‘It's not the wisdom of the legislation that's at issue, it's the constitutionality.’
- Michael Doi, Ontario Government Lawyer
THE VICTIMS of attacks by alleged ‘pit bulls’ in Canada, including a two year-old child are proof an Ontario law banning them is in the public's interest, government lawyers argued last week, as they presented their evidence in Ontario’s Supreme Court.
With its 10-month-old breed-specific legislation under attack in the Toronto courtroom, the Ontario Liberal Government’s lawyers cited case after case to back its assertion that not only are pit bulls prone to biting; when they do the injuries they inflict are invariably severe.
''In many ways pit bulls are the automatic weapons of the dog world,'' said lawyer Michael Doi, responding to a constitutional challenge of the ban on the grounds that it targets one breed rather than aggressive dogs in general.
Doi cited the example of postwoman Darlene Wagner, whose right ear was jaggedly torn off when she was set upon by two pit bulls that crashed through a screen door in Chatham, Ont., in 2004.
''Imagine being a grandmother and trying to keep your four-year-old grandson on the left side of your body so he won't be traumatised by your disfigured ear,'' Doi said.
Such evidence is certainly far removed from the experience of 23-year-old Catherine Cochrane, in whose name the challenge against Ontario’s breed specific laws has been launched.
She fell in love with a happy-go-lucky Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross named Chess two years ago when she visited the home of a humane society volunteer who was sheltering the puppy. Since the Dog Owner's Liability Act was passed in 2005, Cochrane says she feels “criminalized” as she has had to muzzle, leash and sterilise Chess or be subject to fines and jail time.
The Canadian Kennel Club backs her fight against the law, which also bans the breeding, sale or gifting of pit bulls in Ontario.
''Breed-specific legislation includes dogs that are not now nor never will be dangerous and at the same time excludes dogs that are potentially dangerous,'' said Sonny Allinson, a CKC spokesman.
Clayton Ruby, the lawyer leading the challenge, pointed out that since 1983 only one pit bull has been involved in a fatal attack in Canada out of 23 deaths attributed to 55 dogs.
But Doi said the Ontario government wasn't going to wait for the body toll to rise before addressing a specific threat.
''To give effect to this argument would be to hold that the legislature is constitutionally incompetent to act to prevent the loss of human life,'' he said.
''In any event, the legislature is justifiably concerned not only with fatalities caused by pit bulls, but also with serious injuries.''
Another threat to public safety, Doi said, is the fact police officers have had to fire off ''multiple rounds'' to subdue charging pit bulls whose masters train them for personal protection.
Superior Court of Justice judge Thea Herman interrupted Doi’s tirade of horror stories to ask whether in such cases the problem was the dog or the owner.
''Are you solving the problem by banning pit bulls?'' she queried.
Doi replied in a statement which sums up the sheer stupidity of the Liberal Government’s law and BSL everywhere: ''It's not the wisdom of the legislation that's at issue, it's the constitutionality.''