Monday, November 8, 2004

Man bites dog-owner

I was forwarded this article from one of my groups today - here's the article and my response. Oh dear. The article was from the Globe and Mail this past Saturday. Sickening is what I say.

Man bites dog-owner

Disputes about pit bulls are turning city parks into battlegrounds


By PETER CHENEY


UPDATED AT 9:16 AM EST Saturday, Nov 6, 2004

Not long ago, Darlene Reid looked forward to walking her dogs through the streets of Toronto as a peaceful interlude from big-city life. Now, she considers it an ordeal.

In the past two weeks alone, she has had shouting matches, nasty looks and one physical battle. In the interests of safety, she no longer allows her 13- year-old daughter to walk the dogs.

"The whole situation sucks," says Ms. Reid, the owner of three Staffordshire terriers. "It can't go on like this."

Like many other Toronto dog owners, Ms. Reid has found a dramatically changed environment since the province announced that it would pass a law banning pit bulls and related breeds. Her dogs, which would be affected by the proposed law, have become a red flag.

"It's brought the dog-haters out of the woodwork," she says.

Two weeks ago, she was confronted in Riverdale Park by two young men who told her she had no right to be out in public with her "killer dogs." When she tried to reason with them, things went downhill.

One of the men kicked one of her dogs. When she tried to stop him, he knocked her to the ground. As this went on, her dogs looked on from the sidelines, according to Ms. Reid -- "so much for the killer dogs," she says.

"I don't feel safe in my own city now," says Ms. Reid, who suffered minor injuries in the attack. "People seem to think they can do or say whatever they want because you've got a dog."

Ms. Reid is not the only dog owner who has faced hostility since the breed ban was proposed. The announcement has clearly heightened the social tensions that surround urban dog ownership.

Although there are no official numbers (Toronto Police don't keep statistics on minor assaults and confrontations), officials with the Toronto Humane Society say there have been numerous disputes.

"Dog owners just can't deal with what's happening," says Romeo Bernadino, managing director of animal care services at the THS. "It's not a good situation."

M.T. Kelly, a Toronto writer who owns a pit bull named Maggie, says the past three weeks have been marked by outright intolerance: "When we go into a park now, it's like we're wearing the Scarlet Letter," he says.

Susan Coutts, who lives near North Bay, says the tension surrounding dogs isn't confined to the big city -- or to owners of pit bulls. Last week, she and a friend got a tongue lashing from a woman outside a shopping mall where they were with their dogs -- a black Labrador and a German shepherd.

"She told us that it was illegal for us to have them in public without muzzles," says Ms. Coutts, whose dogs often visit seniors homes as part of a community outreach program. "It was ridiculous."

Ms. Coutts feels that a handful of highly publicized attacks have driven the political process, and that the proposed ban will do nothing to protect the public. "I feel like every person in Ontario who has a dog is being made to pay for the mistakes of a few irresponsible dog owners."

Casey Conklin, a member of the Withrow Park Dog Owners' Association, says the ban on pit bull breeds has affected virtually all breeds, and has divided Toronto into two camps: those who like dogs and those who don't.

"I used to get just about zero reaction," she says. "Now, I see both extremes. Some people go out of their way to pat my dogs. And some people yell at you -- 'get your goddamn dogs out of here.' "

Ms. Conklin has three dogs. None of them are pit bulls (two are retrievers, the other is a Lakeland terrier).

Last week in Withrow Park, she found herself in an ugly confrontation with a man who told her she had no right to bring her dogs out in public. Although she tried to remain composed, the man's continued intransigence wore her down, and the exchange ended in a full-on screaming match.

"I'm from New Jersey," she says. "At some point, Jersey girl kicks in."

"This seems to have given carte blanche to people who hate dogs," Ms. Conklin says of the breed ban. "It validates their intolerance. They feel like they have a right to express ignorant views."

