Tuesday, September 13, 2005

London's Proposed Bylaw Under Fire

Owners lament proposed pit bull bylaw
JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter
2005-09-13 02:54:35

London's proposed pit bull bylaw came under attack last night at an emotionally charged public meeting at city hall.
Tears flowed as some owners told city council's environment and transportation committee the bylaw could force them to abandon their dogs.
"I will have no choice but to leave this city," said Kim Young, choking back tears as she presented a slide show of her purebred Staffordshire bull terriers, Gus and Kelly, in competitions and play.
"Giving up my dogs is not an option."
Other owners delivered much the same message, including:
- The bylaw unfairly targets responsible dog owners.
- It will be impossible to enforce because of a loose definition of pit bulls.
- It places an "exorbitant" financial burden on owners, in terms of licence fees and other measures.
- A requirement for owners to have $1 million in liability insurance may be impossible or too expensive for owners to obtain.
The committee referred their concerns to staff for a report at the committee's next meeting Sept. 26.
"This bylaw is going to separate pets from their owners and dogs will die as a result of this and their deaths will be your responsibility," veterinarian Alexandra Soltan told the committee.
"Dogs should be restricted on the basis of their behaviour, not their looks."
The proposed bylaw is in response to the Ontario government's ban on pit bulls, which came into effect Aug. 29.
The province imposed the ban after a number of vicious attacks by pit bulls on people and pets.
People who own pit bulls are exempt, provided the dogs are sterilized, leashed and muzzled.
City staff say a local bylaw is needed to enforce the new provincial law by ensuring all pit bulls are licensed.
But the proposed bylaw puts even tougher measures in place, including:
- A licence fee of $130 annually, compared to the current $25.
- $25 for a warning sign at the entrance to owners' property.
- A first-time administration fee of $25.
- Proof pit bulls are microchipped and sterilized.
- Fines up to $500 for bylaw violations.
The city is also proposing a policy to pursue the maximum court sentence -- a $10,000 fine and six months in jail -- under the Dog Owners' Liability Act for owners of dogs that bite a person or domestic animal.
Beth Saylor, president of the London Dog Owners Association, told the committee she contacted more than 40 insurance agents and brokers and was unable to get a quote on the cost of insurance.
"Not one insurance company would send a quote in writing," Saylor said.
"One agent even said I could have my house insurance cancelled if I owned a pit bull and another said it would be illegal to insure a pit bull because they're banned in Ontario."
Among the 15-plus presenters was Sonny Allinson, manager of communications for the Canadian Kennel Club.
Allinson said a major problem with the provincial legislation and proposed bylaw is the lack of a definition.
"The generic reference refers to a population of randomly bred dogs," Allinson said. "Our concern is that municipalities will see that definition become a catch-all for additional, precisely defined, purebred dogs. There have been a lot of tears shed around this table tonight. There will be more tears, no question about that."
"I wish the city would stop concentrating their effort on penalizing the responsible dog owner but start going after the puppy mills and dog fighting rings. Lets start targeting the people who are causing the problem, the irresponsible dog owners."
- Beth Saylor, president, London Dog Owners Association
"I want the city to specifically target aggressive dogs . . . And I'm saying the city must find an alternative to euthanizing those pit bulls that owners have abandoned."
- Christine Hopkins, owner of a Staffordshire bull terrier
"If you want to own a dog, aside from having it neutered or spayed, part of the package should be (that) you have to take training."
- Henry Masek, owner of a purebred American pit bull
"If this bylaw is approved, I will hang my head in shame. I don't want to live or work in such a city."
- Alexandra Soltan, veterinarian
"If it wasn't for her, I'd be bedridden today. She's gotten me out of the house, she's my companion. I think the fees are ridiculous and I can't afford them, but I'll do it somehow. She's an angel who's given me back my life."
- Connie Dufour, owner of Shasta, an American pit bull Terrier
"This is a violation of my rights. If a convicted child molester doesn't have to put a sign on their front lawn, why do I have to put one up? I'm not a criminal, but I feel like I'm being treated like one."
- Danielle Faubert, owner of a purebred American pit terrier
Copyright © The London Free Press


Amstaffie said...

You & the others were quoted, so that is a good start! I hope that all those people took what you & the others said to heart. I truly believe that it's going to make a difference. There were valid points quoted. Good job to you & the others!!

Conners said...

Thanks Andee and thanks to all your support through this. I had to take several anti-anxiety meds throughout the day, but once it was all over, it was all worth while and the whole time we encouraged each other saying, "It's for the dogs!" Many of us were so nervous, even those that weren't speaking, but we all came away with a good feeling about it.
From the news cast on tv (I never saw it) but people said it sounded so negative. That's the press for you! The news articles and from what we heard and saw was totally different.
We fought with everything in us. We did our best!