Last week, I noted that two dogs, Brittany and Rambo, were finally allowed to return home from the shelter in Brampton, Ontario. The dogs, held for 97 days by the city under the provincial breed ban were finally allowed to return home after an independent veterinarian ruled that the dogs were not 'pit bulls' banned unter the ordinance.
The dogs were allowed to return home because one of the dogs' owners was financially able and willing to fight the city to get the dogs back.
But unfortunately, there were others that weren't so lucky. There always are.
The Brampton Guardian -- which has done a great job of covering the breed mis-identification struggles of their city under the Dog Owners Liability Act - had a story late last week that notes that the seizures of Brittany and Rambo were not isolated incidents. But that in the past, the dogs have been taken from homes never to return because the owners could not afford legal representation.
In early 2009, Gail Crocker's boxer mix Rosci, and another dog in the home, were confiscated from her home. Rosci had been licensed with the city for 7 years as a Boxer mix, and then, one day, the dog was taken. There was no warrant, the dog was just taken right off her front porch. "Right out of my arms," said Crocker. The Animal Control officer involved was the same one that took Brittany and Rambo. "It just seemed to become personal." said Crocker.
Crocker paid a $800 medical bill for the dogs to be spayed and microcipped -- and the city told her the dogs would be killed if she did not find a home for them outside of the province. Crocker shipped the dogs to a home she found for them in Newfoundland -- at even more expense to the owner.
Meanwhile, in January, just 7 days after Brittany and Rambo wer taken, Animal Control showed up at Angela Rodriguez's door, and confiscated her dog Missus. Even Rodriguez had paperwork from her vet showing that Missus was a Boxer/American Bulldog mix, the city never gave her a chance to show the paperwork. After paying the city vet $400 to spay and microchip Missus (and in the process, aborting Missus' 11 puppies), they were forced to send Missus to Newfoundland to live with a relative. "What they did has affected our entire family," said Rodriguez. "Our two other dogs seem to be lost without her. My five-year-od daughter could not stop crying."
In the past 4 years, 55 'pit bulls' have been confiscated from people in Brampton under DOLA. Of those, 31 of them were seized in 2009 -- a 138% increase over the number in 2008. Of all of the seized dogs, only 2 have been deemed pure bred dogs -- the rest were all mixes that may or may not have been really 'pit bulls' at all. And Peel Health Statistics show that there has been no change in the number of dog bites over the past 7 years -- with the numbers fluctation only slightly between 280 - 300 dog bites per year.
The Brampton City Commissioner of Community Services Jamie Lowery blames the legislation for the city's problems. "It's not the city, it's the legislation," he said. "That is clearly the biggest problem we have. That DOLA is very vague and ambiguous. It speaks to certain breeds, but also brings into question about characteristics, so we are charged with trying to enfore or interpret the legislation. It's vague at best and the worst part is there really is no relief valve in the legislation for an appeal."
Lowery also said municiple procedue is to "work with the owenrs" when the breed of dog is in question.
Like, apparently holding the animals for 97 days while they have to pay for lawyers to get the animals out - -and preventing the owners from even seeing the dogs for 2 months or allowing other owners to show paperwork proving their dogs were not 'pit bulls' before being forced to be shipped to Newfoundland.
Brampton continues to show us why Ontario's Dog Owner Liability Act is failing, and why all breed specific legislation fails.
- Breed ID for mixed breed dogs is virtually impossible
- It continues to break up families who own dogs that end up being targeted even though the dogs are not of the targeted breeds
- Taxpayers end up paying a large share of the burden to enforce the law
- And in the end, the overall public safety of the area is not improved.
Also, great work by the Brampton Guardian for digging below the surface to get the real story to what is going on in their community in violations of seizure laws, forgoing due process, and the breaking up of families from their family pets.