With news stories about dog bites often featuring pit bulls, the breed has gained a bad reputation. This is part of the reason why pit bulls have been banned in several places worldwide, including in Ontario.
But not everyone agrees with such legislation.
“We oppose breed-specific legislation,” said Makyla Deleo, Toronto Humane Society public relations specialist. “We don’t feel — and there is evidence to support this — that it reduces the incidents or even severity of dog bites.”
The Ontario government passed legislation in 2005 banning new pit bulls from entering the province. It requires Pit Bull owners to spay or neuter their pet and to keep their dog leashed and muzzled at all times when in public.
Life-time dog owner Stephen Anger is “dead against” the Pit Bull ban.
“The Pit Bull is a very stocky dog, so the fear factor is greater,” Anger said. “People jump right on that because that’s all they see on the news, but any dog in the wrong environment can be just as vicious.”
Dogs of all breeds can cause injuries, even death, but Anger believes pit bulls are unfairly targeted.
“You don’t do that to humans. Some men like to fight at a bar when they’ve had too much to drink, but we can’t ban all men from the world,” Anger said. “It’s the same thing with dogs. Dogs have feelings and emotions and they go through hard times just the same as we do. To outlaw a breed is just wrong.”
The Toronto Humane Society supports repeal of breed-specific legislation (BSL) across Canada. To help make their case, they have released a video of Beans, a pit pull terrier rescued by the society, as he heads to Calgary in agreement with the Ontario BSL.
“Not only have there been more dog bites since BSL has been introduced, these dog bites are not just little nips and pinches,” Deleo said. “It’s also fairly significant bites that do cause significant damage to individuals.”
In 2018 zero charges were laid under the Ontario Regulation: Pit Bull Controls. Forty-three summons were issued for dogs of all breeds under the Dog Owners Liability Act.
In many cases children are the victims of dog attacks. Dogs such as Great Danes and Labradors can outweigh children by more than 20 pounds. It is widely recommended that children should not be left with unsupervised dogs, including family pets.
Parents also need to use judgement when allowing their children to take dogs out for walks on their own.
Recently a viral video showed a young child walking a dog that broke free from the child’s grasp to attack a Pomeranian.
“Parents need to be very cognizant of the size-to-weight ratio when kids are walking dogs,” Deleo said. “If their dog was going to chase a squirrel or saw something across the street, could their child, given the size to weight ratio, realistically maintain control of the animal?”
BSL opposers are in agreement that dog owners need to be more responsible.
“We need to work together with our governing bodies and our institutions, such as Toronto Animal Services, to put bylaws and laws into place that encourage responsible pet ownership no matter the breed,” Deleo said. “All dogs have the ability to bite and the root of the problem is appropriate training, and sometimes appropriate medical care, in terms of getting animals spayed or neutered, to discourage potential aggressive tendencies.”
Anger advocates researching dogs and their breeds before getting a dog. He is also a strong believer in owners being responsible for their dogs’ behaviour.
“Do something to make sure that bad dog owners never own dogs again rather than getting rid of the dogs that they own,” he said.