Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Barrie dog owner's ordeal

It is nearly a decade since the amendments to Ontario's Dog Owners Liability Act (DOLA) came into effect banning three rare breeds of dogs and any dog perceived as substantially similar to them. The Ontario Liberals, despite overwhelming evidence that breed bans are ineffective, implemented a draconian and discriminatory piece of legislation. This law was aimed at dog owners, based on the dog's appearance as opposed to the behaviour of their dog. All dog owners deserve equal treatment under the law regardless of their dog's appearance, and deserve to be judged by their actions - like everyone else. 

I have been involved with an organization called the Dog Legislation Council of Canada. We formed in 2003 and are nationwide. Part of our mandate is supporting dog owners that find themselves a target of bad laws. We share information, suggest lawyers and guide them through the process. We have helped hundreds of dog owners across Ontario and have had huge success helping with the process of reuniting dogs with their owners.
Recently a dog owner from Barrie found himself a target of the “pit bull” ban. He contacted us (DLCC) and together we reunited his dog Lewis with him and his daughter after a harrowing, week long ordeal.

Richard was putting out the garbage late one Friday night and his dog Lewis bolted through the door before he could grab him. Usually Lewis has a good recall but this night he kept going. Richard went out and searched the neighbourhood (including all the places he walks his dog) until 7:00 Saturday morning.

As soon as the OSPCA opened he called to see if they had picked up a white dog. The person at the OSPCA asked what type of dog he owned. He answered that his dog is a “pit bull” type dog. That started the wheels in motion that would begin a week long nightmare for Richard and his three-year old daughter.

Most dog owners in Ontario have no idea how this law affects them. Some people still don’t know about the amendments made to DOLA in 2005. I realize that ignorance is not a defence, however, the government did nothing to educate people about what the law actually contains. Roughly 10% of the dog population is purebred therefore 90% are mixed breed dogs. That means that 90% of dog owners really have no way of proving what type/breed mixture of dog they own. Sure you can guess visually but visual ID is very unreliable and it’s all fun and games until your dog’s life is on the line!

As a matter of fact even the people enforcing the law don’t understand it. Some cities/municipalities publicly admit they only enforce on a complaint basis (ie. Ottawa) while other jurisdictions actively enforce much like a witch hunt.

The OSPCA told Richard that if his dog was picked up by Animal Control it would not be easy to get his dog back. Richard then called Animal Services and was told that his dog resembled a “pit bull” and that Richard would need to prove that he was not a “pit bull” in order to get his dog back.

Section 19. of the law (which was struck in its entirety as violating the right to trial fairness at Ontario's  Superior Court of Justice but reinstated by the Court of Appeal) 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. 2005, c. 2, s. 1 (16).
(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). 2005, c. 2, s. 1 (16).
Onus of proof
(3)  For greater certainty, this section does not remove the onus on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. 2005, c. 2, s. 1 (16).

What this means is that a veterinarian’s document of visual breed mixture ID is the only admissible evidence of breed mixture ID in court. It also means that acceptance of that as evidence by the court is not open for debate.

The Animal Control person explained to Richard;
"If you can prove that Lewis is a mix it doesn’t mean you'll get him back. There's a difference even if you DNA test a dog that will make us decide the outcome. For instance, if Lewis comes back as say a “pitbull” boxer mix, there's a huge difference then if he comes back as a boxer “pitbull” mix. The first word “pitbull” is different than the first word boxer."

It is unfortunate that those enforcing the law do not understand that “pit bull” is NOT a breed and cannot be identified. Furthermore those who are in a role of enforcing DOLA are under NO obligation to identify ANY dog as a “pit bull”. Also and this is the most important point:

Once a dog is not one of the three named purebreds on the banned list, his perceived “breed” becomes irrelevant. It then is all about how he looks to an untrained person.

In an excerpt from Hansard during a debate at Queen’s Park:
MPP Peter Kormos made a statement regarding municipal participation during one of the many House debates over the legislation. This is an excerpt from Hansard:
"That provoked me to put questions to ministry staff about exactly what the Bill does: "Does the bill require municipalities to participate in this ill-conceived so-called pit bull ban?" "No; it merely enables them." Oh, I get it: "These are the tools in the toolbox."

The legislation also uses the word “may” which leaves enforcement optional to support the above statement.  Section 4. (1)

Many Animal Services, shelter and humane society workers across the province say that they do not agree with the law but must enforce because it is their job. This is official notice that this is not so therefore the law is a “tool in the toolbox”.

