Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fight for Rambo, dog owner urges

Here we go again trying to prove Rambo is NOT a pit bull breed just because of similarities that other breeds also have, but despite the papers saying Rambo is an American Bull dog, ACC says differently.

I've written about Rambo before, so this is a continuation.

Fight for Rambo, dog owner urges

Nova Scotia’s Marilyn Cameron (above) fought her local government to win the right to keep her mix-breed dog, Zeus. She is encouraging Mississauga’s Gabriela Nowakowska to go to court for her dog Rambo, who is being held by Mississauga Animal Control under a pit bull ban.

Jim MacDonald
February 6, 2008 09:51 AM - A Nova Scotia dog owner is warning Mississauga's Gabriela Nowakowska to prepare for a long and bumpy legal ride as she tries to stop her pet from being put down.

The Mississauga woman appears in court later this month on charges of owning a prohibited animal. Her dog, Rambo, a 10-month-old pup the City of Mississauga says is a pit bull, is set to be euthanized under provincial legislation passed in 2005 that outlaws ownership of pit bulls. Rambo was picked up on Christmas Day by Animal Control officers after he got loose from Nowakowska's yard.

Nowakowska has been fighting a much-publicized battle to save her dog's life.

It's an issue that hits home for Nova Scotia's Marilyn Cameron, who along with her husband, Willard, butted heads with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough over their mix-breed dog, Zeus.

The Atlantic municipality had contended that the animal, which turns 16 this spring, was a pit bull. That breed has been banned in Guysborough since the mid-1990s.

But after a legal battle that lasted some 20 months — and reportedly cost taxpayers almost $10,000 in veterinarian and legal fees — the judge dismissed charges against the couple because the Crown could not prove the breed, technically, existed.

"The only thing to do is to keep fighting," Cameron said in a recent phone interview. "And it gets frustrating, but so long as you know you're in the right, just keep fighting until you get it resolved."

Unlike the legislation in Ontario, Guysborough council did not incorporate a grandfather clause when it banned breeds identified to have pit bull blood, such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or any dog of mixed breeds that were on the banned list.

Animal Control officers first learned of Zeus in April 2005, when a spat between the Camerons and a neighbour resulted in the dog being outed as a pit bull.
The two-day trial began in November 2006.

Much of the prosecutor's case rested on Crown witness Dr. Robert Robb, a veterinarian who examined the dogs one week before trial.

He testified the term "pit bull" is a general phrase used for canines that are mixed breeds, and there's no blood testing procedure that exists to determine whether a dog has the genetic makeup to be classified as such an animal.

Robb said he concluded Zeus had such blood after consulting a chart used by the City of San Francisco that lists the characteristics of pit bulls, such as a thick cranium and length of coat.
Robb testified that Zeus had several attributes listed on the chart, but agreed under cross examination that while all animals identified as pit bulls will have such features, not all dogs with those characteristics are pit bulls.

While rendering his decision, Judge Robert Stroud stated the bylaw was "vague and overreaching," and with a lack of blood testing that could confirm an animal is a pit bull-type dog, he questioned, "How, then, is it possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any particular dog meets that description for purposes of a quasi-criminal prosecution?"

That's a question posed many times by Sonny Allinson, communications manager for the Canadian Kennel Club's Toronto chapter.

Under Ontario law, the onus of proving a dog is not a pit bull lies with its owner if a veterinarian certificate identifies the canine as being part of the banned breed. But since the legislation does not offer a set list of guidelines for veterinarians to determine if a dog is a pit bull, Allinson believes the opinions are subject to interpretation.

"It certainly puts a lot of individual opinion in the hands of those animal control officers (and veterinarians)...without any consistency," he said.

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