BSL – Breed Specific Legislation, legislation very often targeted toward pit-bull breeds of dogs and in Ontario it’s a strict law that is without compromise or compassion.

Ontario’s Pit Bull Law

A “pit bull” includes:

(a) a pit bull terrier,
(b) a Staffordshire bull terrier,
(c) an American Staffordshire terrier,
(d) an American pit bull terrier,
(e) a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d); (“pit-bull”)

Under this law every “pit bull” should be:

  • Spayed or neutered by a veterinarian. A pit bull is exempt from this requirement if, in the written opinion of a veterinarian, the pit bull is physically unfit to be anesthetized because of old age or infirmity.
  • Microchipped
  • Muzzle your dog when in public. The pit bull shall be fitted with a collar or harness that is properly fitted to and placed on the dog. The movement of the pit bull shall be controlled by a person by means of a leash attached to the collar or harness on the pit bull. The leash is not more than 1.8 metres in length and is attached to the collar or harness. The collar or harness, the leash and the attachment between the leash and the collar or harness are all strong enough to prevent the pit bull from breaking any of them. The mouth of the pit bull is covered by a muzzle that is humane and that is strong enough and well-fitted enough to prevent the pit bull from biting, without interfering with the breathing, panting or vision of the pit bull or with the pit bull’s ability to drink.
  • Muzzling of the dog does not apply when a pit bull is within enclosed property occupied by the owner of the pit bull or when a pit bull is within enclosed property occupied by a person who consents to the pit bull being off leash or off muzzle. Enclosed property is defined as property that is enclosed in a way that can be relied on to prevent the pit bull from breaking out of the property.

Under this law;

  • If you leave Ontario for more than 3 months with your dog you will not be allowed to bring that dog back into Ontario.
  • A peace officer may enter ANY home and seize any dog suspected of being a “pit bull” if they believe that there has been a contravention of the Act of any of its regulations. If the officer believes immediate action is required they do NOT have to obtain a warrant to enter your home.
  • A peace officer may enter any home and seize a dog suspected of being an illegal “pit bull.”
  • A “pit bull” is not allowed to be returned to its owner if it has been sent to a research facility. Any other dog is!
  • If your “pit bull” gets picked up by Animal Control there is no way to get that dog back.
  • Pound operators have 3 options for impounded “pit bulls”: 1) destroy the dog 2) transfer the dog to an owner outside Ontario 3) sell the “pit bull” to an animal research facility.
  • If you own a restricted “pit bull” and you are convicted of ANY offence under the new Law , your dog must be destroyed.
  • You may not visit Ontario with your prohibited “pit bull” with the exception of show dogs. If a peace officer identifies your dog as a prohibited “pit bull” they may confiscate and destroy your dog.
  • Under the new Law, if your dog has puppies after November 26, 2005 it is an offence. You must surrender those puppies to a pound facility or you could face jail time or a fine. This applies to all dogs designated as a restricted breed….even registered show dogs.

This is the story of Janet Bredin and her dog Ziggy, a pit bull breed dog.

Janet Bredin got to spend an hour Thursday morning playing with her dog Ziggy.

It was the first time Bredin, 20, has been able to play with her dog in the last year and it’s the last time.

Shortly after the frolic in the Peterborough Humane Society’s backyard, Ziggy, a pit bull-type dog, was euthanized by a veterinarian.

Ziggy is the first dog destroyed by legal order in the city under the government’s pit bull legislation, society general manager Brad Algar told The Examiner.

“This is a day I’ve been dreading for a very long time,” Algar said.

With 14 other local cases of pit bull-type dogs making their way slowly through the court system, Ziggy’s death probably isn’t the last, he said.

Most of the pending cases, like Bredin’s case, involve charges under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act and if found guilt, the animals fall under the breed-specific legislation’s mandatory penalty of destroying the dog.