The week continued on to be frustrating, infuriating and very scary for Richard. The option of shipping Lewis out of province, through a rescue, was put on the table. Richard’s response to that option was “Lewis has a great home where he is loved and part of the family. Why ship him somewhere out of province to someone unknown?”

In desperation Richard contacted the newspaper, which in a roundabout way led him to finding some very much needed help. By getting his story in the media he was able to contact the “Pit bull” Co-op, another organization here in Ontario helping dog owners by networking and creating a safe environment for them to socialize themselves and their dogs. He was then referred to us (DLCC). He then sought some legal advice and also arranged for an impartial veterinarian to visually ID his dog.

The veterinarian said the dog resembled a Boxer cross. In her opinion Lewis was not substantially similar to any of the purebreds listed in the law. Lewis was at that point granted a ticket home to his family.

Those are the facts; in a nutshell version of what happened that week in Richard Grenier’s life. The human side of this story is what takes the toll. Yes he got his dog back but here’s the thing. This could happen to anyone. As much as some may sit in judgement and say, how could someone let their dog get out? It can and could happen to anyone.

Richard got Lewis as a puppy from someone selling puppies out of a box on the street in Ottawa. He felt sorry for the pups and wanted to give one of them a good home, plus he and his wife were expecting a baby and wanted to get a dog that would grow up with their child.

Richard says; “When I saw how upset, my daughter was that Lewis was gone it made me mad as hell that someone took her dog. I told her that Lewis ran away and I couldn't find him but I said I'd make sure I found him (even though I wasn’t sure I’d get him back). She cried and was so upset since Lewis has been her dog since she was born.”

“She had a hamster that died a few months back, so of course we had to tell her that it went to some farm in Florida to live blah blah blah. I wasn't going to tell her that about Lewis because I didn't want her growing up thinking that Florida is this awesome place she can go to visit all her pets that moved there. So I told her that Lewis was coming home and I promised her that because that's what I was going to make sure I did for her. I wasn't going to let her down.”

Consequently Richard was told by the OSPCA that they were surprised at how hard he fought to get Lewis back. They said that many owners just sign their dogs over. It is tragic that so many dog owners feel defeated or don’t have the resources or access to help or advice when they need it.

I blame the Ontario Liberals for this mess. There have been thousands of great dogs across this province just like Lewis that have been ripped away from their families and relocated or killed. They don’t all make the paper. Most do not. You will however hear about it every time a mutt dog is identified as a so called “pit bull” gets written up as “news”. The media very quickly caught on that the word “pit bull” is a great buzz word if you want to get “hits” on an article. Few ever bother to follow up or tell people the real story or facts behind the story.

Lewis is just a dog, a dog that went for a romp, but because of his appearance, not his behaviour, he was labeled and slated to be shipped out of the province or killed. Had he been a collie-type of dog he would have been home for his next meal.

Richard had a good analogy for how he felt this law targeted him;
“If I wear a ski mask in the winter does that mean the police can stop and handcuff me because I resemble a bank robber?  I can be arrested or detained until an expert walks in and says nope, that's not a bank robber. How vague is that?”

Here are some quick facts;

There is no evidence to support the belief that a dog is dangerous by breed or appearance nor is there any evidence that banning breeds is effective in the control of dangerous dogs or contributes to public safety at all.

"Pit bull" is slang and therefore meaningless.  It is now used as a legal term but is not used by dog fanciers.

There are effective laws that do not contain any unduly punitive measures at all. The Calgary model is a proven winner!

Attempting to label mongrel dogs by breed is irrational, useless and pointless.
Your dog is either a purebred dog (which means it MUST have registration papers with a recognized kennel club) or it's not.  Simple.  If the dog is not a purebred it is a mixed breed PERIOD.

The slang term "pit bull" is often applied to dogs that are not even remotely similar to each other, or any purebred dog.

If one MUST label dogs, it would be more productive to classify by;
Grooming requirements
Energy level
Training level

Every dog is an individual!

Calling your dog a "pit bull" and promoting him as such only strengthens BSL.  One of the major weaknesses of BSL in Ontario is the fact that the purebreds are as rare as Pharaoh Hounds (American Staffordshire Terrier is the third rarest breed in Canada) so the overwhelming majority of alleged “pit bulls” are mutts.

Nobody can prove the breed ancestry of a mixed breed dog – not by “DNA” or appearance.  The only proof of a dog's breed is a pedigree from an accredited kennel club.  In Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club is the only organization incorporated under the federal Pedigree Act.

Continuing to use the term "pit bull" is inaccurate and unfair to mixed breed dogs and their owners.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

WTF is wrong with Ontario?

