The path to public safety

from the CBC news website
Supreme Court upholds Ontario ban on pit bulls
Last Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2009 11:56 AM ET

The Canadian Press
The Supreme Court of Canada said Thursday it will not hear a bid to quash Ontario’s ban on pit bulls.
A Toronto dog owner, Catherine Cochrane, began the push to take the fight to Canada’s highest court in April.
“That’s the end of the legal attack, but it remains a bad law, a terrible law,” said Clayton Ruby, Cochrane’s lawyer.
In his submission to the Supreme Court, Ruby argued there is no scientific or statistical basis to conclude that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs.
He asked the Supreme Court to review a decision from Ontario’s Appeal Court last October that upholds the province’s ban.
On Thursday, the high court dismissed the application to hear the appeal.
The Ontario Appeal Court concluded that pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable dogs that have the potential to attack without warning.
The Ontario government enacted the Dog Owners’ Liability Act in 2005 to ban the breeding, sale and ownership of pit bulls after several incidents in which the dogs attacked people.
When the law was enacted, pit bulls that were already pets in the province were grandfathered and allowed to stay with owners, but with strict rules.
As a result, many owners have opted to give up their dogs and the animals are ultimately euthanized, Ruby said.
“The dogs are winding up in the shelters, the shelters can’t keep the dogs forever and they kill them,” he said.
The Supreme Court also ordered Cochrane to pay the costs associated with her application to take the case to the high court.

Think that couldn’t happen here in Nova Scotia? Think again. It very nearly did happen to us and if it hadn’t been for the vigilance of my friend Joan, it very well could have been a fait accomplis before any of us were the wiser. Our very own (soon to be retired from even being the official opposition) PC provincial government tried to sneak BDL in under the cover of a municipal housekeeping bill (Bill 138 )
That in turn inspired the launching of a grassroots campaign by our regional rep for the Dog Legislative Council, Banned in Nova Scotia? Bill 138 . And THAT unprecedented and unanticipated flurry of emails and phone calls inspired a newfound enthusiasm for animal welfare for many of our politicians.
One of the problems with BDL …. besides of course the fact that it doesn’t work and only succeeds in killing dogs for political gain…. is that it is always presented as a public safety measure.
Sadly, it is a sugar pill that only succeeds in killing dogs. Real public safety measures involve three basics:

  • providing public incentives through reduced licensing fee for altered pets and low cost spay neuter programs. Recorded instances of altered pets biting or attacking are minimal to rare
  • introduce anti tethering legislation. Every bit of data I’ve looked at lists at least a quarter of all dog attacks as involved a chained dog.
  • putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the dog owners, using the combination carrot/stick approach of fines and education similar to what Calgary has done. If Lloyd Hines has put Nova Scotia on the map in a negative way by initiating unasked for BDL in Guysborough county, Calgary has been getting rave reviews everywhere for its successes.

It will likely be the fall before our new NDP government gets down to real business. They have already promised, via the ARPO survey, not to initiate BDL and to work with the municipalities to foster more humane bylaws. They have also been crystal clear throughout their campaign that they intend to keep their budget on track.

In light of that, a new facebook group has been created Break the Chain in Nova Scotia. Why should our new government be encouraged to do this? Its a fairly low cost way to demonstrate their concern for animal welfare and to protect the children in this province. The path to public safety lies in proactive measures like this …. not in killing dogs.

What time is it? If we want better animal welfare laws, its important to remember that the one thing all politicians respond to is voter feedback.

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