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Halifax vigil shows solidarity

THE CITY of Halifax, Nova Scotia, played host to another candlelight vigil by dozens of dog owners showing solidarity with their Toronto counterparts, protesting against breed specific laws being introduced into the province of Ontario by Attorney General Michael Bryant’s Bill 132.

Owner Sheila Maskell says the only way her two pit-bull crosses could hurt someone is by licking them too much.

"I’m so offended and so saddened that people have such tunnel vision," said the Portuguese Cove resident at Sunday night’s vigil in protest of Ontario’s legislation to ban pit bulls.

"I just feel so strongly that it’s not the dogs," she said at the Point Pleasant Park gathering. "I think it’s unfortunate that there’s a criminal element that’s attracted to the dogs because they’re powerful. It’s not the dogs; it’s the dog owner."

Implemented on Monday of this week, Ontario’s Bill 132 prevents people from acquiring a number of breeds of dogs classified as pit bulls, and requires those who already own them to neuter and muzzle their animals. Some are expecting the deaths of hundreds of pit bull type dogs that are in Ontario shelters.

"It’s just really sad because people shouldn’t be judged by their colour, their race, their sexuality," said Maskell. "A dog certainly shouldn’t be judged by its breed."

Several dozen dog owners and their pets attended Sunday night’s vigil in the park. Dogs of all breeds and sizes — including a number of the bull terrier breed or so-called ‘pit bulls’ — licked, nuzzled and pawed playfully at their peers. In place of candles, the dogs wore iridescent glow sticks as collars.

Adina MacRae, SPCA temperament evaluator, professional dog walker, trainer and owner of a pit -bull mix, also a leading light in the Banned Aid coalition of anti-BSL protestors said dog owners need to work hard to change public perception.

"If we don’t spread the word about these dogs, we’ll be threatened with the loss of our dogs down the road," said MacRae. "Share your knowledge and your love for these animals and let people know what they really are and what they mean to you."

Others at the event suggested creating a law that would protect dogs from irresponsible owners, or impose a screening process for dog owners.

Veterinarian Julie Weste said pit-bull attacks are a result of irresponsible owners who don’t use leashes, muzzles, respect their neighbours’ fears, or city bylaws.

"Most veterinarians do not mind putting uncontrolled, aggressive dogs to sleep," said Weste. "But our entire nation of veterinarians will not condone euthanising helpless, lovely dogs who were born with the wrong face. I will not run a death camp for a poor bureaucratic decision."