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Ontario BSL bill published

SAS WIDELY expected, the Ontario Legislative Assembly passed the controversial breed specific Bill HB132 put forward by Attorney General Michael Bryant to ban ‘pit bull type’ dogs from the Province.

As reported previously, the Liberal government had convened a Select Committee of MPPs – with an in-built Liberal majority – to hear evidence form experts and interested parties on the subject of BSL. Despite a clear 97% of those giving evidence saying clearly that BSL was not workable and had not worked in other countries, the Attorney General proceeded with he bIll – as most campaigners had suspected he would anyway.

The Bill received its third reading in the Assembly two weeks ago, where it was passed by a comfortable Liberal majority of 61 votes in favour and only 25 against. Every Liberal MPP that had previously expressed reservations about the Bill to campaigners – which included their constituents – voted in favour of the Bill.

(12) with the addition of (9) more reverse onus; (14) with the addition of 19(1), (2) and (3). Does (1) look to you like it legislatively condones fraud, forgery, perjury, use of a fraudulent document against a citizen, and violation of a federal law (Canada Animal Pedigree Act)?

The Bill, entitled ‘Bill 132 2005; An Act to amend the Dog Owners' Liability Act to increase public safety in relation to dogs, including pit bulls, and to make related amendments to the Animals for Research Act’ contains many almost unbelievable clauses which have been seized upon by campaigners as clear evidence that the Attorney General has no idea how to define the ‘type’ of dog he is targeting, so the definition is so broad as to embrace any dog with four legs, a head and a tail.

Section 1 of the Act was amended [as submitted] by adding the following definitions:
"pit bull" includes,

(a) a pit bull terrier,
(b) a Staffordshire bull terrier,
(c) an American Staffordshire terrier,
(d) an American pit bull terrier,
(e) a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d); ("pit-bull")"pound" has the same meaning as in the Animals for Research Act; ("fourrière")

"regulation" means a regulation made under this Act. ("règlement")
(2.1) Section 1 of the Act is amended by adding the following subsection:

(2) In determining whether a dog is a pit bull within the meaning of this Act, a court may have regard to the breed standards established for Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers or American Pit Bull Terriers by the Canadian Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club or the American Dog Breeders Association.

So clearly the law enforcement agencies are to use pedigree breeds standards to define how closely a dog resembles a ‘pit bull’, much as was the case with the dangerous Dogs Act in the UK.

It will be remembered that many pedigree dogs fell victim to the law in this way, most notably Staffordshire Bull Terriers. So although the courts agreed that they were, indeed, pedigree SBTs, they were, in the eyes of the law, also ‘pit bulls’. Ontario is going down the same, slippery slope.

One of the worst clauses, as previously reported in OUR DOGS, is Clause 19, whereby apparent sanction is given to an individual, fraudulently claiming to be a vet, being allowed to give evidence in identifying a dog as a ‘pit bull’. The clause states:

Identification of pit bull

19. (1) A document purporting to be signed by a member of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario stating that a dog is a pit bull within the meaning of this Act is receivable in evidence in a prosecution for an offence under this Act as proof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the dog is a pit bull for the purposes of this Act, without proof of the signature and without proof that the signatory is a member of the College.

(2) No action or other proceeding may be instituted against a member of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario for providing, in good faith, a document described in subsection (1).

The Bill is clearly flawed, but of course, this is of no consequence to the Attorney General and the Liberal Government. They have chosen to go for the usual ‘quick fix’ of enacting BSL. Undoubtedly it will not work, as indeed it has not worked anywhere else in the world, except to ensnare innocent dogs merely on the basis of their resemblance to a perceived ‘type’ and criminalizing their owners.

The Bill must now progress through Parliament and will be the subject of a legal challenge by the Dog Legislation Council of Canada. Although Bill HB132 may not have been enacted yet, that day is perilously close. However, the introduction of BSL into Ontario seems, at this stage, to be a mere formality. And that is extremely bad news for dogs and their owners.