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Ontario Select Committee hearings ‘a sham’

PROPOSED BREED specific legislation for the province of Ontario, Canada was recently put under the microscope by a Parliamentary Select Committee, but the hearings were denounced as "a sham" by leading anti-BSL campaigners after Attorney General Michael Bryant clearly stated his intention to enact BSL.

As reported previously by OUR DOGS, the planned legislation was drawn up by the Attorney General who whipped up media frenzy with his pronouncements about ‘pit bull’ dogs attacking people and how BSL had been proven to work effectively in other countries, including the UK and Canada.

The Committee, made up of MPPs from all parties, but with an in-built Liberal majority favouring the Government heard from many different experts over the course of the past two weeks in separate sessions, including a number of Britons. Andy Foxcroft and Mike Butcher of the RSPCA appeared by telephone link-up last week, speaking out against BSL and, in Foxcroft’s case, completely refuting Bryant’s assertion that he had consulted with the RSPCA who were in favour of BSL. Also giving evidence was Nick Mays, OUR DOGS’ Chief Reporter who has reported extensively on BSL over the years and has spoken at seminars on the subject.

Mays’ presentation consisted of the political background to BSL in several countries, along with media manipulation and examples of tragic cases where mongrels, crossbreeds and pedigree dogs such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Labradors and Boxers had been snared as pit bull ‘type’ dogs.

A large proportion of the evidence given by several of the experts related to the definition of ‘pit bull’, which in Bryant’s legislation referred to dogs of a particular type and build, which included Staffordshire Bull Terriers. In fact, SBTs have never been implicated in any serious dog attacks or biting incidents in Canada. The Committee soon found themselves on a steep learning curve about the definition of a dog’s ‘type’ and how BSL was fatally flawed, because banning a particular breed did nothing to prevent irresponsible dog ownership, which is where the laws should be directed, as enshrined in the slogan ‘Punish the Deed, Not the Breed’.

Eliminated

But incredibly, the four days of public left Attorney General Michael Bryant more convinced than ever that the breed is "inherently dangerous and should be eliminated", despite 99% of the expert testimony clearly stating that BSL would not work. Incredibly, Bryant even made his pronouncement to the media last Thursday, whilst Day 3 of the hearings was in progress – suggesting a predetermination to enact his infamous Bill 132.

"Testimony from victims was rivetting and inspiring,'" Bryant said after testifying before a legislative committee. "I don't want to have in Ontario one more victim at the hands and teeth of a pit bull." Observers might be forgiven for thinking that the Attorney General had been listening to a completely different set of testimonies.

Bryant used his appearance before the committee to dismiss arguments put forward by opponents of the proposed legislation, which would ban pit bulls but allow current owners to keep their dogs as long as they are spayed or neutered and muzzled in public.

He dismissed claims by the experts that the legislation banning only pit bulls would be ineffective in stopping dog attacks on people and other animals, saying nothing could be more effective than removing the breed.

"Less pit bull attacks means less people victimised by pit bulls. That is effective," Bryant said. "You over time eliminate the dog that is causing the blight, and over time you will eliminate the blight."
The Conservatives and New Democrats opposition parties both insist a breed-specific ban would not work, and would not address the problem of irresponsible dog owners.

The opposition parties united to call on Bryant to amend the legislation to address all dangerous dogs, not just pit bulls. However, their demands seem likely to fall on deaf ears.

The official Hansard transcripts of the first two days of the Select Committee hearings (January 24th and 27th) may be found at:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/hansard/committee_debates/38_parl/session1/legassembly/M009.htm

and:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/hansard/committee_debates/38_parl/session1/legassembly