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« Belfast also having issues with the Dangerous Dogs Act | Main | Aurora, CO re-looking at their Pit Bull Ban »

January 18, 2008

Comments

MAC`s GANG

I start with
BSL is a bad idea.
Nothing has convinced me that it`s a good idea.
There is absolutely nothing to support it.
I think that`s where things have gone awry.
The assumption is being made by politicians and other supporters of BSL that it`s a good idea and the onus is being put on "us" to prove that it`s a bad idea.
But I don`t know how you reverse this trend.
That`s akin to our Ontario law.
You have a "Pit Bull"
Now prove you don`t.

I think the solution is going to come via elections.
We must vote out BSL politicians and put in thinking people.
I know that`s a very long term solution based on our Ontario Oct 10/07 vote.
I don`t think it`s possible to educate most BSL politicians and therefore we must get rid of them through the voting process.

Michelled

I've said this before but...my education began with those fateful words "let's adopt a pit bull" after one too many episodes of animal cops. One too many episodes showing truly neglected and sometimes faught, "vicious" pit bulls being so happy and friendly towards the ACs. I decided to educate myself. Oddly enough, pit bull rescue sites weren't very helpful and perpetuated as many myths as they protested.

It's hard to come up with one argument that convinced me BSL is a bad idea - there isn't one factual argument to support it. But if I had to choose one I believe it would be the "guilty till proven innocent" nature of BSL - its an absolute violation of Constitutional Due Process. BSL turns otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals.

Caveat

What I find most unacceptable about BSL is the perpetutation of mythology - that there are dangerous 'breeds' of dogs, that some 'breeds' have characteristics that can't be possible, that BSL plays to the gallery, the ignorant and ignores the educated and experienced and most of all that is hasn't been successful ANYWHERE it's been implemented.

One of things I dislike about it is that is promotes lying by politicians, lawywers, animal rights groups and other who either make their living on or have a vested interest in BSL.

To be honest, when I first heard about it in the 90s I thought it was a crazy idea and the evidence since then has only reinforced my opinion.

And you guys know why I put 'breed' into quotes...

Caveat

PS, I'm a bit burned-out today so I forgot to add that MichelleD's reason, that BSL creates second-class citizens, inequality before the law and the criminalization of innocent people is one of the major reasons I'm helping with the fight.

KCK Kills Dogs

The first time I heard about BSL it was being passed as a new ordinance in KCK. At the time I lived in a neighboring city, did not own a dog, and frankly was overwhelmed trying to raise two toddlers, work 2 jobs and go to night school, so I only knew snippits of info from the media. But I remember all the hoopla about the mandatory insurance policy; the dogowners at the time could not even obtain this policy back in 1989-1990. The enforcement of the ordinance was actually delayed by Kansas City, Kansas by several months. I remember thinking who would pass a stupid law that people can't possibly comply with, this is insane.

Fast forward to the awful summer of 2006 in the metro and the pit bull frenzy that ensued. I was new at this advocacy stuff, so I did lots of reading, research, and joined an advocacy group of intelligent people.

This quote from someone (sorry can't remember the gentleman's name) always made so much sense - Laws are certainly needed, but dogs can't read and laws are for people. (Thus we need to make enforceable, sensible laws that punish bad owners not breeds of dogs.)

Marjorie

One of my fav's is from Dr. Gary Goeree, DVM:

"It is hard to fight a battle against fear when your only tools are fact and truth"

Since there is no real way to link DIRECTLY to Dr. Goeree's testimony to the Standing Committee during public hearings, here it is (feel free to delete this part, Brent, if it's too long for you):

***********************

The Chair: Is a representative of the Animal Hospital of Kitchener-Waterloo in the room?

Welcome this afternoon. I think you've been in the room long enough to pick up the ground rules. You have 15 minutes to address us today. If you leave any time remaining, it will be divided among the parties for questions. Please begin by stating your name for Hansard, and proceed as you wish.

Dr. Gary Goerée: My name is Gary Goerée. I'm a veterinarian. I practise in Kitchener. I was on the dangerous-dog committee in Kitchener from 1995 to 1997 and the pit bull appeals designation committee in 1997 and from 2000 to 2002. I've also served on the ad hoc committee on animal issues for Kitchener.

