"It will not improve the safety of the residents of Ontario,
and it will not reduce the number of dog bite incidents in this province.
It will, however, force the owners of friendly, happy dogs,
who have never bitten anyone,
to leash them and muzzle them without any reason whatsoever."
Lawyer Clayton Ruby, launching a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s ‘pit bull’ ban
TOP CANADIAN lawyer Clayton Ruby launched a formal legal Ontario's new ban on pit bulls on Monday August 29th – the day they came into effect – criticising the Ontario Liberal Government with a vengeance. Mr Ruby decried the legislation for being too broad and saying it will unduly punish owners of "friendly, happy dogs."
Mr. Ruby launched a constitutional challenge to the law alongside the young owner of a ‘pit bull’ cross dog in Toronto, saying the legislation requiring these dogs to be leashed and muzzle lists a number of breeds that are "substantially similar" to pit bulls. That will cause confusion among dog owners, he said.
"It will not improve the safety of the residents of Ontario, and it will not reduce the number of dog bite incidents in this province.
"It will, however, force the owners of friendly, happy dogs, who have never bitten anyone, to leash them and muzzle them without any reason whatsoever."
The law, which officially came into effect on August 29th, but also includes a 60-day grace period, places a ban on all pit bulls born after Nov. 27 2004 and those brought into the province. If such dogs are discovered, they can be confiscated and destroyed by municipal licensing officers.
The law also contains a ‘grandfather clause’ that will allow older dogs to live out their days, following restrictions including being leashed and muzzled and spayed or neutered by October 28 2005.
Mr. Ruby also said there is no evidence that ‘pit bulls’ are more vicious than other types of dogs."The government has chosen the cheap fix...let's just ban the pit bulls... forget the fact that no one can tell what's the pit bull that will cause problems."
The plaintiff in the case is anthropology graduate Catherine Cochrane, 22, who currently works as an ophthalmic technician who owns an 18-month old pit bull mix female dog named Chess. Mr Ruby is fighting the challenge ostensibly on behalf of the Banned Aid coalition of canine groups opposed to the laws, but using Ms Cochrane as a technical plaintiff, as she and her dog will be affected by the laws.
Ms. Cochrane said Chess is a well behaved dog and shouldn't have to be muzzled because it won't let her learn to be a well socialized dog around other animals.
Mr. Ruby said the second legal argument is that the legislation is "overbroad."
"Overbroad means that yes you capture what you're worried about but the definition is so broad it captures a large number of other things that are not part of the problem."
Mr. Ruby says it would be more expensive to follow what experts say needs to be done to stop dog bites, including setting up a dog and dog bite registry, providing dog bite prevention education, requiring owners to sterilize and train their dogs.
Opposition Conservative Leader John Tory said that the government was focused on "the quick PR hit" of getting legislation passed rather than focusing on the real issue, which is irresponsible dog owners and dangerous dogs in general, not just pit bulls.
"This government has focused on the quick PR hit, the quick PR spin of getting a piece of legislation passed and declaring victory and moving on, leaving in their wake a piece of legislation that may be unconstitutional," he said.
Mr. Tory added that he felt the Ontario Liberals were moving fairly quickly on pit bull legislation but were dragging their feet on improving citizens' safety in wake of a wave of recent gun violence.
"I was surprised and disappointed at the fact that...we haven't seen the same kind of urgency attached to the issue of violence and gun violence in particular."
The legislation requires owners of pit bulls who bite, attack or are deemed a threat to the public to face a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in jail.
A spokesman for Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant said Monday that Mr. Bryant "is more than confident that the law will withstand any legal challenge."
Secretary of the Dog legislation Council of Canada Cathy Prothero responded: "That sounds like false bravado to me. Our challenge will succeed, because we have truth and genuine evidence on our side."