Ontario’s Pit Bull ban – 10 years later

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 Hewitt says the law unfairly targets the breed and wants to see it repealed.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.


  1. Don’t become like the U.S. Pit bull type dogs make up 6% of the US dog population but they kill more than 95% of the 50,000 people, pets and livestock killed every year in the US. From 2005-2015, 220 people killed by pit bull type dogs. http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities.php
    How many animals killed by pit bulls: http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/01/27/how-many-other-animals-did-pit-bulls-kill-in-

    Two words to prove pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous, Google: “BREAK STICK’.

    • I think your stats are totally out of whack. Also, I wouldn’t compare any deaths in the US
      by dogs. There are more people killed in the US by guns in 1 day than killed by all dogs in 1 year.

    • dogbite.org is a discredited b.s. website run by a man who makes up stats and has thoroughly lied about his credentials and his information sources. Quoting dogbite.org demonstrates that you know nothing about the subject.

      Quoting false and misleading stats, erroneous media reports and hysteria is the hallmark of anti “pit bull” types.

      There is virtually NO CHANGE in Ontario’s dog bite stats since the ban came into effect. Irresponsible dog owners now just get other powerful breeds and mixed breeds – many that are far more problematic than “pit bulls” have ever been.

      And unless you are talking about American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pitbull Terriers, or Staffordshire Bull Terriers, there is no such breed as a “pit bull”. What most people call “pit bulls” are mixed breed dogs with certain physical characteristics.

      So please, “Julie”, take your ignorant opinions elsewhere, or do some research before you start spouting off about rationalizing killing innocent dogs based on hysteria alone.

  2. This is a fair and balanced report.
    I see the dogsbite.org nutters are out already with their unsubstantiated “statistics”, Internet “knowledge” and general ignorance about dogs.
    A “pit bull” is usually a crossbred or mixed breed dog of uncertain heritage that has a certain appearance. A “pit bull” can be a purebred dog, a crossbred dog or a mixed breed dog which fits the subjective “appearance” description. This is first and foremost where so-called “breed” specific legislation fails. A law should not be based on subjectivity, but on provable objectivity.
    Next – A dog’s appearance does not predetermine or predict its behaviour, any more than a person’s appearance does.
    Next – A dog’s behaviour is the HUMAN owner’s responsibility. The hand at the end of the leash is always fully responsible for a dog’s behaviour, regardless of the dog’s appearance.
    Repeal so-called “breed” specific legislation and put the onus and punishment on the party truly responsible – the human owner.

  3. Julie, julie, julie, another misguided, misinformed, fictitious “statistic” spewing buffoon. Anyone with an IQ over 12 will laugh at your use of the dogsbite website to garner information. The seriously deranged woman who runs that site has zero credibility, her statistics are false and completely unverifiable, the ONLY reason that site exists is because the woman hates the bully breeds and is hoping her propaganda will inspire suckers like you to lap it up. Thankfully most adults are intelligent enough to see through her BS and only reference credible sources for dog bite statistics. Sounds like you need to get yourself some help there too Julie. PS – A break stick is a tool used to safely break up fights between any breed of dog. It reduces the risk of a person being bit while trying to separate them. It certainly doesn’t “prove” inherent danger. Seriously, where do you simpletons come from?

    Now, to the article. BSL has done absolutely nothing in Ontario. Why? Because the bully breeds that the Liberal government foolishly and incorrectly labelled “pit bulls” were never a threat to the public to begin with. The number of pits has not been reduced, in Thunder Bay for example there are just as many now as there were in 2005. Thankfully our city animal services saw through the Liberals agenda and decided not to enforce BSL here. Instead they enforce the DOLA which applies to any/all breeds of dogs without targeting a specific breed.

  4. Congratulations, Ontarios, for putting the welare of your citizens and their pet dogs and livestock animals FIRST in your provine. In only wish the USA was doing more to protect its citizens from these dangerous fighting/gripping breed dogs ie pit bulls. I applaud you.

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