The four pillars that justified the ban in Kitchener in 1997 were: there was an epidemic of pit bull attacks; pit bull brains were chemically different from other dogs; pit bulls had a jaw strength of 2,000 pounds per square inch; and they were the number one cause of human deaths caused by dog bites.

On that basis, Kitchener council passed a bylaw banning the breed in 1997. I received a letter in February 1997 saying that I had been assigned to the pit bull appeals designation committee. Being the only veterinarian on the committee, I decided to do some background research because I assumed that people would expect me to know what I was talking about.

I went to the Ministry of Health to obtain numbers in terms of how many pit bulls had actually attacked in Kitchener. No one had ever looked at those numbers before. For those of you who don't know, when a bite incident happens anywhere in Ontario, a piece of paper is generated. Any doctor, police officer or hospital must send that paper to the Ministry of Health. So I went through over 1,400 of these bite incident reports and came up with a table of the number of attacks that had occurred in 1995 and 1996 in Kitchener.

That table is on page 2 of the handout I gave you, and you can see that pit bulls were number 8 in the region of Waterloo, right behind poodles. The 17 and 18 pit bull incidents per year represent approximately three out of every 100 dog incidents that happened in the Kitchener area.

With regard to the pit bull brain story, it was alleged that pit bull brains were chemically different. It was said that the release of endorphins caused pit bulls to become almost addicted, since endorphins are morphine-like substances in their brains. When I researched this, I discovered that most of the pit bull brain stories came from newspaper articles which then cited other newspaper articles, which cited other newspaper articles. So I called a board-certified veterinary neurologist, Dr. Susan Cochrane, and I asked her what the story was on the endorphin thing and pit bulls attacking. She had no idea what I was talking about, but she said, "I've only been board certified for four years. Call Dr. Gary Landsberg, who was just certified as a veterinary behaviouralist. He's right up to date on this." So I called Dr. Landsberg and he had not heard anything about the pit bull endorphin brain theory either, although he did tell me that there was a theory that compulsive tail-chasing in dogs could be endorphin, mediated.

With regard to the jaw strength of pit bulls being approximately a ton, once again, I researched the stories from newspapers, which always cited other newspapers. I discovered that there is not a single study that suggests that pit bulls actually do have a jaw strength of 2,000 pounds per square inch. I think that you could also try to envision how you would even do such a study or how you would try to measure the jaw strength of a biting pit bull. Two thousand pounds happens to be a perfect ton. My conclusion was that the jaw strength theory was another pit bull myth.

The fourth pillar justifying the ban in Kitchener was that it was the number one cause of dog-bite fatalities. There were no numbers in Canada at the time, so these numbers all had to come from the United States. It is true that pit bulls were the number one cause of human deaths in the United States for a certain time period. However, from 1975 to 1980, the number one dog was actually the German shepherd. In the late 1970s to mid-1980s, it was then the pit bull. Later on, the early 1990s, it became the Rottweiler.

The four pillars condemning pit bulls that served as evidence supporting the need for the 1997 Kitchener bylaw seemed to overwhelmingly justify the ban. However, after the bylaw was passed, three of those four pillars were discovered to be either inaccurate or fabricated. That left only dog-bite fatality statistics, which in fact showed a trend toward breeds other than the pit bull. There was not good evidence, therefore, in 1997 that pit bulls were any more dangerous than other breeds of dogs.

I brought this presentation to the editorial board of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record in 1997, and I asked them the question, "Since only three out of very 100 dog bites in this area are pit bulls, why do you only report pit bull attacks in your newspaper?" Their answer was, "Because pit bulls are news."

I brought this information to Kitchener council as well, remembering that this was after the bylaw was passed, and I warned them that if they made public statements regarding the four pillars of the pit bull attack theory, they may be corrected in public. The council thanked me for the information, said they wouldn't say those things again in public, and they kept their ban.

