More than eight years later, Ontario’s pit bull ban remains controversial

When Rosemarie Pacinelli was looking to adopt a dog, she was adamant on what she wanted for her family.

She wanted one they could play with and care for. In 1996, Pacinelli’s family welcomed Cujo, a purebred pit bull.

“We knew that a properly bred pit bull would be an ideal family dog,” she said. “We had no problems with him at all. He was trained to be around little babies and children.

“Pit bulls are part bull mastiff and bull mastiff`s have a wonderful demeanor, which makes them wonderful pets.”

Not everyone agrees. The breed has gained a reputation for having a violent nature.

In 2005, the province enacted the Dog Owner’s Liability Act (DOLA), which banned pit bulls and certain pit bull mix breeds.

“If you raise a dog to be a killer, then they’ll be a killer,” said Rosalia Kouroupis, a pit bull supporter. “But if you train them to be great, like any other pet, they’ll be great.”

But the risk is too great and the ban on pit bulls is necessary, Lisa Cerratti said.

Cerratti has never trusted dogs, she said. Her fears were realized when a neighbour’s dog mauled her 8-year-old son, tearing his clothes and leaving him with scratches all over his chest, she said. He needed stitches after being attacked by a dog again years later.

“I don’t think [tighter controls are] necessary for smaller dogs … but the large ones are dangerous,” Cerratti said. “They need some sort of regulations.”

In 2012, Kouroupis was faced with some of DOLA’s regulations when her pit bull Lexi, who wasn’t neutered, had a litter of seven pups. Technically this is against the DOLA ban on the breed, which specifies that pit bulls must be spayed or neutered.

“The amendments will prohibit anyone from owning, breeding, transferring, importing, fighting or abandoning pit bulls in Ontario,” according to the act.

Kourpouis did not want the pups to be taken away or euthanized, so she and her boyfriend at the time decided to try to find them homes instead.

“For people other than friends who had their own connections, we tried using [online classified website] Kijiji,” she said. “Our ads would get deleted because even though we didn’t call them pits, if Kijiji sees resemblances, they take your ad off. You’re not allowed to call them ‘mixed’ either. You have to know the exact breed.”

To bypass this obstacle, they called them American bulldogs, which Kourpouis said worked for just a few weeks.

Still, the couple managed to find all the puppies homes except for the runt of the litter, Diesel, who they decided to keep.