A NUMBER of anti-BSL campaigners in Ontario have publicly decried the remarks made by Attorney General Michael Bryant in favour of Breed Specific Legislation and against pit bull ‘type’ dogs.
Campaigner Julie King’s letter was published in the Toronto Sun, one of the few anti-BSL newspapers in the Province, in which she slammed Bryant’s duplicity.
King said: "Kudos to the Sun for having the courage and common sense to see through the smoke-screen politics surrounding the province's proposed pit-bull ban (Sun Editorial, Feb. 3).
"I attended all four days of hearings on Bill 132 and for me the most powerful moment came when Donna Trempe, whose daughter was killed by a bullmastiff in Stouffville in 1989, implored the government to not ban one breed but rather to target all dangerous dogs and irresponsible owners. Mrs. Trempe testified that had dangerous-dog legislation been in place in 1989 her daughter, Courtney, could have been alive today.
A number of valid issues were raised at the hearings, but the most surprising information presented was this: ‘Pit bulls’ have never killed a child in this country, ‘pit bulls’ account for just 4% of Canadian dog- bite related fatalities (husky-type dogs account for 39%), and pit-bull-type dogs are involved in less than 5% of all serious dog bites in our country.
"The committee heard Calgary used an alternative approach that reduced its dog bites by 70% and is noted by animal services in Canada (including Toronto Animal Services) as a model of excellence. Calgary does not have a problem with its large population of pit-bull-type dogs because it makes owners accountable for their pets. What's more, the city's program is self-financing and does not place a tax burden on its citizens.
"Has this information fallen on deaf ears? At least one Liberal committee member seemed to realise that breed bans were an illogical solution, but this is a government bill and the power to pass it or amend it ultimately lies with the Attorney General. It would appear that Attorney General Michael Bryant, who now finds himself backed into a lose-lose corner, is willing to sacrifice victims and public safety in an attempt to maintain political credibility. Politicians like Bryant are a ‘breed apart.’"
King’s comments were backed up by fellow campaigner Dianne Singer, whose letter was published in a later issue of the Toronto Sun, saying:
"The committee hearings on Bill 132 were nothing more than optics. (‘Debate goes to the dogs,’ Feb. 4) The Liberal government has not presented the facts to support this proposed legislation. The four days of presentations contained enough facts to sink breed-specific legislation forever.
"If the government were intelligent. If the government were listening. If the government were willing to implement non-breed-specific, dangerous-dog legislation that contained clear definitions of behaviour and consequences. Now that would improve public safety. But the Liberal government is busily selling out its citizens for approval ratings that will disappear when they make their next idiotic move. Thank God we only have three more years with them, then we can turf them out."
On the Sunday before the hearings, the Toronto Sun carried a two-page article by journalist Sandy Naiman entitled ‘Banned On The Run’ which attacked Bryant’s BSL policy. Naiman backed up her case with facts, figures and quotes from experts in other countries where BSL has been shown to fail.
OUR DOGS was quoted in the article and praised for exposing Bryant’s skewed assertion that the UK’s RSPCA had advised him in favour of BSL, a fact that Naiman followed up in an interview with the RSPCA’s Chief Inspector Andy Foxcroft. The article states:
‘The Nov. 19 issue of Our Dogs, a major British weekly, featured a story headlined: "Filibuster Slows Down Ontario BSL... or: Mr. Tascona Goes to Toronto."
OUR DOGS covered the theatrics in the Ontario legislature on Nov. 4 when Bryant tried to pass Bill 132 on second reading.
He outlined all Bryant's arguments, quoting liberally from Hansard. Of particular interest was Bryant's statement that he had "met with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the United Kingdom ... and with their chief officer and inspector."
RSPCA chief inspector Andy Foxcroft told the Toronto Sun that although he has had some communication with Bryant's staff, he never met with him.
"They were asking our advice with respect to how a pit bull ban went over here and my response was that it didn't work particularly well," he said.
"I'm not in favour of BSL and I remember saying categorically that you need legislation to target the deed, not the breed.
"It's like targeting everybody who uses drugs, whether for medicinal reasons or not, and banning everybody who uses drugs, for whatever reason, good or bad," he said.
"It seems that the legislation that's going to be adopted in Canada is going to be pretty much the same and it's a shame. Enforcing BSL is a nightmare, very expensive, very time consuming: All very, very messy."’
OUR DOGS will report extracts from every day of the Select Committee hearings in subsequent issues.