THE CONTROVERSIAL Bill to introduce Breed Specific Legislation to the Canadian state of Ontario gained its Second Reading in the Ontario Assembly, Toronto last week – but with a distinct lack of support on the Government’s side and with the caveat that it would be referred to Standing Committee for investigation and amendment before returning to the Assembly – if at all.
Bill 132 – snappily entitled ‘An Act to Amend the Dog Owners Liability Act to increase public safety in relation to dogs, including pit bulls, and to make related amendments to the Animals for Research Act’ returned to the Assembly for a five- minute division debate on Thursday December 9th. The Speaker of the House called those MPPs present to cast their votes.
As expected, the Bill passed its Second Reading with a vote of 53 for and 24 against.
Attorney General Michael Bryant, who drafted the Bill, moved that it be moved to a Standing committee. The ‘for’ vote was almost exclusively Liberal, the 24 ‘against’ vote almost exclusively Conservative and NDP. The Liberal administration has a clear majority in the Assembly, but it was very telling that half of the party’s MPPs were absent from the vote, a move which anti-BSL campaigners in Ontario put down to the MPPs’ very real fears that this could cost them their seats at the next election. Indeed, the Dog Legislation Council of Canada is urging dog owners to tell their MPPs that they see this is an erosion of their civil liberties and that if the politicians want their votes, they will oppose the introduction of BSL.
Cathy Prothro, President American Staffordshire Terrier Club of Canada and Treasurer of the DLCC told OUR DOGS on the day of the vote: " It was very interesting that half the liberals were not in the house! Yesterday they voted to defer the vote until today, then half did not show up! They did not want to be in the house when it was voted upon. Because the majority of their constituents were against the ban, being told to vote on the party line, the only way for them to avoid political suicide was to stay out of the house. That, to me, is the clearest indication of how they’re running scared and of how deeply unpopular they realise Bryant’s Bill is."
The Standing Committee will be seeking input from a wide range of organisations and individuals and the DLCC is already in consultation with anti-BSL campaigners and the Kennel Club in the UK to get experts to speak to the Committee – either in person or via Power Point conferencing facility – to explain the facts about BSL, based on the failure of the Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK.
The committee is expected to announce its schedule for meeting shortly and that hearings are most likely to commence early in the New Year.