Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A few tidbits in today's paper

So I thought I'd talk about a couple articles that were in the Chronicle Herald today and contrast and compare them with each other.

I also want to talk about an email I got from a lovely lady yesterday who's opinions I value.

We have the first article from Gloria McCluskey - long time city councillor and former mayor of Dartmouth - calling for stiffer fines and penalties - a day after an attack at Martinique beach by a large breed dog - which is what I am choosing to call the pit bull type dog.

She is going to introduce a notice of motion at city hall calling for stiffer fines against the owners of dogs that attack people or pets, and wants consideration for a possible ban on aggressive breeds. "There have been bans in other jurisdictions of breeds known to be aggressive", she said. "people who train their dogs to attack or who have experienced aggressive behaviour from the dog should not be out walking that dog in public without proper controls."

Do you know what my answer to that is? It's so simple I am going to BLOW YOUR MIND.

ENFORCE BYLAW A300 as it's currently written. I wonder if Ms. McClusky has read A300 lately.

In that bylaw - there is already clauses for "dangerous dogs" - which covers ANY kind of dog that is bad - whether it's a pit bull, a german shepherd, or a cocker spaniel.

And in there it says -

Section 2(1)(g) Dangerous dog means any dog which:
(i) attacks or demonstrates a propensity, tendency or disposition to attack a human or animal either on public or private property;
(ii) has caused injury to or otherwise endangered the safety of a human or animal;
(iii) threatens any human being or animal;
(iv) is owned or harboured primarily in part for the purpose of dog fighting;
(v) is trained for dog fighting; or
(vi) is a dog for which a muzzle order has been made;

There is a whole section on DOG ATTACKS, and it says -

8 (1) "The owner of any dog that attacks any person or another animal is guilty of an offence under this By-Law."
(2) Where an animal control officer has reason to believe that a dog has attacked a person or another animal, and the owner of the dog has been identified, the Animal Control Officer may do any one of combination of the following enforcement actions:
a) issue the owner a notice to muzzle the dog;
b) issue the owner a notice to microchip the dog;
c) classify the dog as a 'dangerous dog' in the municipal registry or;
d) destroy the dog without permitting the owner to claim it and issue the owner a notice informing that the dog has been destroyed.
(3) When a dog has been classified as a dangerous dog pursuant to clause (c) of subsection (2), the owner shall:
a) keep the dog ...... you can go read the rest of the bylaw at -

Now THIS is where it gets sticky - that is WAY TOO much power for an animal control officer - and I have been part of several groups who have been fighting this section of the bylaw since it was instituted in 2007. But that's for another day - for right now - I'm saying that A300 as it's currently written is sufficient - we don't need to add anything to it like breed specific legislation.

And I don't know why Ms. McClusky doesn't know about the fact that all of these fines are summary offences - like parking tickets - so they can't be increased - unless you increase the amount for a parking ticket - or put dog offences in a new category - they fall under the Police Act. So she's going to fail there as far as I understand it.

I wanted to include 2 other articles that were also in the paper today to contrast the dog attack - there was also a child injured when he was seen throwing rocks at cars from a bridge - a passing motorist shot him with a bow and arrow. Do you think they are going to try and ban bows and arrows now wherever this event occurred? Or try banning rocks on bridges? It's a tough call.
And lastly - a child was tragically mauled by a cougar at a park out in British Columbia - I'd say after this - all wildlife parks should be closed across the world - really, we can't take a chance with our children - there's just too much liability and risk associated with them. What if someone got bitten by a bear or something. Horrible. They might also get scared by a snake.

I also wanted to share sections of an email I got from a lady yesterday about the blog post I wrote about Cathy Martin being pit by the large dog at Martinique beach.

She was upset at the tone of my post.

She said - have NEVER been attacked (I don't mean a simple bite), because anyone who has would NOT be jumping all over the victim... This will solve nothing and in the end will only succeed in getting this breed in serious trouble and possibly others. There are solutions out there if we so called "responsible dog owners" would stop attacking and re-victimizing the victim.

We need to listen to these people and really hear what they are saying about their experience, and their fears, and compassionately acknowledge what they have gone through if we want them to be able to listen and hear what we want to convey.

YES, you are minimizing this woman's experience to suit your own agenda...where is the compassion in that! This will NOT move this issue to more positive ground.

I emailed her back and said -

I do totally respect your emotions and your opinions - and I am very glad that you have emailed me this response. It's only through emails like this that I'll learn anything - and I am willing to learn new things.

You are right when you say that I have never been viciously attacked by a pit bull type dog - I've been bitten badly by dogs - but I have understood why they bit me - and probably a person who isn't a dog owner, or a person who isn't the dog's owners and is just out in public wouldn't understand why the dog is biting them.

I did say in my post that the bite was unacceptable and needed to be dealt with - but banning the breed was not the way to go.

In your email you said there were solutions out there - what do you
think the solutions are?

So she emailed me back and said -

There are solutions to everything if we have the patience, and wisdom to listen, listen and listen. Like you, I know the breed ban is not the way to go. They did that in the UK and now they are in the process of reversing it because it has been proven it does not work. First off both sides need to calm down and stop fueling the fire with their fear. You are right when you say that many people (dog owners included, as just because you own a dog does not mean you are dog wise) may have no idea as to what instigated the attack.

In my opinion if you really want to be heard then you need to NEVER re-attack the victim! Yes, this person may or may not have done something to provoke the attack, but just perhaps they don't know or understand anything about dogs like you say. That's no reason to instantly blame them for the incident especially, when we don't have all the information. When this happens I can tell you, you just automatically put up a huge wall and block out any possibility of actually being heard and being credible. Yes, you did say the bite was "unacceptable" but frankly Joan...that is obvious and not enough. This person needs to be shown some compassion and have her experience validated not dismissed as just "unacceptable." I'm sure this was very traumatic. If she feels that we dog people "get" that then just perhaps she might be able to let down her defenses to really look at what happened and be open to hear what we have to say.

It is my opinion that when these incidents happen we need to have someone experienced, wise and credible to debrief the victim and gain valuable information (not a specific breed advocate, but a dog advocate). I also think that it would be wise to be careful with our language. In our response we should not use the words pitbull or ban at all. I believe that we need to be addressing the whole nature of dog ownership in general and that if we keep to that language refusing to be drawn into the "pitbull ban" debate then we can address all dogs not just a specific breed. However, it seem that advocates of this breed fall into the same trap every time by coming out with their stories of their wonderful, sweet and loving pits that would never harm anything and they try and make a the breed into a saint. This is not helpful, shuts communication down and distracts from the real issue. Again, our response should be yes we have a problem in that the nature of all dog ownership needs to be seriously looked at and reviewed.

Now I don't have all the answers yet, but I know they are out there and that they will be discovered by dedicated dog people like yourself and others. I know we need to educate ourselves and the public. There needs to be greater accountability and support for dog owners. If we can just listen to one another I'm sure we can eventually come up with the answers. First, we need to step back and not fall into the same old trap...wait listen and be still grasshopper.

I emailed her back again and said that she was right - it had never occurred to me that I was in some ways blaming the victim - which is always wrong - and I am compassionate to dogs on so many levels so I should spread that out a little more - and I also told her how smart she was, and thanked her very much. She is obviously a very awesome human being.

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