What the ban actually does in Kitchener is it bans a look or phenotype because, as you heard, you cannot definitively say what a pit bull or pit bull cross is. In other words, we are not condemning dogs that had shown themselves to be dangerous or had ever threatened a child; we condemned dogs that looked like or possibly might be a cross of a pit bull or Staffordshire. In other words, on the committee we sat there banning dogs with big heads and short hair. The humane society officer would come in with pictures. If the people could not prove that their dog was not a pit bull, we would then go in camera, outside where the owners couldn't see us, and we would sit there in a back room with these pictures: "The head looks big. Look at the tail. Oh, that hair's pretty short." Then, on that basis only, we would decide whether that dog was too dangerous to live in Kitchener. We would go back into the room, we would look at the owners and we would say, "Either kill your dog or move out of town." We said it in a much nicer way, but that is exactly what we did.

I think that it's possible to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Kitchener's pit bull banning bylaw is not a success story about innovative legislation that made children safer; it's an example of how bad homework can allow bad legislation to be passed.

Kitchener is an experiment that was a mistake because it was not based on fact. This is not a mistake that ought to be repeated province-wide.

Applause.

The Chair: I again remind the audience to please refrain from a show of support during the hearings.

Questions? We have about two minutes per party. Mr. Kormos.

Mr. Kormos: Thank you very much, Doctor. Look, we've heard today from people who were victimized, in their instances by what they understood to be pit bulls -- and I understand increasingly that that's hardly a precise term, but pit bulls or pit-bull-like dogs. We've heard some atrocious examples of pit-bull-like dogs -- mind you, yesterday down where I come from in St. Catharines, a young woman was attacked by two Dutch shepherds, and in Ottawa, a four-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy were attacked by mastiffs, neither of which is included in the legislation.

I hear your argument, and there are those who have argued the contrary position vis-à-vis pit bulls. Is there a flaw, is there a fundamental error from the point of view of protecting public safety in proceeding with this breed-specific ban? The reason I say that is, among other things, that in the case of the people we heard today who were victims, even with the Dog Owners' Liability Act -- and you're familiar with that -- nobody prosecuted, nobody took the bad dog owners to court so the court could determine the level of dangerousness and decide whether they should be put down or otherwise restricted. That was of great concern. We obviously have very scarce resources when it comes to enforcing statutes. So in the context that under the Dog Owners' Liability Act these victims have not had the system attend to their needs, is there a flaw in this approach that impedes or impairs? Everybody has an interest here in improving and enhancing public safety. I'm not taking that away from the people who advocate banning pit bulls. They believe that; God bless. I haven't been convinced; the evidence isn't there from my point of view. But is there a flaw in that approach?

Dr. Goerée: The basic flaw is that there's no more evidence that big-headed, short-haired dogs are dangerous than there is that people with coffee-coloured skin are all terrorists who want to blow up buildings. It just doesn't work that way. The reason we banned pit bulls was because whenever you picked up a newspaper, there was another pit bull attack reported, when in fact the newspapers chose not to tell us about the 97% of attacks that happened. I know that when Mr. Bryant announced this law, he did a photo op with a lady whose child had been attacked by a pit bull. What he did not include in the photo op was the many children whose faces have probably been torn by other breeds of dogs. That's a fundamental flaw in the coverage of this type of thing. We will hear about every pit bull attack. Those pictures will be prominent on the front pages of our newspapers, but are buried on page 16 without even a mention of what breed it is when it is another breed.

The Chair: Mr Zimmer?

Mr. Zimmer: Page 2 of your presentation, the breakdown of the attacks, starts off with the German shepherd, through to 19, the chihuahua, but there's nothing on the chart indicating the severity of the attack, is there?

Dr. Goerée: There are no statistics done in Kitchener -- there were no statistics done in Kitchener and there have not been since -- on the severity of any of these attacks, pit bulls included.

Mr. Zimmer: The ranking proceeds from 1 to 19; 7 is a poodle and 8 is a pit bull. My second question is, would you rather face an attack by a poodle or a pit bull?

Mr. Kormos: Standard or toy?

Dr. Goerée: Trained or not trained? Actually, the most severe bites I've received have been from a cocker spaniel cross and a Labrador cross, so I don't think your question is fair. But I'll tell you that I wouldn't like to receive a bite from any dog.

The Chair: Mr Miller?