“Somebody needs to do something about this law,” Bredin said while petting Ziggy and feeding her dried liver treats.

“How many good innocent dogs are dying from this? It’s just wrong.”

Pet loss bereavement counselor Nina Papazian was with Bredin during her final minutes with Ziggy.

“This is the first time I’ve met this dog and there are no signs of aggression, hostility or wariness,” Papazian said. “She’s very attached to Janet.”

In Bredin’s case, Ziggy was registered with the society as a pit bull-type dog, Algar said.

Under the pit bull legislation, any pit bull-type dog must be kept muzzled and on a leash when in public.

Algar said the first time Bredin violated the law, the legislation hadn’t come into full effect and Bredin was given a fine.

Six months later, society staff caught the dog free again after it chased a woman in the Canadian Tire parking lot, Algar said.

“We seized the dog to protect society,” Algar said.

“The law is the law and I could be found at fault for not enforcing it.”

Bredin pleaded guilty to one charge related to the Dog Owner’s Liability Act on June 21 in exchange for having four other charges suspended, Algar said.

Although she had a 30-day window to appeal the order, Bredin said she was told the appeal would probably be unsuccessful so she authorized the society to go through with the court order and have the dog euthanized.

“I don’t want her to suffer anymore,” Bredin said. “I think it’s more or less too late for Ziggy.”

About six family members and friends were at the society with Bredin just before Ziggy was killed.

“I think it’s absolutely horrible she’s going to be put to sleep because she got out and was being a dog,” Twyla Douaire said.

Douaire was at the society to lend her support to Bredin; she met Ziggy during a visit to the society.

“I thought she was just the sweetest thing,” Douaire said.

After Bredin completed the paperwork at the society, she thanked people for their support.

She hopes people can learn from her case and push the Ontario government to change the legislation.

“Ziggy may have died but other dogs are going through the same thing,” Bredin said. “People need to raise their voices and let the government know this isn’t right.” (The Peterborough Examiner)

When are people ever going to realize that this kind of sweeping legislation only hurts and kills. I fully support ‘dangerous dog laws’ but when you unilaterally ban a specific breed or breed type, it’s wrong for so many reasons!

Breed specific ordinances are quick fixes and not a sufficient long term solution for the following reasons:

1. Dog problems are generally problems with owner responsibility and are not limited to breeds. When breeds are singled out as dangerous or vicious, responsibility is removed from the dog owner which is where it belongs. Irresponsible people are also less likely to follow the law – and as a result, everyone has to suffer.

2. By limiting the ability of citizens to own certain breeds, responsible law abiding citizens will shy away from those breeds. These are the types of owners that communities need to encourage, not drive away.

3. Communities that have instituted such bans often find that the irresponsible owners and the criminals who use dogs for illegal purposes simply switch to another breed.

4. Breeds and mixes are hard to identify and often dogs are mislabeled and destroyed based on paranoia and prejudice and also punishes those that are good canine citizens. Many breeds function as assistance dogs for handicapped owners, search and rescue dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, police dogs, etc. and drives them out of the community.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and several state veterinary medical associations oppose breed-specific legislation for just this reason.

5. The dog most restricted is the “pit bull.” A pit bull is a type of dog, not a recognized breed. See the breed information page for more detail.

6. Passage of laws that are only enforced through complaints cause two problems: 1) they create disrespect for the law if authorities require compliance only upon complaint, and 2) they provide ammunition for neighborhood feuds. (From PBRC)

This is something that people need to realize; Dog attacks are usually the fault of an irresponsible owner, not a specific breed. Therefore, banning an entire breed will solve nothing. The irresponsible owners will just most likely move on to another breed, and continue making bad choices regarding their dogs. BSL targets the breed, not the owner where the responsibility belongs.

Wherever BSL exists or is being proposed, people, raise your voices! Let your legislators know that strongly disagree. Form groups and work together. BSL is a travesty and only breeds ignorance and prejudice.

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