WINDSOR, ONTARIO: A woman who rescued a crossbreed puppy from a snowbank has been given seven days to surrender her dog now that she has received notification that the city council has denied her bid for an exemption under the city’s breed specific bylaw which bans ‘pit bull’ dogs from the city, writes Nick Mays.
The city’s Licensing Commissioner Diane Sibley said that a previous notice ordering Stephanie Ascott to surrender her dog Taco had been held in abeyance pending the council's decision.
"But now that a decision has been made, a new notice will go out ordering the dog to be surrendered within seven days of the notice being received," said Sibley.
She said if the dog is not surrendered, the city would lay a charge and ask the courts to order that the dog be turned over and destroyed.
The City Council rejected an attempt last Monday to grant Taco an exemption from the city's new bylaw banning pit bulls.
Ascott, who believes Taco to be therapeutic and has helped her recover physically and mentally from having a portion of her leg amputated, said last week that she plans to take legal action against the city. She is being backed in her fight by the Dog Legislation Council of Canada and an advocacy group.
"I will definitely follow through and have already contacted a lawyer," said Ascott, who worked in the fundraising department at Windsor Regional Hospital before her operation but has yet to return to work. "It's not in my religious beliefs to kill anything -- it goes against my conscience."
Ascott also said she would consider finding a new home for Taco outside Windsor "if the alternative is his destruction," but would only do so if her legal challenge failed.
Ascott denied reports that she already has two other dogs in her home. She said that her son, who lives with her, has a pit bull that is registered with the city under the bylaw. And her husband, from whom she is now separated, owns a poodle.
Ascott found Taco on New Year's Eve after a city-imposed deadline for registering ‘pit bulls’ had passed. Pit bulls registered before that date have been allowed to remain under a ‘grandfather clause’ in the law. As with the Province of Ontario’s definition, ‘pit bull’ is a generic term for any bull breed type of dog, and the City’s Mayor, Eddie Francis has publicly stated that he considers ‘pit bulls’ to be dangerous and wants them banned.
Meanwhile, Diane Sibley said that the owners of two other ‘pit bulls’ who were also seeking exemptions would receive similar notices.
Sibley said Ascott and others could still appeal the City’s Licensing Commission decision to deny exemptions to General Division court where issues of fair hearing, sufficient notice and errors in law could be raised.
Coun. Alan Halberstadt said that the bylaw requiring $1 million in liability insurance has placed an undue burden on pit bull owners and caused many of them to surrender their dogs to the Windsor Essex County Humane Society.
Halberstadt said requiring owners to pen their dogs when they are on their owners' property also goes too far.
"I know it's too late for many owners and their dogs, but I think we need to reconsider the impact this has had," said Halberstadt. "There may be people who did pay for the insurance, and if we amend our bylaw, they won't have to do so in the future.
"It costs upwards of $700 for renters who don't have the option of having it covered by their homeowners' insurance," said Halberstadt, who introduced a motion at the City Council meeting last week to discuss the matter and amend the bylaw, as well as gain an exemption for Taco.
Before Halberstadt's motion to amend the bylaw could be debated, a majority of the council had to agree to reopen the discussion.
At the City Council meeting on the evening of Monday April 11th, a 5-5 council deadlock blocked Councillor Halberstadt’s motion that could have granted Taco an exemption.
The matter to allow Stephanie Ascott to speak and address the Council was the first order of business. The vote was 5 - 4 in favour of allowing Ascott to speak. However, Mayor Francis stepped in and cast his own vote against Ascott making the vote 5 - 5 creating a tie, which under Council regulations is considered a loss. Thanks to Mayor Eddie Francis, Stephanie was silenced.
The next matters on the table were the Notices of Reconsideration of By-law $245-2004 as proposed by Councillor Halberstadt. Again, the vote was 5 - 4 in favour of hearing the motion. And again, Mayor Francis stepped in and cast his vote against the motion creating a tie. The motion was defeated.
DLCC campaigner Diane Singer told OUR DOGS: "Once again, Mayor Eddie Francis has not allowed anyone to speak up against By-Law $245. I urge all dog owners to contact the Mayor's office. Ask him why he constantly ignores this issue. With Ontario’s own Bill 132 pending, why does he not follow the rest of the Province and just allow Bill 132 to deal with the banning of ‘pit bulls?’ Does he enjoy wasting Windsor's Tax dollars? Last time we emailed Mayor Francis, he had his email filtered. Please CALL him. Please contact him by MAIL. Also, EMAIL him. His contact information is below as provided by the City of Windsor website."
A spokesperson for Advocates for the Underdog issued a statement saying: "AFTU is absolutely sickened by this decision made by Windsor City Council, more particularly MAYOR EDDIE FRANCIS. All he had to do was let her speak and plead her case. Then a decision could have been made regarding Taco. How is a decision made if you do not know all the facts?
"Further, we find it disgusting that they would not allow an exemption for Taco. Council keeps repeating that they do not want to "open that door" and allow for exemptions. However, there have been exemptions already. One was made for a REGISTERED show dog. There is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Windsor that was exempted from the neuter portion of By-law 245-2004 so that his owner may still continue to show him. We have to ask the question: How is a SHOW DOG more important than the dog of a disabled woman? At present there are over 220 "grand-fathered" pit bull type dogs in the City of Windsor. What is one more?"
*If you wish to register support for Stephanie Ascott and Taco, please contact Mayor Eddie Francis direct as follows: Mayor’s Office, 350 City Hall Square West, P.O. Box 1607, Windsor, Ontario,Canada N9A6S1 Tel. (519) 255-6315 Fax. (519) 255-7796 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advocates for the Underdog may be contacted at: email@example.com