive Staffordshire Terriers [sic]," said Rollman.

"It's an endless cycle, and the idea of banning one breed is not going to stem this problem, it's not going to have much impact on it at all, except in a negative way."

Rollman added that the city should focus on dog owners who aren't properly caring for their pets or watching them closely, whilst the city needs to enforce its dog restraint laws and to develop better awareness programs for pet owners.

Dog breeder Christopher Nikolov agrees. He says every dog has the potential to be aggressive, so there's no point discriminating between breeds.

"That's why everyone is responsible, from the breeder to the professional, to the dog's owner," Nikolov told the local media. "Only education can make things clear, can make the relationship between the dogs and people healthy and safe."

Paul Sears, chair of the St John’s animal control committee, says research is being done to find out whether there have been problems in the city with breeds such as Rottweilers or pit bulls.

Sears says the council needs data to make any decision. "If it shows that we do have a problem, let's educate the public on what we can do about it. It will be the decision of council whether we want to ban a particular breed."

Anti-BSL campaigners around the world are watching developments in St John’s carefully, whilst leading anti-BSL group Domino is set to make the case against BSL and for ‘Punish the Deed, not the Breed’.

Concern

Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club commented: "We are aware of the situation in the City of St John's in Canada and of course this issue is causing us some concern. However, we have further noted that the Chairman of the Animal Control Committee has confirmed that research is being carried out to find out whether there have been problems in the city with particular breeds. Once scientific evidence has been received which proves there is a problem, then education of the public will take place and a ban considered.

"Whilst this decision may prove detrimental to dogs, at least the Canadian authorities are doing the responsible thing and firstly carrying out the necessary research to see if a problem exists and then looking to educate the public, rather than suffering from that classic 'knee jerk' reaction of proscribing against breeds, without any evidence to back up decisions!

"We will of course continue to monitor the situation in conjunction with the Domino members."