The past decade has seen a rise in breed specific legislation. With blame being put on certain breeds of dogs instead of how they are trained, negligent dog owners are let off the hook while the dogs suffer. The main breed targeted by these laws is the Pit Bull, but many other breeds are included. Most of the legislation is aimed at banning a specific breed completely, but the laws also extend to euthanasia practices in shelters and actions such as muzzling dogs. Many people are in favor of this legislation because they believe it will reduce fatalities from dog bites.
As the One Million Mutt marches in Toronto, Ontario and Washington, DC demonstrate, many people are also not in favor of breed specific legislation. Zelda Nista, from Global BSL Awareness warns that BSL affects dogs of similar appearance to the banned breeds, and therefore that BSL affects all dog owners. Certainly, under Ontario’s laws, any dog that is picked up by a shelter can be euthanized immediately if it even resembles one of the banned breeds. Imagine if your dog got loose and was euthanized because it looked like a Pit Bull. That is how BSL affects all of us.
The One Million Mutt march in Toronto was held on May 3rd and saw quite a large turnout. Speakers included MPP Cheri DiNovo, Selma Mulvey (Dog Legislation Council Of Canada), Natalie Kemeny (Advocate’s For The Underdog Rescue), Jen Gillen (Stuff On Scout’s Head), Yvette Van Even (Awesome Dogs), Richard Zabehlicky (Doberman Rescue Ontario) and Frances Lawton (representing all Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-Op chapter’s).
The upcoming Ontario Global Anti~BSL Protest on July 19th is the 2nd annual march and will feature a number of all breed rescue booths. July 19th will bring all countries together in Global Unity with simultaneous Anti~BSL protests on the same day, raising awareness and remembering all the dogs we have lost world wide due to BSL.
We interviewed Debbie Black, the Co-founder of Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-Op to get her take on the march and the effects of BSL.
How did the One Million Mutt March originate? What brought it to Ontario?
The Million Mutt March was the name that we chose to express the solidarity between dog owners and lovers of all breeds, “types” cross breeds. Certainly, it was a statement regarding equal treatment for all dog owners, an end to BSL, and an emphasis on Education. Experts agree that the Calgary model of dog legislation is the “gold standard” for what we should be doing in Ontario.
The march was also timed to coincide with the One Million Pibble March in Washington. We wanted to draw attention to the recent movement in the states to abolish BSL there.. The White House has come out with a formal statement against Breed Bans and nineteen states have now made it against the law to enact Breed Specific Legislation.
How do you think Ontario’s BSL laws affect dog owners?
Ontario’s BSL has punished law abiding citizens and their unoffending dogs. It has resulted in thousands of dogs being killed for no reason other than how someone perceives the “look” or appearance of the dog.
Several dog owners have fought to get their dogs back in court and have won in court, however, the cost of a legal defence is prohibitive for most families. This law is often referred to as a “grudge bill” due to the fact that often a neighbour dispute having nothing to do with dogs will be the catalyst to the dog being reported as being a “pit bull”… and again, if the owner of the dog does not have the financial resources or the knowledge of how to deal with this law, it results in their family member being killed.
How has Ontario’s BSL laws affected dogs and rescue organizations?
Several NON-dog owners have also been caught up in this mess. For instance, because of my position as founder of the OPC, I often get phone calls from people who have found a puppy or stray that they believe may be vulnerable under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act. They are afraid to call Animal Control as they do not want to be responsible for the dog being killed.
I have also had calls where people believe that a dog might be being abused or neglected, and again, they are afraid to call Animal Control because they are afraid, rightly so, that the dog may be killed.
I have had neighbours call where the owner of the dog has passed away or been hospitalized. In some of these situations the callers kept the dogs – they had to make a choice between morality and legality. To me, any law that forces its citizens into making such a choice is fundamentally flawed at its core and goes against the nature of a civilized society.
Rescue organizations not only have to fund the care, vet, feeding, etc. for the dogs in their care but now are also overwhelmed with transport cost to the lucky percentage of dogs that are transported out of the province.
To learn more visit Facebook.com/Ontario.PitBull.CoOp
Thank you to Debbie Black, Zelda Nista, and Lynn Noel for providing information for this article.