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Canadian BSL ~ Ontario
Lily’s life saved as city backs down on dog’s destruction

A CROSSBREED named Lily was saved from death thanks to the diligence of anti-BSL campaigners who fought a long campaign to prevent her destruction as a ‘pit bull’ under draconian Breed Specific Legislation enforced in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, writes Nick Mays.

Lily didn't bark. She didn't bite. She didn't terrorize the neighbourhood. She didn't growl... Her only ‘crime’ was to look like a breed of dog that has been vilified as ‘dangerous’ in Kitchener for the past nine years – thanks to political and media misrepresentation.

Lily had the bad luck of being born and sold by an irresponsible dog breeder in London, Ontario, who didn't provide Lily's original new owners with any contact information, or lineage information other than her mother is a Boxer and her father is a Labrador Retriever. Lily was duly sold to her new ‘adoptive parents’ and was taken to a veterinarian for her first round of vaccinations, as any responsible owner does. Her owners later stated that they licensed her, as per city by-laws and in London Ontario was classified as a puppy as ‘Retriever Mix’. However, it has since been found that her original owners lied about licensing her, which led to a great deal of trouble for Lily in the months to come.

After a few weeks of Lily settling into her home her new owners’ relationship was deteriorating. Lily was subjected to a lot of arguing and her life already being turned upside down at such a young age. Her owners duly split up and Lily was transferred place to place and then left to fend for herself on a farm in London. Still a puppy Lily, curious as all dogs are at that age, managed to sustain a bad injury to her hip by some of the other animals on the farm. The farm owner said she had to go.

At this point, Sandra and Jennifer Mitchell found out about Lily and her need for a place to stay. Already having a history of providing a loving home, Jennifer and Sandra, when finding out the only option for Lily was their home or the Humane Society, they couldn't refuse. Both Sandra and Jennifer have always given to and adopted from the Humane Society because, as they say, it breaks their hearts to see any animal locked up.

Lily came to them named ‘Lexy Hutchinson’ after her most recent owners, but they decided to rename her after actress Lily Tomlin, who they say she resembled.

Sandra takes up the story: "It didn't take long to fall in love with Lily. Who wouldn't fall in love with a dog that just wags because you came in the room whether you're grumpy or smiling? She has a keen sense of the emotions and she is always there with her head in your lap and a waggy tail the second you look upset. She had some behavioural issues of squinting and flinching every time you went to pet her like a dog does when somebody hits it in the face, and separation issues from being moved around so much already. Lily had to be socialized and loved. She wouldn't even lift her head to take a treat."

Sandra, a former Canadian Kennel Club licensed breeder for Bull Mastiffs and Labrador Retrievers, dealt with the behavioural issues and in about three weeks Lily was looking them in eye, wagging, and learning how to just be a happy dog.

On May 24th, 2005 it was Lily's first Birthday, and she was given her own dog food birthday cake, complete with candle, and new toys. Suddenly, there wads a knock at the door, but when Sandra opened the door, there was no one there. She walked round the side of the house to discover a Kitchener-Humane Society By-Law officer peering in through a window.

She was told that the Humane Society had received a call that there was a pitbull in the area". Under city BSL by-laws, pitbulls are illegal and likely to be seized and destroyed. The officer refused to tell Sandra who had reported Lily to the Society, stating that this as confidential information. The officer patted Lily, told Sandra what a pretty dog she was, told Lily to sit (which she did) and then suddenly announced "She's a pitbull".

Sandra asked how the officer could say in 30 seconds that Lily was a pitbull?" to which the by-law officer replied "Short snout, it's a dead giveaway". Sandra told the by-law officer that she has papers from vets that say that Lily was a Lab/Boxer cross. The by-law officer responded brusquely: "Vets lie. They'll put anything down you tell them to". She told the by-law officer she was told by the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society that all she had to do was show Lily’s veterinary examination papers if this ever happened. The By-law officer dismissed this saying that this was not proof.

Sandra didn't understand why now, all of the sudden she was being told about the pit bull ban that had been in effect since 1997, why her vet papers meant nothing, when she had already called the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society to find out and they said nothing about it.

The by-law officer took out her digital camera and made Sandra put Lily on a leash on her own property while the officer took pictures of Lily from an angle that was more than questionable. (To this day, these photographs have never been shown to Sandra and Jennifer). The by-law officer left, but on her way told Sandra "You will be issued a Prohibited Dog Designation you'll have 6 days to remove your dog from city limits or turn her over for euthanisation", leaving Sandra and Jennifer in a complete panic.

The next day, the same by-law officer came by the house waltzing through the back gate while Sandra and Lily were playing, smiling, patted Lily on the head, complimented Sandra on Lily's beautiful looks and how well behaved she was and then handed Sandra a Notice Of Prohibited Dog Designation. The by-law officer told her that she has the right to appeal this to the Dog Designation Appeal Committee and left. It turned out that, like with the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act, the burden of proof was reversed and it was down to Sandra and Jennifer to prove that Lily was not a pitbull!

Sandra and Jennifer contacted several dog help organisations via the Internet. The Advocates for the Underdog told them to read their letter to see if they could appeal, and then file an appeal at their City Clerk office. The group also promised to find a new home out of the county for Lily if her appeal should fail.

On May 27th, Sandra filed her appeal at the City Clerk's office for the City of Kitchener on their official appeal form for this sort of violation

Jennifer continues: "What the City of Kitchener didn't realize is that they just accused two people of violating a by-law that is one of the worst violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms they have ever seen, and these two people have the time to make sure the City has a fight on their hands. The city likes to pick on Joe Kitchener for this, the little guy who doesn't have the time with his kids and two jobs just to pay his taxes to also stick up for his dog. This time, the City accused two people who have fought hard for a lot of different things that have been unfair in this county... and have won! We weren’t going to take this lying down."

They were duly served with the ‘summons’ to appear before the committee Tuesday May 31st. They spent a long time with the court officials, showing evidence that they had amassed in less than a week since the notice was served, using information about Lily, including testimony from Dr. Karen Machin of Chicopee Hills Animal Clinic who confirming Lily's measurements, along with information from District Veterinary officers who had provided advice based on their years of education and experience. The Dog Legislation Council of Canada had also provided valuable veterinary and breed information.

The committee overturned the designation after 2 hours of the hearing and just a 20-minute deliberation. Lily was deemed not to a pit bull and was allowed to remain with Sandra and Jennifer.

Sandra adds: "We can’t thank everyone who helped us enough. Thanks to them, we found our focus, our outstanding lawyers, our way to getting revved up to figure out how to fight this, and kept our fire burning when we felt the smallest amount of despair. The world is a better place today because of our lawyers and these people who care about dogs and who oppose BSL. Now you can see what people accomplish when they ALL stick together. But for me, the saddest part is that we needed to have this many people involved to save our dog. All because of a sick, stupid law.

"Our next step is to kick BSL out for good! We're now moving forward to contesting the Kitchener by-law as written and we will keep moving until it is out of Kitchener and out of Ontario. We’d set up a website for Lily’s appeal, and it is now going to be turned into a training tool for other people who need to defend their dog against BSL."

l The Saving Lily website: http://www.savinglily.com/index.html