Ms. Conklin sees the pit-bull ban as pure demagoguery, and accuses Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant of playing to people's irrational fears. Mr. Bryant has referred to pit bulls as "ticking time bombs" and "inherently dangerous animals."

"Every time he has a press conference, he has a pit bull that's attacked someone," Ms. Conklin says. "He's created the impression that if you have a pit bull, you have no regard for other people. He makes it seem like you're walking around with a loaded gun."

Teresa Rickerby, a Coburg pet shop owner who belongs to an advocacy group called People for Pit Bulls, says the politics surrounding the breed ban have made it impossible to hold a meaningful debate about the issues.

"No one discusses the facts," she says. "It's all driven by emotion and fear."

Ms. Reid says the attack in Riverdale Park was just one part in a much larger picture. Since the ban was announced, she has been subjected to nasty looks, lectures and profanity-laced tirades.

"People come up and yell at you," she says. "They tell you that you've got no right to be out in public with a dog. They say, 'Get your killers off the street.' "

In one instance, one of her dogs was kicked while he was tethered to a lamppost outside a restaurant on Danforth Avenue.

"There's harassment that has been going on for a long time," she says. "But now it's way worse. You never saw anything like that before. No one kicked my dogs until now. What we're seeing here is prejudice. . . . We're being treated like criminals and we haven't done anything wrong."

For Deoin Greaves, a 26-year-old Toronto man, the hostility he has encountered with his pit bull Red since the breed ban was announced has been too much. On Wednesday, he took his dog to the Humane Society for adoption.

"I didn't want to give him up," he says. "But I can't stand it any more."

© 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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My response:

Well the last sentence in that article is the most pathetic - "I didn't want to give him up," he says. "But I can't stand it any more." - Buddy can't stand to watch his pitbull be discriminated against so he takes it to a shelter to be killed. Ridiculous. But that's what going to be happening thousands of times over all across Ontario.

Angry hateful people are turning their irrational feelings that they have no reason for onto dogs and dog owners and the hysteria is just going to grow if we let it. I was at my local dog park the other night - and there was a non dog-owner there - and one of my dogs went up to him sniffing him for cookies and the guy hollered at the top of his lungs with the most righteous indignation - and this is in the one
of the city's only 2 official "off-leash dog parks" - "if your dog bites me I'm going to f****ing kill it!!!" - I just stood there with my mouth wide open. I hesitate to tell you the reason why this non-dog owner was at this off-leash dog park, but suffice it to say that we share this space with a segment of the male population who like to do salacious activities in the bushes with members of their
same gender and then go home to their wives. He was on his way to his favourite bush when Charlie encountered him.

All we can do is to continue on with our lives as if those people don't exist. I refuse to let the a**holes of the world compromise my lifestyle that I've worked very hard to build with my canine life companions. I'm not going to relegate my dogs to my back yard and basement because I'm afraid that they're going to get kicked if I dare to bring them out into the light of the day and walk down the street
with them. Access to the world - which is where they belong as much as anyone else - is too important to their well-being, and the quality of their life, and the quality of my life - than some yahoo who thinks they don't deserve it, or that dogs are dirty, or might pee in some corner. Screw them is what I say.

I'm a responsible dog owner and I want my dogs with me, and I'm going to have them with me and I'm willing to fight for it. And I hope there's other people out there who love their dogs enough to do it too. The Republicans may have won the election down in the States, but it's still a free country up here. You may be afraid of dogs, but I'm afraid of teenagers - why are you so much more important than me?

Joan

1 comment:

  1. Take heart. It was a good article in a reputable paper. Mr. Bryant must have seen it. I think he's gotta be aware by now that he's directly contributed to civil unrest, incivility, threats, violence, and animal cruelty. I'm sure someone who'd love to have his job would be happy to take him on and show him how to identify and address problems properly.

    BTW, Republicans probably wouldn't stand for a breed ban, or at least behaviour like this. They'd show their guns and say "I'd think twice about threatening me." And remember, a leash is a very effective weapon even if the dog isn't!

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