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Somewhat good news from NS

Dogastrophe
December 23rd, 2006, 10:34 PM
Every dog has its day
Guysborough County couple not guilty of owning banned breed
By CATHY VON KINTZEL Truro Bureau


NEW GLASGOW — A judge, acquitting a couple of owning a banned dog, criticized Guysborough County’s breed-specific dog bylaw Friday as "vague and overreaching."

Judge Robert Stroud was speaking in New Glasgow provincial court after finding Marilyn and Willard Cameron of Country Harbour not guilty of owning a pit bull-type of dog banned by the Municipality of the District of Guysborough since 1995.

The ruling was applauded by the Camerons and dog-rights activists, who called it precedent-setting and a starting point for "good dog bylaws" in the province.

Judge Stroud said the bylaw is "laden with . . . difficulties from an enforcement point of view."

For example, he said, it names breeds such as "pit bull," which don’t formally exist, according to evidence presented at trial in November.

The bylaw also doesn’t have a grandfather clause exempting banned dogs that were living in the county prior to 1995, with the exception of Rottweilers, which were later added to the list that now names six dog types, including pit bulls and some terriers.

The Camerons owned Zeus, a 14-year-old mixed breed, prior to 1995 and were the first to challenge the bylaw in court, with help from a pro bono lawyer, David Green, and dog-rights groups.

There was no evidence that Zeus displayed aggressive, fierce or dangerous behaviour, and his breed was debated by experts who testified.

"We’re so glad it’s over," said Ms. Cameron, who hopes the municipality will be forced to change the rules.

She said her family wouldn’t have been able to fight the charge without the help of organizations such as the Maritimes-based Dog Legislation Council of Canada.

Cathy Prothro of Dartmouth, a founding member and volunteer with the council, said the judge made good points that she hopes will resound across Nova Scotia and beyond.

"I’m elated because this sets a precedent. What I’d really like to see now is for us to be able to go in and help municipalities write good dog bylaws that target a problem, not a breed."

Ms. Prothro said her group promotes responsible dog ownership and opposes breed-specific legislation because it condemns a dog by how it looks and not by its actions.

This was the first time she’d heard of a breed-specific bylaw being challenged in Nova Scotia.

Guysborough County Warden Lloyd Hines said he wants to see the judge’s written decision before saying much.

"At the same time, I can say that if there are constructive criticisms coming from the bench, we’ll take those into consideration and attempt to strengthen or modify the bylaw," he said in a telephone interview.

County council will have to decide whether to appeal the decision, and taxpayers probably won’t know until the end of March or early April how much the court action cost.

Vaughan Black, a Dalhousie University law professor and an expert in animals and the law, said unless Friday’s ruling was based in part on a constitutional issue, it may lack teeth.

"If it’s just a factual decision, it wouldn’t have much effect beyond that (the Cameron family’s situation)," Mr. Black said.

But if the judge’s reasons have opened the door for a constitutional challenge, "I would be pleased and not at all surprised to see it (the bylaw) struck down," he said.

Breed-specific bylaws have been the subject of court challenges across Canada and the U.S., where the results have varied, Mr. Black said.

In 2001, a Saskatchewan woman lost her appeal after she was convicted of breaking her village bylaw by owning a Rottweiler.

"The fact that (the bylaw) discriminates against the owners of pit bulls, Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers does not result in it being illegal," the appeal judge said.

Scott_B
January 3rd, 2007, 08:14 AM
Excellent story! Great Christmas gift for the family! :thumbs up

mummummum
January 3rd, 2007, 11:09 PM
Wow ~ what a concept "good dog" bylaws...if only someone in this province would have some sense. :rolleyes: