Friday, August 19, 2005

Going Back Some...but Excellent Points Made!

This is an older newpaper column from back in April or May of this year. There were a few things that I had overlooked in it prior that I thought I would point out now.

The Ontario Attorney General's office has issued a two and one-half page letter supporting to contain the rationale for Bill 132. After sweeping away the rhetoric, I find that there is no reason or fact given to support the breed specific legislation. There is only the statement that, based on the testimony to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, it is Michael Bryant's opinion that breed specific legislation is necessary.
I find that opinion odd. Analysis of the testimony on Bill 132 proves:
• Well over 70 per cent of the presenters opposed breed specific legislation;
• Fifty expert canine organizations opposed breed specific legislation;

• Donna Trempe, who lost her child Courtney to a dog attack and was the only presenter to have suffered a fatality caused by a dog attack, called for all-breed dangerous dog legislation;
• Less than five per cent of dog bites are attributable to "pit bull" breeds or types of dogs;
• Twenty-three children have been killed in Canada since 1983 by 59 dogs of 12 different breeds, none of which were "pit bulls;

• Bites and attacks are most frequently inflicted by sexually intact dogs, usually males.
Considering the facts, expert advice and the experience of other jurisdictions where breed specific legislation has failed, how does Mr. Bryant come to the conclusion that breed specific legislation is necessary?
The letter claims "frequency" of attacks. How can this statement be made when over 95 per cent of bites and attacks are by non-pit breeds?
The letter claims "severity" of attacks. How can this statement be made when since 1983 there have been 24 deaths caused by dog attacks, of which only one was by a pit-type dog and that was provoked by severe abuse?
This letter states that the lack of definition within Bill 132 must be resolved by the courts.
So, the Attorney General's failure to promulgate clear and workable legislation is now to be remedied by court battles over definitions of terms within the legislation, yet another cost to be borne by taxpayers.
California and Calgary have successful legislation with clear definitions. Why did the Ontario government not pass well-defined legislation to avoid court battles and additional costs to taxpayers?
Bill 132 perpetuates hysteria; the witch hunts have already begun. A police officer in a small Ontario community reportedly threatened to shoot a pit-type dog in its own fenced backyard because it was barking. A dog behaving as almost any dog will, barking at a stranger approaching its territory, can be shot in its own home under Bill 132. Are dog owners to live under the threat of legislated vigilantism, unable to put their dogs out in their own secure fenced yards or in their own homes?
The United Kingdom, after 14 years of breed specific legislation, has admitted its failure and is unwinding the legislation. The United States has at least 12 states where breed specific legislation is prohibited by law. Did the Ontario government not ask these jurisdictions why?
Municipalities have called on the Ontario government for funding to enforce Bill 132, and the majority Liberal government has said there's no money. In contrast, the City of Calgary, Alberta has very successful all-breed dangerous dog legislation. Calgary has a sterling record of public safety because of its zero-tolerance attitude towards dog licensing and by-law enforcement. Its animal control department is self-sustaining. Why was the self-sustaining Calgary model not used?
Why did the majority Liberal government spurn the common sense recommendations from presenters and other political parties?
These recommendations included mandatory spay/neuter of "pet" animals, strict enforcement of leash and licensing laws, bite prevention education for children and adults, strict enforcement to reduce backyard breeding, stricter laws governing breeders and trainers, providing funding to municipalities for dangerous dog control, and a province-wide dog bite registry.
I ask the Ontario government to define a "pit bull terrier." Is a dog owner to assume that if his or her dog has short hair and a large head, it's a "pit bull" under Bill 132?
I ask why Bill 132 condemns a "pit bull" to death if it defends itself or its owner against an unprovoked attack. There are no extenuating circumstances for a "pit bull". Considering that 95 per cent of bites and attacks are by other breeds, that situation is certain to occur more than once.
I ask why Bill 132 forces all seized dogs to be surrendered to pounds without any requirement that the pounds keep the dogs until any charges against an owner are resolved, either by conviction or acquittal.
Since regulations governing pounds provide that a pound has to keep a dog for only three days before killing it or selling it to a research laboratory, how many falsely-accused people will lose their dogs before their court date is even set?
I ask why Bill 132 seems to conflict with the animal fighting provisions of the Criminal Code by stating that it is illegal to train "pit bulls" for fighting. Does this mean that in Ontario, one may train any other breed for fighting?
I ask why Bill 132 grants rights to corporations that it takes away from individuals.
I ask why the Attorney General has not publicly condemned the assaults on dog owners, many of them women, which have resulted in injuries, some severe, to the owners and their dogs. None of the "pit bulls" savaged their owners' attackers. Does the Attorney General condone mindless vigilantism?
Pit bull will pay with its life
When Bill 132 is in force, responsible dog owners will suffer under unfair and unfounded restrictions and live in fear that their beloved dog may be seized and destroyed for the slightest misstep on their part. Under Bill 132, a "pit bull" pays with its life for any transgression on the part of its owner. The way Bill 132 is written, your dog can be seized and killed if you don't muzzle your "pit bull" before running out of a burning house.
A bite or attack by a dog of any breed is serious. The responsibility for preventing a dog bite by a dog of any breed rests solely on the dog's owner.
History proves that targeting the responsible owners of particular breeds does not serve public safety.
Criminals, who by definition do not obey laws, only continue to hide their "pit bulls" or turn to other breeds for their purposes. Irresponsible owners will dispose of their "pit bulls" through pounds, shelters or rescues or by just letting the dogs loose in the street, unwilling to do what is required to maintain a "pit bull". These same criminal and irresponsible owners will only acquire and mistreat or neglect dogs of other breeds, continuing to create vicious dogs. Responsible "pit bull" owners will labour under the unfair and unduly harsh restrictions, and attempt to keep their beloved dogs safe. In closing, I ask people to contact their MPPs and demand that the government repeal the ineffective, unworkable and ultimately expensive breed-specific portion of Bill 132, and promulgate clearly defined and easily enforced all-breed dangerous dog legislation that will be effective, workable and best serve public safety.
By Dianne Singer

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