Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It Sounds Like the Public Hearings in Ontario are going Pretty Good for the Dogs!

The first 2 days of public hearings in Ontarion have finished up on the proposed bill to ban pit bulls in Ontario and by the sounds of the below article it sounds like the right things are being said so far. I hope they make the right decision!


Groups: Target owners not pit-bulls By Ling Hui, Special to Canoe

Despite two emotional testimonies from parents whose children have been attacked by dogs, animal rights groups believe that a pit bull ban would not reduce the number of attacks in Ontario. Breeders, trainers and animal welfare groups dominated the first day of public hearings, stating that the clause in the Dog Owner's Liability Act banning pit bulls should target the owner of a dangerous dog, not the dog itself. Most breeders and animal welfare groups felt that a breed ban fails to address the "root cause" - irresponsible breeders, trainers and owners of dangerous dogs. The proposed amendments to the Bill would make it illegal to own, breed or sell pit bulls. The Bill also increases the maximum fine for owners of dangerous dogs to $10,000, and/or a six-month maximum jail sentence for owners. Though many were touched by the testimonies of two mothers whose daughters died after being attacked by dogs, groups such as the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of Canada and the Canadian Dog Judges Association stated that they were against a specific breed ban because it unfairly targets owners and their dogs. Louise Ellis spoke of the severity of a pit bull attack, describing the "gaping hole just under the eye" of her five-year-old daughter's face when she was mauled by a "friendly" pit bull in 1994. Donna Trempe, whose eight-year-old daughter Courtney died after being attacked by a bull mastiff in her neighbour's backyard in Stouffville, Ont., stated that she was opposed a breed-specific ban. Drawing attention to the lack of government attention on the issue of dangerous dogs, Trempe noted that only nine of the 36 recommendations proposed at Courtney's inquest in 1999 were implemented. "Heavier fines and jail sentences for drunk driving, along with increased public condemnation, have reduced the amount of drunk driving fatalities," Trempe said, comparing irresponsible dog owners to car owners. Taking Trempe's argument further, Member of the Provincial Parliament Julia Munro (Progressive Conservative- York North) added, "We aren't talking about banning cars. And yet, on this piece of legislation we're talking about banning a particular dog." Many opposed to the breed ban also stated that breed identification is impossible. This is especially true in identifying a pit bull which is not an official breed but can refer to various types and mixed breeds of dogs. Dogs that are not pit bulls, but possess the physical traits of a pit bull, will be unjustly targeted, trainers and members of animal welfare groups said. Even seasoned dog professionals have difficulty identifying pit bulls, said Nelson Ross, a member of the Dog Legislation Council of Canada. Groups against the pit bull ban also urged members of the committee to model Ontario's approach to the measures taken in Calgary, Alberta, where dangerous dog legislation treats all dogs the same. "Breed-based legislation has not worked elsewhere, and will not be effective in Ontario," Tim Zaharchuk, president of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association said, referring to the problems with Britain's breed ban. Other groups, such as Banned Aid, a group representing pit bull supporters, stated that New Brunswick's recent move to abandon a proposed breed ban is proof that Ontario's Bill deserves reconsideration. After two days of public consultations, the New Brunswick Bill targeting pit bulls and rottweilers was dropped in favour of non-specific breed ban legislation. While Ontario's Attorney General Michael Bryant told reporters that the public hearings into the Bill would be the most widespread public consultation on dog bans in Canadian history, Toronto Humane Society Inspector Mike Connor said the legislation was "written in haste," without proper consultation with the animal welfare community. The hearings continue in Toronto on Thursday.

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