SSL = Shape Specific Legislation
We have been referring to it as BSL for quite some time which is Breed Specific Legislation but since it is vastly cross bred dogs that are targeted by these types of laws it is better described as "shape" specific as opposed to "breed" specific.
The word "pitbull", "pittie", "pit" any generic term other than American Pit Bull Terrier, which is the correct term for the pure bred breed, is a slang term. It is a term that was originally derived from shortening the longer version of the purebred name, but somehow was assigned to short haired/block head type looking dogs. Somewhere along the track of propaganda and urban legend the term became a label placed on either any dog that bit, showed aggression, or simply made the main stream media or for a large number of people to assign a label to a cross bred dog. You see the term being used a lot in shelters and rescues as a labeling system, as well as many dog owners use the term as a term of endearment or slang.
A cross bred dog cannot be identified by breed definitively. This is why reverse onus is used in law so the onus is on the owner to prove the dog is not a "pitbull". This is impossible since you cannot prove a negative. It is a loose loose situation for the dog owner and essentially it is a law that the owner is guilty until proven innocent.
This leaves us with purebred breeds being thrown in for reference, if you will. The only people truly protected under laws such as this are those who own the named purebred breeds. You definitely know you own a banned dog and can take measures to try to protect yourself. There are still holes of danger such as menacing which is open to interpretation which leaves an owner vulnerable. The purebreds in Ontario are extremely rare. There are less than 30 American Staffordshire Terriers in the whole province. All three breeds combined there are less than 1000 dogs in the province!
This leads me to another point that the dogs falling in the "pitbull" or SS substantially similar category which is how the law reads;
“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”)
Dogs in this category are highly unlikely to have any genetic relation to any of the named purebreds! With less than 1000 in the province, it is highly probable or likely that those who have purchased pedigree dogs are out breeding them with dogs of other breeds or rather chances of this happening accidentally is mathematically improbable. This leaves a strong assumption that since it is claimed that "pitbulls" are plentiful, they are highly likely to be derived from breeds that are popular. Labrador Retrievers are among the top of the list in popularity. Boxers are number 8 in Canada. (I always use Canadian numbers since this information pertains to Canada). There are hundreds of purebred breeds that "resemble" in shape/coat type/size range that could be snared into this classification. Basically, no dog is safe but people are lulled into thinking their dog is safe because they think that "pitbull" is a breed and they actually can be identified definitely!
A myth I hear quite frequently;
Shelters and rescues are full of "pitbulls"... they are one of the most abused breeds and nobody wants to adopt them...This is utter horse puckey!
How can the shelters/rescues be full of "pitbulls" when they don't exist? Why are they labeled as such by those, many of who supposedly oppose dog bans? Why are dogs labeled by breed at all? Why can't dogs be labeled by which dog fits the appropriate home based on behavior/temperament/size/grooming requirements etc?
I see all the time dogs labeled as "Staff" mix? or "Staffy" or "Staffordshire" mix. What in hell is that? If it is short for American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, I beg to differ. I see this very frequently, in fact I bet you can do a quick search of any shelter/rescue site right now and find at least one dog labeled as such. Again, based on sheer numbers this is highly unlikely. Don't get me wrong. This is not a statement of an elitist. I am far from an elitist! What I wonder is why on earth you would label a dog as something you think may have a hard time finding a home simply because of the propaganda campaign and urban legends surrounding that label? If someone is told the dog is a cross bred dog of unknown lineage. Has short hair, medium size, great temperament, great with people, kids and cats... don't you think you may have a better chance at adopting the dog?
Dogs are dogs period. Make my day and prove otherwise! They are more alike as a species than different by breed. When you are talking breed, purebred dogs that are bred specifically for purposes may or may not carry traits into a cross breeding situation. Not all purebred dogs host the traits they were bred for in the first place ie. not all Labradors are retriever, and behavior (ie aggression) cannot be bred into a dog. Genetics are a crap shoot..