Mr. Miller: Thank you for your excellent presentation. You've told us quite a bit about Kitchener and their activity in terms of banning pit bulls. Are you familiar at all with what the city of Calgary has done in terms of their bylaw?

Dr. Goerée: No, I'm not.

Mr. Miller: One of the other presenters handed out the actual bylaw to us as part of our material and pointed out that Calgary has reduced dog bites by 70% with a non-breed-specific bylaw. It does things like require much higher licensing. I think Toronto has something like 5% of dogs licensed. In Calgary they have 90% of dogs licensed and they have tighter leash laws. It's actually quite comprehensive. Do you have any opinion on what sorts of rules would actually work toward reducing dog bites?

Dr. Goerée: This month, I presented to Kitchener council some suggestions in terms of how to toughen up the dangerous-dog aspects of Kitchener's bylaws. So the answer to your question is, yes, I do have opinions about that. I think you underestimate the ability of a law that scares people if their dogs are going to bite people. If people know that their dog could be taken away from them, they will take precautions in terms of training. I think that's why dangerous-dog legislation in itself, threatening people in case their dogs are in a situation, will actually work. That's why I would believe that Calgary's does work.

The other thing to point out is that since Kitchener passed this pit bull banning bylaw in 1997, we haven't done anything in terms of strengthening our dangerous-dog bylaws; we didn't need to because we got rid of the pit bulls, so why should we worry about anything else? That is part of the problem with this as well. I think you fool people into believing that you've solved the problem when you ban pit bulls, when in fact you haven't solved a thing. The number of dog incidents in the region of Waterloo has not gone down since this bylaw was passed.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your interesting deputation this afternoon.

katie

I've been a pit bull owner for four years now and have been a fan for many more. As far as effective arguments, the stuff in both of Karen Delise's books, as well as the crazy statistics in Janis Bradley's Dog's Bite: But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous have been helpful.

But when it comes down to it, I don't know how to convince people who are determined to be afraid, no matter what the facts say.

Social Mange

Aside from my own rage at being made into a second-class citizen on a politician's whim, without any foundation in fact...

A quote from the House of Lords in England, dated 1 March 2002, during a debate on the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act and proposed amendments, made by a sheriff's court hearing a case under the Dangerous Dogs Act:

"The whole Act is designed to promote death. It is clear that there is a presumption of guilt."

That is it, in a nutshell. Any law that makes law abiding people into second-class citizens based on their property and that kills unoffending dogs solely because of their shape, should die a swift death at the hand of reason.

But we're fighting politicians, callous and ambitious, who see nothing wrong with climbing the power ladder by treading on the rights of responsible dog owners and the backs of dead dogs. They are foul.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199495/ldhansrd/vo950301/text/50301-07.htm

Social Mange

BTW, the sheriff's court found that the dog was not a "pit bull" and let it go home.

Marjorie

I suppose I should add that I usually quickly get to the fact that...

"...no region can prove a reduction in the number or severity of dog biting incidents as a result of banning one or more dog breeds."

(The politicians responsible for passing a breed ban often simply 'claim' the number of "attacks" have been reduced, yet they never have any factual evidence to back it up. That leads them to deceptive tactics, like showing bites/attacks by the now-banned dogs have been reduced. But, of course, that is misleading. Of course bites by the banned dogs are going to go down, since there are now no more, or fewer, of them around. Overall, bites and attacks don't decrease. I like to point out that argument is specious reasoning. By that kind of logic, a breed ban also eliminates wooly mammoth attacks. If there aren't any around, there aren't any around to attack. In order to eliminate all dog bites, we have to eliminate all dogs. Breed bans do this one breed at a time.)

And, since there are several examples of bites going UP, rather than down, after one or more dog breeds are banned/restricted, what better evidence that breed bans are pointless?

Brent

Marjorie,

I think you just hit on what I think may be the most compelling argument against BSL -- which is it doesn't work. Yes, even if it did 'work' I wouldn't favor it -- the the reality is, it doesn't work. And I LOVE IT when the heads of animal control show up and say that the new ordinance lowered the number of pit bull bites in the city, but meanwhile, overall bites went up. In San Francisco, after their BSL/MSN their head of AC claimed it was working because 'pit bulls' had made up 32% of bites the year before, but now made up only 11% of bites. Turned out (and only one media source reported this by the way, a news talk radio station) that SF had more than DOUBLED the number of dog bites. So while the number of 'pit bull' bites had dropped by 10 total bites, the number of OTHER dog bites went up by over 100! But it looks GREAT when you just look at percentages.

