‘Bandwagon’ mentality worries Quebec dog owner
An animal rescue organization dedicated to helping “pit bull type” dogs in Ontario says a move by Vaudreuil-Dorion’s elected officials to at least listen to animal experts in advance of potentially tightening laws is a step in the right direction.
Veronica Hamilton, who co-founded Bullies In Need in 2005, says pit bulls in Ontario face euthanasia daily thanks to some of the most restrictive legislation in Canada, as well as a public belief that the entire breed is inherently dangerous.
Ontario passed Bill 132 on March 1, 2005. The legislation banned owning future pit bulls in Ontario and placed tight restrictions on existing bit bulls in the province, which were grandfathered in.
It focused on four breeds: pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers.
Bullies In Need has rescued and found new homes for more than 400 dogs during the past 11 years.
Many of the dogs went to new owners in Quebec, says Hamilton.
And several of the new owners are now worried as many Quebec towns, like Vaudreuil-Dorion, move to ban or restrict the often feared breeds.
According to Hamilton, legislation should not penalize entire breeds but rather should focus on individual incidents.
“There is not a pit bull problem, there is a people problem,” she said, adding, “The breed will not determine the risk, it is the individual dog.”
Illustrating the point, she says, is a recent report issued by the city of Toronto where the ban originated, indicating that the total number of dog bits has been on the rise in the city since 2012.
Reported dog bites peaked in 2014 with highest number of bites in more than a century.
But with pit bull and pit bull type dogs facing extinction in Toronto, those breeds were not the culprits in the spike in bites.
Nor were they the main culprits prior to the ban.
The top breed for recorded dog bites in 2004, the year before the Ontario ban was put into place, were German shepherd dogs with 112 bites. Pit bulls came in second in 2004 with 86 recorded bites.
Ten years later, in 2014, a total of 92 German shepherd bites were recorded. Labrador retriever dogs bites came in second with 41, according to the report.
Hamilton thinks a sort of “bandwagon” way of thinking has traditionally thrown entire breeds under the bus.
“In the ’70’s it was dobermans who were the most feared. In the ’80’s it was the Rottweiler. Now it’s pit bulls,” she said.
Not against euthanizing
Hamilton agrees that there are times when it is appropriate to euthanize an aggressive dog, regardless of the breed.
“Sure, there are bad pit bulls. Just like there are bad retrievers and bad dobermans. Those dogs that pose a risk should not be in society,” she noted.
Anne, a spokesperson for Rosie Adoption who did not want to give her last name believes dog owners must do their part or not get an animal.
“Every dog should be vaccinated, microchipped and fixed,” she said.
And if an owner has a dog with aggressive tendencies?
“Seek professional help with an animal behaviorist who is a vet first or a dog trainer,” Anne said.
Owners should also use such things as basket dog muzzles when in public if they fear their animal has a tendency to bite, she said.
“Be a responsible guardian and manage your dog accordingly.”
Fear taking toll
The move of towns like Vaudreuil-Dorion to potentially toughen laws on the owning of pit bulls, or ban them entirely, is taking a toll according to Hamilton.
Though Bullies In Need will accept only “great ambassadors for the pit bull breed,” many of their adopted dogs went to new owners who now feel their animals are in jeopardy in Quebec.
The owner of a pit bull named Twinkle wrote to Hamilton this week saying she is placing her Brossard home for sale as that town gets set to place a ban on pit bull dogs or crossbreeds.
The ban is in response to the mauling in a park last September of an 8-year-old girl. Two pit bulls severely wounded the child.
Hamilton says they also placed a pit bull named Shadow as a service animal to a Quebec City veteran dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. Shadow’s owner has sent her an email saying he is worried about what he’ll do if a ban comes into effect.
And Murphy, Hamilton’s own 17 year old pit bull, regularly goes into schools to help illustrate anti bullying programs.
For its part, the town of Vaudreuil-Dorion says it will form a committee to see if changes need to be made to Regulation #1510, and specifically to sections dealing with dangerous dogs and dog attacks.
The town will speak with kennel owners, vets, the SPCA and other dog experts.
“We will act having all the information that will allow us to make informed and effective decisions,” the town said in a recent release.
A new draft regulation on dangerous dogs should be tabled in the fall.