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Ontario dog owners march against BSL
Campaigners in Ontario march against Michael Bryant's BSL bill

THE PROVINCE of Ontario’s Government is wrong to pursue its bid to ban certain dog breeds, according to some 200 dog owners who protested on behalf of their dogs two weeks ago, writes Nick Mays.

While most left their dogs at home for their comfort and safety, dog owners young and old braved the wet weather to tell Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant that his proposed dog control laws - Bill 132 - which will ban the ownership of Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers hurts responsible dog owners and will not work. Although now under great political pressure, Bryant has thus far refused to acknowledge that BSL will not work.

The Bill, based largely on the UK’s discredited 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act was drafted in response to a vicious attack by a dog alleged to be a Pit Bull on a Toronto man last August. The bill has been criticised for giving sweeping search and seizure rights that contravene the Province’s Charter and force a ‘reverse onus’ burden of proof on dog owners to prove in court that their dog is not a pit bull. – just as in the DDA.

"I do not believe that Michael Bryant's bill is fair and just. It leaves too many open doors," said anti-BSL campaigner Jordy Jennings, who owns a Rottweiler and is a member of Canadian Dogs at Risk.

"How will you distinguish what breed of dog your dog is without having registered papers? You cannot blame dog bites on any one breed. Any breed has a tendency to bite once it's provoked."
Another dog owner, Gregory Barrett, said he feared the legislation will turn nuisance neighbour complaints into self-fulfilling prophecies because police who enter a home in response to a complaint could face a dog simply protecting its territory and family.

"That would give them the evidence they need to support the allegation and the dog could be euthanased before the end of the day."

Barrett, who marched from the Elgin St. courthouse to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park on Wellington St. with his two Kuvasz dogs, Triumph and Phantom, also fears this type of legislation could lead to the banning of all large dogs.

"There's not one person here who doesn't disagree that we need to address the problem, but not in this fashion," said Candice O'Connell, of the National Capital Coalition for People and Dogs, which organised the event.

"It won't work," she said. "We want to protect people from dog bites and we want to encourage public safety. We want to encourage responsible dog ownership."

The NCCPD is calling on legislators to "punish the deed, not the breed" by imposing stiffer fines on owners with biting dogs, tighter controls on breeders and with incentives for owners to spay or neuter.

Steve Barker, Ontario director of the Dog Legislation Council of Canada, said his group is prepared to draft more suitable legislation. Meanwhile, anti-BSL campaigners wait to see whether the Attorney General will accept their offer of help or continue to try to steamroller his Bill onto the statute books.