You simply cannot say a "pitbull" is a cross bred dog and dogs are dogs then turn around and make statements that "pitbulls" are harder to place, (which insinuates to those who don't know any better that they are dangerous or different, which is a common myth). For the record there is no proof that they are "more mistreated" than any other breed cause they aren't a breed. There is a certain percentage of animals that are mistreated but the classification is not by breed. It is classified by the idiot who is doing the mistreating and what their dog looks like. There are not any more idiots (per capita) attracted to short haired, cross bred dogs than any other breed. I think the ratio is the same for any breed. Obviously the more popular breeds or mutts will show up simply because they are popular.
Dogs should be classified by temperament, training level, size, grooming requirement then matched to an appropriate home regardless of how he "looks". To do anything less is a form of discrimination that is no better than those who legislate discriminatory laws!
Another myth I hear frequently is;
Pet overpopulation in Canada contributes to so many dogs being killed and shelters/pounds/rescues being so full.More horse puckey!
I think the compliance for spay/neuter is at an all time high. Many people call for mandatory spay/neutering. This is an animal rights mantra such as the killing machines of PETA and HSUS. Mandatory s/n is a great way for them to achieve their ultimate goal of extinction of the pet. I won't go into this topic at length but there is plenty of information demonstrating the true intention of animal rights groups. They are powerful lobby groups that also back breed banning which is also another way of eliminating pets.
Making anything mandatory is a very slippery slope and not a train of thought I support in any way. I think education is the key.
If any municipality is looking to strengthen its animal-related bylaws and regulations, the City of Calgary have the model to emulate.
Bill Bruce is Calgary's director of animal and bylaw services and the municipality's chief bylaw enforcement officer.
What he and Calgary have done to address issues such as incidents of dog bites, dog licensing compliance and the enforcement of animal-related bylaws has become so renowned that Bruce has been invited to give presentations on their success to virtually very major municipality in Canada. To put it in perspective, Calgary's dog population is estimated to be about 110,000 animals. About 101,000 - or nearly 92 per cent of them - are licensed.
Anyone failing to license their dog could face a fine of $250. The same fine amount would be levied to anyone charged with not cleaning up after their dogs in public areas, which are regularly patrolled by enforcement officials in Calgary.
In terms of incidents of dog bites, there were 145 cases in 2008 and there have been 80 incidents this year. Most cities the size of Calgary, which has a population of 1.2 million people, deal with thousands of dog bite incidents each year, according to Bruce. If Bruce has to get a court order to have a troublesome or ill dog destroyed, that dog's owner pays the fee associated with having the animal put down.
If a dog has been declared vicious and bites again, its owner can face serious fines.
Bruce said the program in Calgary is a multi-step program, which emphasizes holding the owner accountable.
"We have built an entire program that is not an animal control program - it's a responsible pet ownership program. It starts from the first time we see trouble with a dog, It's a process of education and enforcement to create change to get the dog owner to take responsibility."
Calgary's responsible pet ownership program is a $5-million-a-year operation funded entirely from revenue generated from licensing of animals and penalties levied for violations. Licensing accounts for about 90 per cent of the revenue.
It costs $31 to license a spayed or neutered dog for a year in Calgary. Licensing an intact animal costs $52. An animal can be licensed 24 hours a day, seven days a week over the phone or on the city's website. Licences may be purchased at city hall or the animal control office and the bill can be paid at a banking institution.
Licensing a dog also means the animal will be returned to the owner without question the first time it gets lost or loose. The animal control office inserts a microchip containing a wide range of information about the animal in every pet it adopts out. Inserting a microchiping is not mandatory when licensing an animal in Calgary but pet owners are encouraged to do so.
In addition to licensing and effective enforcement, Calgary also has a range of public education programs which include teaching bite prevention to children in case they encounter a potentially dangerous dog.
In a nutshell, the responsible pet owner program in Calgary is based on four principles, including: licensing and permanently identifying the pet, spaying or neutering the pet unless the owner is a certified breeder or working with one, properly socializing and taking care of the animal's health and finally, not allowing the pet to become a nuisance or threat to the community.
We don't need a lot of complicated laws or take measures like banning breeds. We don't limit how many animals you can have. We just hold you to those four principles.
