Ontario should rethink the pit bull ban

Breed specific ban legislation is ineffective. It assumes the breed rather than behaviour makes a dog dangerous.

In 2005, Ontario created Bill 132, commonly known as the pit bull ban in response to high-profile dog attacks.

Laws around dangerous dogs should be revisited and the pit bull ban lifted.

The term pit bull isn’t a specific breed but several. According to Ontario law, a pit bull could be a pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier or any dog that has an appearance or physical characteristics similar to the breeds listed.

To start off with a very wide definition of what constitutes a pit bull is bad. Under Bill 132, it’s the veterinarian’s job to determine if a dog is a pit bull by examining the dog and it’s the owner’s job to prove their dog isn’t a pit bull.

A vet looking at your dog to determine if it looks enough like a pit bull is too opinion-based and shaky for a law to be put on it.

Data taken from over the 13 years that the pit bull ban has been in place has shown a decrease in pit bull attacks.

If the only point of the ban was to bring down the number of pit bull bites, it worked. If the point was to decrease the number of dog bites in Ontario, like it was advertised, the only data we have to track that indicates dog bites are on the rise.

The data on dog bites and attacks in Ontario is useless. It’s collected by individual municipalities who use different organizations and what’s even more biting is it’s all self-reported. It’s left to the victim of the bite to report what happened, including the type of dog and which dog it was.

Breed specific data on dog bites is all opinion-based.

The organization that collects the complaints don’t DNA test the dog and the person who takes down the report wouldn’t see the dog that bit the person.

A dog could look like a pit bull to the person who was bitten. But it could be a boxer. Or the person could report a Shih Tzu that is actually a Maltese.

This skews the data making it even more useless because it isn’t a fair representation of which dogs are biting or how many bites are happening.

That’s how we got the Montreal pit bull ban. A pit bull mix killed Christiane Vadnais when the dog got into her backyard. If there was a better system for reporting dog bites, authorities would have known the dog had attacked two other people. More importantly, they would have known the dog was abused by the owner.

Breed specific bans wouldn’t have saved Vadnais’s life. That owner probably would have had another dog that would have been just as violent due to the treatment they received. It is not the breed but the behaviour, not of the dog but the owner.

What Alberta is doing is effective.

Instead of pinning the term of dangerous dogs on pit bulls, Alberta changed the language for dog behaviour. Any dog that chases, attacks, bites or injures a person or animal is deemed dangerous.

As of Dec. 20 2017, Montreal has lifted their pit bull ban for more effective legislation that focuses on bad owners rather than bad dogs.

Ontario should follow suit.