It's really interesting how so much of the data get manipulated by people who don't want to admit they're responsible for really crappy legislation.

Becky

All of the above, but here is how it happened for me. It is a long story, but I think a good one, if anyone could condense it, because I believe I was more like the 'average' GP who never thought stuff thru, than those of you that already had so much knowledge:

I was thinking of adopting a companion for Roo, my rare, wild, black coyote, who loves to wrestle and chase and was wearing me out. I met a foster at the dog park who had a 7 mo old, plain brown puppy. I was more interested in meeting the foster than the puppy -- I wanted to be able to know something about the new companion before adopting one. I noted that the puppy was very affectionate w/ other people and I liked that. my Roo was not especially affectionate (that has now changed) The lady and I exchanged phone numbers.

I met her and the puppy again at the park and Roo was nice to the puppy and they played together. The lady (Kim Accurso, many of you know her) told me that the puppy was a lab/pit bull mix. Didn't mean much to me -- somehow the fact that I was aware of pits killing babies and the pits on Animal Cops acting bezerk really had no effect on my perception of this puppy. Nothing about the word 'pit' had ever sunk in anywhere in me for some reason. Even in the parts in Animal Cops that I could stand to look at -- when they'd go to these empty houses full of wild, vicous dogs, I perceived the whole thing as criminal -- the houses were crappy and torn up and the dogs were all hungry and uncared for. I think I kind of perceived the dogs as 'wild' or something. Caused to go nuts or abused or something.

In all honesty, I mostly tried not to think about it at all, cause that was Detroit.

At the time, Kim was fostering thru Animal Haven, so after having slumber party during which the dogs played and partied all nite, we met at AH to complete the adoption.

The lady told me I could not adopt the puppy because I lived in a city w/ a pit bull ban. Kim and I were floored! Shocked! I had heard of bans, but never dreamed of such a thing in my area. (somehow I had bans mixed in w/ dog fighting muffled somewhere in the back of my mind, as a problem somewhere else, not here)

I said, 'Well, I live in an apt. There are no little children in my life. She would always be walked on a leash and she would be excercized daily at the off leash park. She would never be tied up in a yard or left in a fenced yard. There would be no way for her to hurt anybody.'

'No. It's the law.'

I said, but she is not a pit bull, she is a mutt. Nope -- 'if your city sees a dog that even resembles a pit, they will seize it and kill it.'

Meantime, an OP AC officer walks in and as the puppy is climbing all over her, kissing her and beating her w/ her tail, the OP AC says 'yep, she's a pit alright.'

Kim asked if I might sneak her in, but I was devastated and told her I could not risk putting the puppy's life in danger and I had no intention of breaking any laws in my city.

THEN, AH went on to talk about the dog fighting in the KC area and how puppies like this one were always at risk to be stolen and/or used as dog fighting bait. Another huge shocker! Dog fighting in KC??? I thought that crap only happened in Detroit???

SO, it was AT THAT VERY POINT that I said, 'What the hell sense does THIS make? WHY must this puppy be always at risk, when here we have a nice, law abiding little old lady who would like to give her a proper home and who will protect her from theives and dog fighters and abusers and who will protect the rest of the world from her???

WHY can't you keep the criminals from adopting dogs instead of banning PEOPLE LIKE ME from adopting them? By banning ME, you are literally placing these dogs in the hands of criminals and hoodlums.

nope, nope and nope. Longer story shorter, I found zillions of other dogs on Petfinder that I thought were cuter and more interesting, but the puppy would not leave my mind and I did end up adopting her. I just could not let her go and worry about her for the rest of my life! At the time, it was more like an obligation to her foster and to her, to be able to always make sure that she was safe. I now understand that that is why we came together.

The next clincher was the attacks in Indy. Wow, bad story, gosh what vicious dogs. Dog fighting and drugs were my only thoughts on this story. Filed it away until I learned that Indy would be passing a ban on pit bulls as a result.