I think this Ontario election campaign is in grave danger of being 100% railroaded by the greedy, self absorbed, near sighted public unions. It appears to me they are trying and may be successful in throwing Andrea Horwath directly under the bus. The lies, deceit and blatant desperation wreak like a dead carcass. I knew and said this was going to get real ugly when the piggies at the trough see the trough drying up!
I cannot believe that after 10 long years, of what has proved to be the most grossly incompetent government in the history of Ontario, there is enough support that could elect them yet again!
I hope that the "long time NDP piggies at the trough, I mean supporters" pull their heads out of their own a$$e$ and support Andrea, not the Liberal's (which is what they are saying they are going to do). They are still bitching "how could she NOT support the Liberal budget"? Does it not tell you something is tragically wrong when the OLP is bringing down a budget that is giving the NDP cronies wet dreams???
Since when did the political parties become one big circle jerk and exchange/overlap policies and spending habits? Oh, about 10 years ago when Dalton McJerk himself turned the OLP into the largest organization of "legal" organized crime! Kathleen Wynne shows NO sign of jumping off that track and that should scare the bejezzes out of every person in Ontario! If it doesn't then you are either low information or you drank the kool-aid.
Like the parents of kids at the candy store, willing to submit themselves to death by gluttony, we the sane people of this province better get off our ASSES and vote the OLP OUT!
To all the Mike Harris fear mongers, you will be calling him "Daddy" when the entire province implodes from the economic stress of gross money wastage and bloated public sector. In denial? Think again!
When those who are still sane talk about bloated public sector and the need to cut it back the reference is not to nurses, teachers, firemen, water inspectors (as Wynne would have you believe), but referencing the over 650 public agencies (many which do NOTHING but earn a lot of money and achieve NOTHING) that have been created and become sunshine list employers for Liberal insiders, supporters and family such as Sandra Pupatello (new hydro appt) and Kathleen Wynne's brother in law (now head of eHealth) just as two examples! Not to mention Pat Dillion (Working Families Coalition) firmly planted at the trough at OCOT (Ontario College of Trades).
Hate to sound like Rofo but the gravy train MUST stop! We are in very serious trouble. Under the OLP's watch, jobs, business and manufacturing have been streaming out of Ontario. We went from the economic engine of Canada to a have not province all under the OLP's watch!
Warren Kinsella, Dwight Duncan and even Donna Cansfield are all speaking out against the OLP's plan and direction. Why are we still talking about how the OLP may form government again? Smells like a dead rotting rat to me!
Give your head a serious shake Ontario!
Yes it's a nice day out and I'm sitting here writing out a long ranty post but this is important damn it! Our future depends on it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Ontario Election is within sight, what can I do to help end BSL?

The Ontario Election is drawing closer, Thursday June 12, 2014. Many dog owners are wondering what they can do to help bring our province closer to ending the discriminatory amendments to DOLA (Dog Owners Liability Act)

-Make sure you attend any all candidates meetings in your riding. Ask the candidates the following question;
In 2005 the Liberals made amendments to the Dog Owners Liability Act and banned 3 rare breeds of dogs and any dog substantially similar. If elected are you willing to vote in favour of repealing these discriminatory amendments to DOLA and restoring fair and equal treatment for all dog owners regardless of the appearance of their dog? 

-Send out a questionnaire to the candidates in your riding. For your convenience we have put together a questionnaire which you may simply copy and paste into the body of an email.  

1. If the amended Dog Owners' Liability Act (2005) came up today for a free rather than a whipped vote as happened in 2005, would you vote in favour of banning breeds as an effective way to protect people from dog bites? Please explain. 
2. Please explain why you think the 'pit bull' ban enacted by the Ontario Liberal government has or has not been successful in protecting the public from dog bites. 
3. Would you be willing, if elected, to work to rescind the breed-specific regulations in Ontario's amended Dog Owners' Liability Act (2005) and replace them with an existing, easily implemented Canadian system that has been effective in the control of negligent pet owners, that is supported by all responsible pet owners and that once established is fully funded by dog and cat owners rather than through general revenue taxation? Please briefly explain your response. 
4. Is there anything you'd like to add?  

- Offer to help the candidate most likely to beat the Liberal in your riding. To give you an idea of projections here is a link to a list of projections for each riding in Ontario. Offering even a little bit of time is helpful. 

- Educate your friends and relatives and neighbours about the issues. Talk about politics. Engage people and remind them of the Liberal record. Encourage everyone you know to vote and offer to drive them. There is actually a book written about the McGuinty/Wynne record!
- Remember a vote for a fringe group is a vote for the Liberals in such a close race! The fringe parties can offer the moon since they don't have a snowball's chance to take power but (so can the 3 main parties). There is nothing holding any party accountable to follow through with an campaign promise but they must be at least a little bit believable in order to garner enough support to win. 

- Call your constituency office to arrange for a lawn sign from your favourite anti BSL candidate or incumbent.  

- Toronto is the battle ground! Offer your help to non Liberal MPP's or candidates in Toronto even if you don't live there. 

There is a great resource website called We Make Voting Easy.  For answers to all the common questions about voting, use this handy resource and pass it around.  

Do your part and together we can make a difference! 

And of course do not forget to VOTE!

Apparently the Ontario Liberal Party has banned the word "ACCOUNTABILITY" from Webster's

This past week our local paper (The Herald) here in Alliston asked each of the candidates in our riding several questions about what accountability means to them. 

The answer from the Liberal candidate Lorne Kenney blew my mind. I can't wait for this week's question on health care. 

Here is a scanned copy of the questionnaire.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Million Mutt March in Ontario kicks off June 12th election celebration!

Media Release - May 1, 2014

Written by Yvette Van Veen

Ontario Dog Walk Reminds Of Missed Opportunity for Increased Safety 

Dog lovers in Ontario are set to converge Saturday on Queen’s Park for The Million Mutt March to End B.S.L.. While many might recognize the event as a call to action to repeal breed banning in Ontario, event organizers from the Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-op and B.S.L. Advocacy and Awareness say there is a bigger message. They say that each year the ban continues is a missed opportunity at enacting effective strategies to reduce dog bites. 

 In 2005 the Ontario Liberal Government amended the Dog Owner’s Liability Act. As part of this controversial bill, the government passed a ban on a variety of rare breeds and mixed breed dogs with similar physical attributes. 

The Million Mutt March will be out in full force reminding citizens and government officials that more effective solutions exist. Those opposed to breed bans contend that every tragedy confirms that the “Pit Bull” ban is not working. Says Angella Robbins, one of the Co-op’s spokespersons…. 

“Noted industry experts warned the government that breed bans would not work. More importantly, experts provided an alternate solution based on the successful City of Calgary model and the Courtney Trempe inquest. How long do we have to wait - how many tragedies do we have to read about - before the government hears what experts have said all along?” 

Highlights of the Calgary model include a dramatic decrease in dog bites. Protesters of the ban want that same level of safety here in Ontario. 

The Calgary model first seeks to prevent incidents through licensing, leash enforcement and education. No breed is exempt. Calgary holds all dog owners accountable and responsible. They do all this with zero taxpayer funding. By contrast, Ontario’s system focuses on punitive measures, applied selectively and inconsistently after an injury has occurred. Robbins goes on to point out... 

“The Co-op’s goal is encourage laws that work. This means that all dog owners, regardless of breed, would be held to the same standard. Our focus is injury prevention. We are average Ontario families, dog owners, mothers and fathers with children of our own. Many of our members do not own banned breeds. We have one thing in common. We care about safety and equal treatment under the law for all dog owners.” 

 One thing is certain, the only issue is safety. The Breed Ban in Ontario is a sad story that illustrates what could have been. Had the Provincial Government embraced a Calgary style model instead of a ban, Ontario could have already been experiencing a dramatic drop in dog bites. 

According to dog behaviour consultant Yvette Van Veen…. 

“The children are victims. The dogs are victims. The taxpayers are victims. The responsible owners falsely accused are victims. Simply put, breed bans do not work.” 

As each year passes, event organizers and participants continue to remind Ontario residents that it’s not too late. The sooner we adopt a successful model, the sooner we can start seeing a drop in dog bite incidents. 

Debbie Black 
Co-founder Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-op
rockapuppy @ yahoo.ca

Zelda Nista  
Founder BSL Awareness  
lynnmydogz @ gmail.com

Hooray! Not only is it the beginning of May but in bigger news an ELECTION was called TODAY!

Ontario will vote June 12, 2014! The Ontario Liberal Party MUST GO! Today NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pulled the plug. 

We have been waiting a decade to get rid of this discriminatory, oppressive and crooked government.

It will be a long, long road back from the damage the OLP has done to our province. 

Mark your calendar Ontario! June 12 you MUST VOTE!

Press release from Ontario NDP website

Horwath says Ontarians have lost confidence in Liberals and deserve government that makes sense

Queen’s Park – Andrea Horwath, Leader of Ontario’s New Democrats, says she has lost confidence in the Liberal government amid mounting scandal and waste and that it’s time for change.
“The Liberal budget is a mad dash to escape scandal by promising the moon and the stars,” said Horwath.