Saturday marks 10 years since Ontario’s pit bull ban came into effect. With fewer of those dogs in the province, there have been less vicious attacks by pit bulls. But there are those who say the law has been ineffective and the breed unfairly targeted.
Melissa Raftis has more.
Rambunctious Sadie and mild mannered Bam Bam are Sharon Hewitt’s beloved family pets. Both pit bull types, Hewitt says the dogs are great with kids. Since they were born before 2005 they’re exempt from Ontario’s ban.
“It has nothing to do with the breed. It has everything to do with responsible pet ownership.” Hewitt says the law unfairly targets the breed and wants to see it repealed. “Any dogs can bite and many dogs can and will bite. So that’s when it’s dangerous – when the public in general feels that they’re safe because of this ban, when they are absolutely not.”
Before she died, Dash was a certified therapy pit bull. Owner Christina Bortolussi says Dash worked with the elderly, at children’s group homes and with young offenders. “She was incredibly gentle. She made a lot of people happy in her work. The program we kind of ran was ‘look at her front line impression, she’s judged she’s stereotyped so are you guys. You can change it.’ She did.”
When the Ontario government changed the dog owners’ liability act, Dash, despite being deemed a predictable dog, had to wear a muzzle in public. “That broke so many of my client’s hearts. It was quite depressing.”
Like Sharon Hewitt, Christina Bortolussi says the problem lies at the other end of the leash.
Hamilton Animal Services says most of the pit bulls they see now come in as strays. “In 2005 – which part of it was prior to the legislation coming into effect – we had 230 pit bulls in that year.” Says Karen Edwards from Animal Services. “Since then, last year we had only 15 and only 6 so far this year. They’re tested for health and temperament. If the dogs pass they are placed in homes out of province. If they fail – they’re euthanised. We’re getting them in and they’re ill or their temperaments are just not suitable. They’re quite dangerous animals so we don’t want to let them out of the province either and go to somebody else’s home.”
The Ministry of the Attorney General says right now they have no plans to revisit the law. They say since the changes came into effect, they believe there are now fewer pit bulls in Ontario and therefore fewer opportunities for a vicious attack by the breed.
“Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.” In 2010, Virgina Vader’s miniature pinscher Paisley was attacked by a pit bull cross. “I turned my back with my dog and it tried to jump over me and grab my dog by it’s sweater and I manage to elbow it off.”
Hours later, the animal ran through the front door of a nearby home and killed that family’s dog. Still, Vader doesn’t agree with the ban. “The problem is, bad owners who allow their dogs to become aggressive…to become vicious.”
The Ministry of the Attorney General’s office notes the legislation also applies to any dog that poses a danger to the public and says in 2005, they heard very clearly from Ontarians that they wanted to be protected from pit bulls.