I commend those who do rescue/sheltering and pound keeping. I do think when you are involved in rescue and pound/sheltering, sometimes when you see the worst of the worst, it becomes easier to begin to think it is commonplace that pets are being abused, mistreated, neglected etc. There is no Canadian statistical information to represent there is a disproportionate number of cases of neglect or abuse in Canada. What we do know is that nearly 1/2 of all homes in Canada own at least one or more dogs. Municipal licensing is one way of collecting data but licensing compliance and enforcement in all Canadian cities, towns and municipalities sits at between 10 to 20%. In other words, they have no idea who owns what or where.
Dog fighting is horrific but not common place in our society. I am not saying it doesn't happen but there is an element of our society that engages in illegal activity. Dog fighting is illegal and should be dealt with by the police.
The shelters have a substantial number of dogs; mostly larger, adolescent male dogs, at any given time that are very difficult to place. Small dogs are traditionally easier to place.
There are certainly more than enough homes, it is a question of whether the dog fits the home. Supply/demand if you will.
The market of purposely bred cross breds ie. labradoodle, puggle, etc has exploded. People are buying them up like crazy and paying substantially higher prices than for well bred purebred dogs with health/temperament testing! If homes weren't available the market would not withstand the amount of breeding happening.
There is a portion of the population that acquire a dog, neglect to train them and ultimately they end up in a shelter/rescue or pound. Some people see dogs as disposable, life changes and they drop the dog since it does not fit into the lifestyle any longer. There is a small portion of the population that abuse and are cruel to animals. The McGuinty Liberals screwed up the OSPCA Act in Ontario as well. That is a whole other blog post..
We cannot begin to address the problems surrounding pet ownership until common sense laws are in place and legislators stop trying to take the quick and dirty way out. The old saying goes, "Nothing worthwhile is ever easy"!
I solely blame the McGuinty Liberals for legislating this barbaric and draconian law in Ontario. There was a committee hearing prior to the law passing. There were 102 presentations from experts around the world. 86 of the presentations were against banning dogs but the Liberals comment was "they felt more sure than ever they were doing the right thing".
Municipalities across Canada must begin to implement common sense bylaws that are not discriminatory but target irresponsible owners of pets. Calgary has created the model and proven it works! The wheel does not need to be re-invented. The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw can be made to fit any size city or town, even rural municipality.
Enforcement is also a key issue. The story this week of the alleged german shepherd dog that attacked 3 people while unleashed outside a convenience store. The owner fled the scene with the dog. Was found later and no DOLA charges were laid! Yet countless other dog owners in the province are charged and have their dogs killed simply for owning a dog the government says doesn't "look" right!
What I know for sure is those who really get a message to stick, so to speak, are the ones who are consistent with correct information and stay on message and on the same page. We must work toward debunking this myth and BS and stick to the truth. As they say, the truth shall set you free...
It is impossible to educate the public that dogs are dogs when messages that
a.) "pitbulls" do exist other than as a slang term
b.) short haired mutts are different or more difficult to place
c.) that identifying the breeds of a mutt is definitely possibleThe only way to restore common sense is by;
-educating pet owners and non pet owners since they are affected by irresponsible owners
-implementing non discriminatory laws and bylaws. Equal and fair treatment under the law!
-encouraging people to be responsible through education and rewarding them for doing so
-getting communities onside through correct information and education
-enforcement of laws and placing the responsibility on the human not blaming the animal or when really insane the breed!If people train/contain/socialize their dogs, many problems in communities fall away.
For those of us who have adopted shelter/rescue dogs that are older and know the bond and payoff that happens when you do so, we must encourage others to want these dogs. We aren't going to achieve that by referring to them as "pits", "pitties", "bullies", "pitbulls" or any other label that is a term of endearment to us, but negative to those who do not know. They are dogs looking for a home that we and others will train/contain/socialize and love them forever... My advice to someone looking for a dog is figure out what qualities meet your families wants and needs. Do not judge by breed since you never know what breeds make up a cross bred dog. Cross a Whippet and a Jack Russell Terrier and you get what people may label as a McGuinty "pitbull". Cross a Visula and a Boxer and you will get what people may label as a McGuinty "pitbull".. There is no sense in judging by the cover. It is what's inside that counts! Dogs are dogs just like people are people.The former Ontario Attorney General, Michael Bryant said " If you own a pitbull you know you own a pitbull". By continuing to use the term "pitbull" to label dogs that are of unknown lineage and you certainly cannot tell by looking at them, it feeds the fuel that it is an identifiable breed! It is NOT.
