CANADA HAS flirted with the introduction of Breed Specific Legislation in the past, but has largely pulled back from its introduction, unlike its cross border neighbours in North America.
However, the province of Ontario is to introduce BSL with a ban on Pit Bull Terriers and ‘associated breeds’.
In grim echoes of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK and the Kampfehund laws in Germany, public outrage and media hysteria over a spate of vicious pit bull attacks this summer has prompted Ontario to say it will become the first province to ban the breed.
Attorney General Michael Bryant he announced that legislation would be introduced within a month, the first such provincial law in Canada. Mr Bryant spelled it out unequivocally: "We are banning pit bulls in Ontario."
If passed, the proposed legislation would allow current owners of Pit Bulls and dogs of the ‘type’ to keep their pets, but they will face "severe restrictions."
"They will be muzzled, they must be leashed and they must be neutered or spayed," Bryant said, the restrictions being an almost complete ‘lift’ of the discredited DDA.
If the legislation is passed there will be a transition period following which it will be illegal to breed, sell, buy, possess or import a pit bull in the province, he said.
In addition to the ban, the proposed law would double fines to $10,000 and allow jail sentences of up to six months for irresponsible owners of any breed of dog that is dangerous and bites, attacks or poses a threat to public safety.
The legislation also would make it easier for animal control officials and police to obtain a warrant to enter premises where a dangerous dog has been reported, Bryant said.
The controversial ban was met with applause from attack victims and condemnation from dog owners.
"I don't make excuses for bad dogs," said Natalie Kemeny with Advocates for the Underdog, a group that fighting the ban on the breed recently implemented in Windsor, Ontario.
"Every dog is a responsible and as friendly as it's owner makes it," she said. "An irresponsible dog is owned by an irresponsible owner."
Liz White, director of Animal Alliance, questioned how the ban and restrictions on the pit bull breed will be enforced, suggesting that a breed ban would simply not work.
"I think this is really just a bad piece of legislation," she said. "I think it could be fixed up by taking the pit bull ban out and just dealing with dangerous animals. To ban every single pit bull is not the way to go," she said.
In Winnipeg's experience, since the ban on the breed was put in place in 1990 attacks by pit bulls have dropped from 29 in 1989 to zero so far this year, said Tim Dack, the chief operating officers of the City of Winnipeg's animal services agency.
"It was getting out of hand," Dack said, noting that the ban wasn't meant to stop all attacks but to halt what was seen as a disproportionate number of serious attacks by pit bulls.
"It's worked well. It's done what it was supposed to do," he said.
Local officials, from police officers to animal control officers will enforce the ban. But New Democrat Peter Kormos says cash-strapped municipalities don't have the resources necessary to add policing pit bulls to their list of duties.
The matter of identification was fiercely debated and again, it looks like Bryant had simply copied his legislation piecemeal from the DDA, which was introduced in the UK in 1991 and amended into a slightly less severe form in 1997.
Liz White pointed out that it is extremely difficult to determine exactly what constitutes a pit bull, since it is a ‘cross breed’.
The onus of identification of a dog will be put on the owners who will have to prove it's not a pit bull, Bryant said, clearly indicating that, as with the DDA, the burden of proof will be reversed – and ‘guilty until proven innocent’ will be the way cases will proceed.
But the legislation will spell out clearly what breeds or cross breeds are considered to be a pit bull type, he said, adding that other jurisdictions have not had a problem identifying the dogs. Mr Bryant was obviously being economical with the truth, as identification of pit bull ‘types’ in the UK saw pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terriers seized, along with any muscular mongrel – and at least two Labrador crosses.
The province-wide ban on the breed follows months of informal meetings between Bryant and groups on either side of the pit bull debate.
Bryant declared that he had heard enough to be convinced the dogs are "ticking time bombs" and "inherently dangerous animals."
Bryant’s inflammatory language continued – rather like the then UK Home Secretary Kenneth Baker, when he referred to a number of serious attacks in the province prompted the debate on the breed, including one "that horrified Ontarians" when two pit bulls severely mauled a Toronto man.
The man was "practically eaten alive from the ankles up," Bryant said, and police fired more than a dozen bullets to put the dogs down. "These are dangerous animals - enough is enough," he said. "We cannot have these animals walking the streets, the fields or the family rooms of Ontario."
THE NEW DOG LAW DETAILS
The proposed legislation will amend the Dog Owners' Liability Act and will ban the pit bull breed.
After a specified time it will be illegal to own, breed or import pit bulls into the province.
Current dogs will be exempt, but their owners will face restrictions and the dogs will have to be muzzled and leashed in public and spayed or neutered.
Fines doubled to $10,000; possibility of jail time of up to six months for owners of any dangerous dog of any breed that bites, attacks or poses a threat to public safety.
LeeAnn O'Reilly, President of the Dog Legislation Council of Canada has already appealed for help to fight the proposed BSL via the Internet pressure group DogHolocaust, and is calling upon dog owners around the world to help Ontario dog owners to get sensible laws, not BSL with all its attendant problems.
*If you wish to donate to the Legal Defence Fund Please send your donations to: DLCC c/o Cathy Prothro, 351 Pleasant St. Dartmouth NS, B2Y3S4 CANADA
LeeAnn O’Reilly can be contacted via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DLCC and www.doglegislationcouncilcanada.org