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Candlelight vigil against BSL ‘a mixed success’

Lighting a candle against the darkness of Breed Specific Legislation

DOG OWNERS fighting Breed Specific Legislation in Ontario gathered in Toronto’s Queen’s Park on Sunday, August 27 for a candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of the Ontario Government’s Bill 132, which enacted draconian BSL measures for many breeds in the province.

The location was well chosen, as Queen's Park is the site of the Ontario Provincial Legislature where Bill 132 was hatched by Attorney General Michael Bryant of the Liberal regional government and passed by a majority of the assembly. Around 100 dog owners attended, many of them accompanied by their dogs – mainly bull breeds – all of which have to be muzzled in public, by law.

Officials from many anti-BSL groups, united under the ‘Banned Aid’ alliance spoke to the assembled throng, making rallying calls to oppose BSL and to vote the Liberal administration out of office during the forthcoming provincial elections, because of enacting an unjust law that undermined civil liberties.

However, the vigil was deemed to be ‘ a mixed success’ by the alliance, with turnout disappointingly low. However, success was not measured in terms of numbers, but by the public profile given to the event. Media coverage by the main Canadian news networks was deemed to be largely positive and much of the ‘pit bull hysteria’, which permeated the media when Bryant brought Bill 132 forward, was absent. As with the Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK, the media seemed to have grasped the fact that innocent family pets and responsible dog owners were being hurt by the legislation and that it had done nothing to curb attacks by dogs owned by irresponsible owners.

Steve Barker, a leading official for the Dog Legislation Council of Canada (DLCC) gives his thoughts on the evening and how the authorities, the media, and the general public will have perceived it:

‘Turnout was less than expected. I would attribute that to a number of factors, including summer time, thunderstorms all day (although we were fortunate to not be rained upon during the event), and a general lack of desire to attend with a muzzled dog. There also appears to be apathy among dog owners regarding this law, almost an acceptance of it.

The crowd that did attend was enthusiastic and supportive. Great people. Great dogs. It was nice to see a number of people attending with non-targeted breeds as well, showing that they really get what this law is about.

Some common themes threaded their way through all the speeches, such as the point that this is not about dogs. It's about the government being allowed to create laws that violate the constitutional rights of a small group of people (owners of dogs with a certain look). In fact, the constitutional rights of all dog owners are capable of being violated and abused by this law.

‘We are seeing more and more laws targeting and restricting all dog owners and breed-specific legislation is one piece of that. A perfect example is how, amid all the coverage and uproar about the ‘pit bull’ portion of Bill 132, people missed the fact that police may now go into any private residence, regardless of the breed of dog, in some cases without a warrant. They missed the fact that, no matter what breed or mixed breed they own, they may face $10,000 in fines and six months in jail if someone who doesn't like them or doesn't like their dog accuses their dog of having threatened a person, another dog, or a cat!

‘In order to continue this fight, we need people to talk with their friends and get more people to join the organisations that are fighting this. We need bodies and we need money. Without financial and physical support, we will not be able to continue.’

‘Breed-specific legislation is just one symptom of a larger problem - the desire to separate dogs from the public, from interactions with people, with other dogs, with children, and ultimately the desire to end dog ownership, particularly in the urban environment. This cannot be accepted or, not too long from now, nobody will be owning dogs, period.’

MyDogVotes website:

Dog Legislation Council of Canada (DLCC)