Things are looking up for pit bulls in Ontario! A new private member’s bill, introduced last November, aims to repeal the long-standing ban on pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs in the province because the ban is ineffective, arbitrarily targets certain dogs, and has not improved community safety.
Since 2005, it’s been against the law to be the guardian of a pit bull in Ontario. The rationale for this breed ban is to improve public safety by outlawing a type of dog deemed dangerous. But the truth is that breed bans are unscientific, ineffective, and extremely dangerous for dogs—putting them at risk of being unfairly killed, simply because of how they look.
Why don’t breed bans work? They target dogs based on their appearance, regardless of their history of behaviour. Any dog can become aggressive if they’re raised or cared for improperly, regardless of genetic background. Breed bans don’t tackle irresponsible dog guardianship, which is the root issue, so they generally don’t reduce the amount or severity of dog bites.
Instead, public safety can be improved through a community-based approach that includes licensing for pets, spay and neuter programs, public education campaigns that promote responsible dog guardianship, and dangerous dog protocols.
Statistics compiled by Global News in 2016 showed that dog bites actually increased in Toronto after 10 years of the pit bull breed ban.
According to the Toronto Humane Society, a survey on dog bites in 36 municipalities showed no difference between municipalities with breed bans and those without when it comes to numbers of dog bites or not.
Meanwhile, Calgary doesn’t ban specific breeds, and its animal control program is regarded as one of the strongest in North America. Instead, the city focuses on responsible pet guardianship, holding humans responsible for their dogs’ behaviour. The city offers free training classes for dogs, requires pet licensing, promotes dog safety campaigns to the public, and has strong fines and protocols for aggressive dog behaviour and biting. This approach is working. In 1985, there were over 2,000 aggressive dog incidents in the city. In 2014, that number went down to 641, with 252 of those incidents being dog bites.
In addition to being ineffective, another problem with breed bans is that they often mean a death sentence for innocent dogs.
In 2012, Ontario Veterinary Medical Association blamed breed bans for the wrongful killing of over 1,000 dogs and puppies with zero history of violent behaviour.
And in 2015, authorities sought to execute 21 pit bull-type dogs rescued from a dog fighting ring in Chatham, Ontario. Animal Justice fought in court to help save the dogs and eventually an agreement was reached, with the help of Dog Tales sanctuary, to rehabilitate most of them at a facility in Florida.
Like all animals, pit bull-type dogs deserve kindness and compassion, not a death sentence solely based on their appearance. We’re hopeful that soon Ontario’s harmful breed ban will soon be a thing of the past.
Join the Animal Justice mailing list