A while back I talked about the Global Anti BSL Walk that took place all over the globe in many places. I also talked about the sparse turnout we had here in my home town, and how it clearly illustrated the reasons why BSL does not work. What I didn’t speak about in that blog was the fact that we had to turn away two bully breed owners who brought their three illegal underage “pit bull” dogs to “help support” our fight against BSL.
But here’s the thing…the Ontario Anti BSL community agreed YEARS ago, that we would muzzle our dogs when rallying in public to fight for them. We do not like the fact that BSL exists, but we were damned if we were going to flaunt the law and put our dogs in danger. For the most part, those attending rallies and walks have always followed the law even though they disagree with it. Apparently this family and their dogs didn’t get the memo, or so I thought…
When I got a second to speak with the owner of these “illegal dogs” I asked him why his dogs were not muzzled, his answer was that they were good dogs and did not need to be as they had done nothing wrong. He went on to exclaim that back home in Toronto he walked them offleash all the time and had no problems. (at this point I began wondering why he had traveled all the way from Toronto to Barrie to participate in the walk as Toronto was staging it’s own walk that day.)
“You do understand that BSL is NOT an optional thing right?” I asked. “You do understand that your dogs, being under the age of twelve years are considered illegal in this province, right?”
“Of course it is optional!” was his reply. “My dogs are good (they weren’t, in fact the owner and his wife were having trouble controlling them on leash) and the law doesn’t apply to good dogs.” he answered smugly. “I only have to muzzle my pit bulls if they are a danger to society, and they are not!” he exclaimed as his largest dog jumped on me and he did nothing to correct it or apologize for its behavior. Luckily, I am not one of those people who is afraid of pit bulls or big dogs, so I just shrugged it off and put it down to irresponsible dog ownership.
I went on to explain to this family that BSL restrictions are NOT optional, they are the law. (even though we completely disagree with said law) I tried to explain that if someone (anyone really) called animal control and reported his three unmuzzled pit bulls, his dogs could be confiscated on the spot, and would likely end up euthanized unless a rescue agency could find a spot for them outside Ontario. His answer? “Over my dead body is anyone taking my dogs!”
This dog owner continued to ignore the Ontario statutes as they pertain to ownership of pit bulls, saying he would do as he pleased with his dogs. It was at that point our group drifted away from the family with the illegal dogs, and much to our relief they didn’t follow us. It isn’t that we agree with the law, or that we don’t like unmuzzled pit bulls, in fact we think it is ridiculous that dogs who have done nothing wrong are restricted because some legislative idiot decided against all pertinent evidence to the contrary, that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. It’s just that we do not see flaunting the existing laws as a way to end them.
Meeting these unmuzzled, underage dogs on the beach front reminded me of how may underage dogs I have seen on the streets in the past year alone. We as advocates know that there are still breeders out there in Ontario who are breeding pit bulls and selling them to an unwary public.
The public are UNWARY, the other day I overheard a conversation in which two people were discussing Ontario’s BSL. One of them said “no, you can have a pit bull now, they overturned that law years ago.” For the record, “they” didn’t overturn that law, it is still going strong despite 12 years on the part of advocates to attempt to have it overturned. Truth is that most Ontario residents are not even aware that BSL restrictions are present in Ontario law, or what breeds are banned under said legislation. When you mention BSL in public the most common question you hear is “what’s that?” Once you explain BSL many people say things like “well it’s a good thing Ontario doesn’t have that!” or “well at least I am not affected by it, my dog is a lab.” That’s usually the point at which I launch into the story of how my 100 lb husky/lab cross was labeled a pit bull by animal control, and how it took me five years to have that determination overturned.
The real problem here in Ontario is not clueless dog owners who don’t know the law exists, but breeders who simply do not care that the law exists. These breeders continue to breed dogs illegally, and sell them to Ontarians that are unaware that they are breaking the law simply by owning a pit bull born after the August 29, 2005 date.
The moral to this disjointed tale is this: If Ontario dog owners continue to flaunt the BSL statutes, it makes it very difficult for us as advocates to convince the Ontario government that BSL does not work.
On another note, the number of illegal pit bulls in Ontario is another clear illustration of the fact that BSL does not work. Politicians stating that BSL works because there are not many pit bulls left in the province, and that bite stats have gone down since the introduction of the legislation, are wrong. Bite stats have pretty much remained the same since 2005, but of course there are very few bites by pit bull type dogs since there are so few legal pit bulls left in the province.
The government decided getting rid of pit bulls was the answer, they did not count on the number of illegal dogs that would still be in the province twelve years on. While these dogs are not supposed to be here, their presence proves that pit bulls are not the problem. There are THOUSANDS of illegal dogs in the province, yet bite stats have remained the same. Clearly a single breed (even though “pit bull” is not technically a breed.) is not responsible for all the dog bites that happen, so why single out a single “breed” and expect it to eliminate dog bite incidents? Simply put, it makes the public think that politicians are doing something. It also makes the public believe that all other breeds of dog are safe, and that is a serious problem.
We don’t need breed bans in Ontario, we need responsible dangerous dog legislation that puts the onus on the dog owner and not on the dog. After all, humans chose to domesticate dogs and bring them into society as companions, it is our job to see that they do no harm.
Until Next Time Remember
WE ARE THEIR ONLY VOICE