It isn't about breed, never has been and never will be. It was always about looks. By anyone putting labels on dogs you are endangering their lives unnecessarily in this province. I have no problem with the term "pitbull" etc personally. I love dogs no matter what. It is being used in a negative light. Why not move away from the term and stop labeling dogs by breed at all.
Any dog is at risk of being labeled as a "pitbull" or substantially similar here in Ontario. We have had people here in Ontario with purebred Boxers, Sharpei's, any of the Mastiff's, Bull Terrier's Visula's, you name it.. they have been spit on, asked if their dog is a "pitbull", and some of them stopped by AC and charged for owning a prohibited dog!
Another huge problem here in Canada is the spew of US stats to make things look like "pitbulls" are running around killing children etc. In the US the purebreds of AST, SBT and APBT are much more common. The AST and APBT were among some of the most common breeds in the US where here in Canada the CKC litter registrations show the extreme opposite. There are only a handful of breeders up here. There were only 3 breeders here in Ontario for AST's when the ban was enacted. There are only an average of 3 litters a year in the whole country (of AST's).
My point is; why would a government set about banning 3 breeds of dogs that only less than 1000 dogs exist in the province? (and believe me they knew this information prior to passing the law!) They were not after the purebreds at all. In my opinion (and I'm not alone on this) they were never after dogs. They wanted a precedence to use reverse onus, warrantless entry, restrictions on mobility, etc to stand as law. They wanted to use it for other subjects and they have! Dog owners were thrown under the bus because in Canada, dog bites are not have have never been a common problem.
Fatalities happen approx one every 1 1/2 yrs in the country. There have been 2 fatalities in Ontario since the ban's enactment and neither were banned dogs! While people mire around in labeling/thinking it was the "thugs" who caused this (or irresponsible owners) etc the more the government wins! It is myth and BS.Educating people the real facts and letting the public know there are alternatives that work and actually do help protect public safety! A voting public do not like liars and crooks, nannies or being told what to do.
When we talk to people at shows like All About Pets Show and Woofstock etc, and we educate them about the actual law, how it works, how it's being enforced, the alternatives.. they are shocked and pissed off at the McGuinty Liberals! Makes my day! What I mean is; people need to know the nuts and bolts of breed bans. The real facts (debunking the BS and mantra) and learning the alternatives. That is something they can sink their teeth into!American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers are banned in Ontario plus any dog looking SS substantially similar. No person will ever convince me this is not vague! When a law is vague, there are people who have no clue they are targeted which puts them in danger and their dogs lives at stake. This is against our civil rights in this country. Canada is not a free country and this should bother every citizen in Canada.
We had major portions of the law struck as unconstitutional at the Ontario Superior Court level then the portions were re-instated when the government appealed. The Supreme Court of Canada turned us down to hear our case. That is different than loosing. You cannot loose when they refuse to hear your case. Only about 10% cases are accepted by SCC.
The court battle cost us 3/4 of a million dollars here in Ontario. We have worked our butts off and managed to raise a good portion of that by fundraising since 2004.. that is an ongoing feat since we still owe just under $100,000. The government has unlimited resources of OUR money to fight us in court. We have filed numerous Freedom of Information claims but have been denied by the McGuinty Liberals as to the cost to the government to fight us in court. The provincial government funds all DOLA individual cases. The government sends council to every case fought in court as an intervenor. We struggle selling t shirts and buttons and they dip into the provincial coffers to kill innocent dogs and rake (many of them responsible owners) over the coals and ruin lives..This is a sickening business (getting our civil rights back)... long and very painful! I personally have lost countless hours of my life that I will never get back in the last 6 1/2 years. I have lived this nightmare and will never back down. We must get this law repealed!