I don't know why you have to ask what brought us to understand the irrationality, stupidity, and senselessness of bans.

3 hungry dogs are locked in an empty building (initially reported) for unknown reasons. AC and the cops knew about them and did nothing for some unknown reason. They got out for some unknown reason and attacked people.

What, in God's name would a ban have had to do w/ preventing something like this? What in the world did these dogs have to do w/ OTHER dogs living happy lives w/ nice families?? WHY in the world is the media not delving into or reporting what this was really all about --- it HAD to be criminal.

Again, the realization that banning decent law abiding citizens from owning pit bulls means that only criminals and those who do not obey laws are permitted to own them.

WHY this has to be explained to law makers is beyond me.

Still, at that time, I did not know all the facts and myths, etc about pit bulls. Didn't know much about them at all. I don't believe that I ever believed they were all vicious, I mostly just didn't know much about any dogs' supposed 'natural tendancies' or the problems and issues our dogs are facing today.

I do not understand or follow the 'logic' that lead to breed bans at all and I don't understand how reasonable intelligent people have come to these conclusions. I don't understand how we can be made to feel 'right' about killing thousands of innocent dogs in the name of the law or about seizing an innocent family pet, such as mine, based on its breed or appearance. I do not understand how all of this came about at all.

To me, it should be more difficult to convince a half way intelligent person that a breed ban makes sense or is necessary than it is to convince them that it's NOT.

I honestly believe that our companionship w/ dogs in the future is seriously being threatened.

Carianne

I think the most compelling quote is around our civil liberties being at risk. If the law can ban you from owning one breed, they can ban you from owning any breed.

I think another compelling quote is around dog bites proliferating in areas where BSL was put into place.

On another note, I always go back to the media causing this whole mess. Has anybody contacted media watchdogs, e.g. F.A.I.R, about the inaccurate reporting and the hysteria this has created for a small number of fatalities?

Becky

Have any of us considered the possibility of some kind of class action suit against the media for slander and liable to the extent that our reputations have been destroyed and the lives of our dogs are now at risk? All based on media bias, lies, misrepresentations and irresponsible reporting. I don't know HOW w/ there being too many medias involved, but maybe someone has some kind of bright idea? It could be en mass and maybe get a lot of attention.

Maybe someone out there knows of a certain media that has been the worst and for which we could gather plenty of evidence?

MichelleD

Becky,

Slander is illegal so I really don't know why pit bull owners couldn't file a class-action suit. Someone just needs to find an interested lawyer and see if its possible.

Becky

Michelle, Not sure how we would go about establishing that we have suffered some kind of measurable harm thru the damage of our 'reputations' in the media? Or would we even need to establish harm when it is slander?

Also, how one might try to prove damage when one does not have a 'real' pit bull. Would one want/need to move before commencing something like this? Which media do you believe is most responsible? Or might one select something like a newspaper's 'Opinion' column? For example, something like the one awhile back in which the columnist stated that pit bull owners should hitch their pick up to their mobile home and go live in 'pit bull land' where everyone could wallow in a pit bull kind of frenzy? Gosh, we shoulda hopped on that one a long time ago! With you and Brent having kept such thorough documentations, maybe you could wager a guess at one media being the worst? And do you think all of those links would still be available?

sorry, too many questions... as always...

Caveat

The biggest problem is that the media are basically immune from prosecution if they can prove their intent was not malicious and if they don't actually name someone in a way that can be proved to contradict the facts.

They are skating on this, big-time. When you point out that if they used the same approach to any other visible minority, be it people who wear turbans, people who drive a particular make of auto their feet would be put to the fire, they obfuscate and slither, being the slimy characters they are.

It's all in the spin.

KCK Kills Dogs

It still would be interesting to see if a lawyer would be interested in filing a class action suit against a major media player.

How many movie stars get so infuriated at the lies and stories about them in the tabloids, that they file suits? I realize names are named and pictures are often included, but couldn't the fact that cities are using unsound media reports to pass legislation against people be used in the defense? There are tons of articles that could be entered into evidence that are just plain fabrication.

Caveat

I so wish that would happen!

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