Breed bans stem from stereotyping (Ontario positive press!)
Tanya Sparling, Special to the Hamilton Spectator
Pixie is a purebred, Canadian Kennel Club-registered Staffordshire bull terrier, world-renowned for its friendly temperament and affection for children. She is also included in the pit bull ban.
Good dog owners are punished and bad dog owners ignore the law
By Eric Sparling
The Hamilton Spectator
(Feb 3, 2007)
You hate me. No, just admit it -- you hate me. You think I'm a drug dealer. You think I drive a rusty car, have a criminal record, and wear ugly clothing. You hate me because you think I'm poor, ignorant and mean.
You hate me because I own a pit bull.
She isn't really a pit bull, actually. Pixie's a purebred, Canadian Kennel Club-registered Staffordshire bull terrier, a small breed topping out at 40 pounds, and world-renowned for its friendly temperament and affection for children. But Ontario's Attorney-General, Michael Bryant, says square pegs fit in round holes, so my dog is included in the pit bull ban.
A lot more dogs may soon be joining Pixie. In the wake of a terrible attack by two Rottweilers on a small boy, residents of Hamilton are understandably outraged. What is it going to take to stop these incidents? How can we protect ourselves and our children? Many voices are calling for an expansion of the province's pit bull ban. They'd like to see other "inherently vicious" breeds outlawed.
But instead of calling for more breed bans, the public should see this recent incident as further proof of what dog experts have been saying for years: Breed bans don't work. This is a human problem, not a dog problem.
You're thinking: "These dog people always say it's a human problem, and ignore the fact that their dogs are inherently vicious."
Well, I have a little request to make: Suspend that belief and be open to hearing another perspective.
Responsible dog owners are just as outraged as you are that children are being mauled by family pets. This is an unacceptable situation.
Responsible dog owners -- the ones who treat their dogs with equal measures of love and calm discipline; who push for stronger animal welfare laws so that abused animals don't became vicious animals; who believe in strongly enforced dog licensing and leash laws; who want to see dog smarts taught in elementary schools; and who think puppy mills should be shut down permanently -- should be a resource for the public and the government.
Instead, their input has been ignored.
Let me be very blunt about this: In the dog debate, there are experts and there are laypeople. The experts, including provincial and national veterinary associations, humane societies, kennel clubs, even the Canada Safety Council, which has no vested interest in protecting dogs, are opposed to breed bans.
It's almost always the laypeople, who may be well-intentioned but simply don't have all the facts, who call for bans.
Fact: The Canadian city with the most success in curbing dog attacks is Calgary. They did it by ramping up enforcement of existing leash and licensing laws, and by doing educational outreach. Dog bites have dropped by 70 per cent, and more than 90 per cent of dogs are licensed. And they don't have a breed ban.
Fact: The province of New Brunswick considered breed bans. Unlike Ontario, that province decided that breed bans wouldn't protect the public, preferring to enact tougher animal control laws that hold owners responsible for their pets. This strategy had bi-partisan support.
Fact: Half of all dog breeds on the planet were created for a violent purpose, including some of the cutest, such as Dachshunds (the wiener dogs) and Yorkies (the little ones with bows in their hair). Pit bulls aren't the exception, but the rule. Dogs are predators, descended from wolves (all of which have to kill to eat). Unlike some legal breeds, however, pit bulls were not designed to attack humans.
Fact: Donna Trempe's daughter was killed by a Bullmastiff in one of Ontario's most horrific dog attacks. Trempe knows about dog aggression, in personal, terrible detail. So why is she opposed to breed bans? Because she knows that breed bans do not protect children.
Fact: Ontario's breed ban, Bill 132, presumes guilt before innocence and punishes many blameless people and their pets to get at a small fraction of the guilty. A similar law was passed in Toledo, Ohio; that state's supreme court overturned it, deeming it unconstitutional. An Ontario court is currently reflecting on whether the pit bull ban violates Canada's constitution. A decision is expected in the very near future. Regardless of the outcome, look for the Ontario government to spin the decision to their advantage.
As long as breed bans are the government's answer to dog attacks, the problem will persist. We know this from attack statistics in other jurisdictions. When pit bulls were banned, the following happened: Good dog owners with well-raised dogs were punished; bad owners with bad dogs ignored the law, or dumped their pit bulls and immediately moved to their next favourite breed.
How long do you think it will be before their new, badly bred, badly raised dog bites someone?
The breed switching will never end. We'll have to ban more and more dogs. Some countries that followed this path have banned dozens. A province that embraces breed bans is a province where dogs, regardless of breed, have no future.
By the way, I'm not a drug dealer and I don't have a criminal record. Yes, my car has a rust spot or two, but it's a Honda CR-V. My favourite pastime is throwing pottery on a wheel, and I speak a smattering of Japanese. My wife is in her second year of a doctor of veterinary medicine program at Ontario Veterinary College. And the dog we had before Pixie was a lovely golden retriever.
So much for stereotypes.
Eric Sparling lives in Waterdown.
Visit us at Dogster!