Friday, January 5, 2018

A horrific story that is far too common in Ontario

I don't want to go into too much preamble before getting into a personal story that was written by the daughter of someone I know personally. 

In 2005 the Ontario Liberal Party amended the Dog Owners Liability Act to add breed specific language banning 3 purebred breeds and any dog thought to look substantially similar (which of course is subjective). The act has been in place since the late 1800's and it was overall a good law however the penalties needed to be stiffened and even though the law has been in place well over a century it is rarely enforced.

The breed specific component to the law makes the penalties much stiffer for certain dogs and commonly the law is not enforced due to animal control stating the law "only applies to those dogs described in the breed specific portion". 

The law does apply to all dog owners but unfairly targets owners that own dogs that look a certain way or are from any of the 3 breeds listed (which I might add are among Canada's rarest breeds). There were very few purebreds of any of the listed purebreds prior to the ban being enacted. The penalties are far more severe for any dog found to match the breed specific language.

I have personally volunteered for over a decade working with dog owners that have been unfairly targeted by the law, helping them to find resources to defend themselves. There are a few commonalities among those people targeted. 

-Only one case in the hundreds of cases I've worked involved a purebred.

-Most owners targeted are of a lower socio-economic sector.

-Many are visible minorities and/or single parents.

-Nearly all cases were a circumstance of a neighbour or person reporting the dog looked like a "pit bull" but there wasn't an incident either bite or threaten. Very often the dog simply escaped the yard and was picked up roaming by animal control.

-Every case involved the enforcement agency executing extortion asking the owner to sign over ownership of the dog or they would be charged, fined and or possible jail time costing them money they rarely have. In many cases the owner fearfully signs their family member over to be killed or shipped away out of province based on the dogs appearance.  

We have had 4 Bills tabled (one of which was tri party signed) to repeal the amendment to DOLA containing the breed specific language. 

We want DOLA to be enforced but applied fairly and equally to all dog owners in Ontario.

We want victims to have recourse and have overall less victims but this is not the case as the law stands now.

The Ontario Liberals have refused to let go of this insane strategy. They have made it perfectly clear that as long as they are in power the law will not be repealed. 

The next Ontario provincial election is June 7, 2018.

Here is one story from a brave young girl who has endured far too much pain and suffering in her young life. She has had multiple surgeries, trips to Sick Kids, treatment for PTSD and the after effects creep into every aspect of her life. Her journey continues..

In December 2016, I went to my friend’s house. Saturday night we were watching a movie. I was sitting on the couch and her dog (a german shepherd/husky mix) laid down beside me and rested his head on my lap. At that moment I thought that he trusted me and I didn’t think that he would ever hurt me.

The next day my friend went into the kitchen to ask her mom if we could have ice cream. Before she left the room I told her that I was going to go pet her dog. She said ok and walked out of the room. I walked across the room to where the dog was laying down on the couch. I squatted down to pet him. I was looking him right in the eyes and I was talking to him. Maybe after a minute of my petting him, he looked at me and then made a kind of growl sound and pulled his lips away from his teeth and jumped up and bit my face. I quickly stood up. Then the dog jumped back towards me and I pushed his chest just before he got me again. Then I put my hands over my nose and walked into the kitchen. When I got to the kitchen my friend was looking at me. Then I said my nose is bleeding. She ran to get her mom who was outside. Her mom came in and told me to show her my nose. I took my hands off my nose and the first thing that she said was, “Oh he got you good”. As soon as she said that I started to panic because at first I thought the dog just bumped my nose and I had a nosebleed because I never felt him bite me. My mom told me afterwards I must have been in shock and that’s why I didn’t feel pain. My friend’s mom ran to get me a wet paper towel. Then my friend’s mom started yelling at her and saying go find your stepdad and go get dressed and to pack my things. My friend’s mom called my family and told them she was taking me to the local hospital.

My dad asked the emergency doctor if I was his daughter would he take me to Sick Kids or keep me at the local hospital. I was taken to Sick Kids where I received 15 stitches in my nose and one under my lip by the plastic surgery team.

It was hard going to school because everyone stared at me. A couple of days after the bite happened, my friend told me this was not the first time her dog had bit someone. The other time was someone’s hand and they also needed stitches.

If my parents had known this dog had bitten someone before, they wouldn’t have let me go there unless the dog was tied up or in a kennel while I was there.

I tried to pretend that the dog biting me wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t want my friend to be upset. I started having nightmares where I was seeing the dog come at me again. I would also jump and get scared if my own dog yawned because seeing his teeth reminded me about getting bitten. Whenever I looked in the mirror the first thing I would see were the scars. People told me that they weren’t that noticeable because the plastic surgery team did a good job. It also bothered me that I lost some of the feeling in my nose. The plastic surgeon said most of the feeling would come back but it would take 12-18 months.

After I started having the nightmares, my grades at school got worse. Little things that didn’t use to bug me bothered me a lot. I also wasn’t enjoying my competitive sports as much. I was very emotional and felt sick a lot of the time. If people brought up the dog bite at school, the friend whose dog it was would tell people it wasn’t a big deal. It was a big deal to me and it was affecting every part of my life! My parents took me to see a counsellor in town. After seeing the counsellor for a couple of months things weren’t getting better. My parents were worried and contacted Sick Kids Hospital. It was recommended that I should see a therapist that specialized in helping children who have gone through something traumatic. My parents paid for me to have post trauma therapy every other week for five and a half months. It helped me learn how to work through a lot of the hard stuff I’ve been dealing with. I also learned not to keep all those emotions inside. You need to talk to people you trust so you can get help. Sometimes it is still hard to work through everything and I will always have scars. I hope that no one else has to go through what I went through.

The dog owners were not charged.
The dog is still alive and living with the family.
There was no restitution paid for any of the expenses of treatment or emotional trauma suffered. 
The victim's family was put in an impossible situation since the dog belonged to the victim's friend's family. 
It is possible this could happen to someone else and the likelihood of it happening with the same dog is rather high. 
This story is all too common...

Thank you for sharing your story..  💜