Issues with Breed Specific Legislation
Through the ages, dogs have been referred to as “man’s best friend.”
In 2005, Ontario passed Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) when it made amendments to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. The Act contains specific provisions which ban residents of Ontario from owning, breeding, transferring, abandoning, allowing to stray, importing or training to fight a “pit bull”.
Under the Act, if a dog is found to be a breed that is identified as a banned breed, or ‘pit bull’ – which includes American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terriers – the dog would either be transferred out of the province, euthanized or turned over to a research facility, even if the dog has no prior offences. The legislation goes so far as to claim that any dog who has similar characteristics to any of the banned breeds, (e.g. short fur, a large blocky head, or muscular build) is also at risk of being identified as a ‘pit bull’ which could include Labradors, Boxers, Bulldogs and the list continues. Therefore, these dogs could also end up being a target of the breed specific components of the Act.
A number of studies conducted over the past 20 years on Breed Specific Legislation have demonstrated that breed bans are not effective in reducing overall dog bites or dog related incidents, nor have they been successful in ensuring the promise of public safety.
No Ontario-wide dog bite statistics are kept and there are very few scientific studies available on the frequency of dog bites by breed. However, one study titled “Animal Control Measures and their relationship to the reported incidence of dog bites in urban Canadian municipalities” concluded that there was no evidence that municipalities with BSL had fewer dog bites.
In 2014 and 2015, the city of Toronto reported the highest number of dog bites this century, even though a provincial breed ban has been in effect in Ontario for well over a decade.
The city of Ottawa states clearly on their website that they will not enforce the provincial ban on “pit bulls”, as they refuse to force the tax payers of the City to bear the brunt of an ineffective, virtually unenforceable law.
The 2005 amendments to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act have failed in their promise to provide safer communities to the people of this province, and have not achieved the goal of ensuring public safety. Yet, thousands of innocent family pets have been and continue to be needlessly euthanized, or transferred out of the province due to their appearance, not their behavior. This has left thousands of Ontario families destroyed.
What's being proposed
Breed Neutral Legislation that treats all dogs equally and puts the onus of responsibility on the dog’s owner.
The Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018 repeals provisions in the Animals for Research Act relating to the disposition of “pit bulls” under that Act.
The proposed bill will repeal the provisions in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act that currently prohibits certain types of breeds of dogs from entering or residing in the province, i.e. ‘pit bulls’. This bill will correct the injustice of targeting Ontario citizens’ dogs based solely on appearance.
Support Repealing Breed Specific Legislation from the Dog Owners’ Liability Act and the Animals for Research Act
TO the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
WHEREAS, All animals are capable of aggressive; behaviour;
AND Aggressive behavior can be found among many breeds or crossbreeds of dogs;
AND Evidence shows that DNA is never a predictor of aggressive behaviour in dogs;
AND Breed Specific Legislation (the banning of specific breeds) is not an effective or cost-efficient solution to reduce aggressive behaviour of dogs;
AND The solution to preventing dog related incidents is best addressed through comprehensive training and education programs, breed neutral legislation promoting responsible ownership.
WE the undersigned , Petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support a bill repealing breed specific language from the Dog Owner’s Liability Act and Animals for Research Act and instead encourage responsible dog ownership of all breeds.
Letters of Support
Then and Now
When introduced by then Minister of the Attorney General, Michael Bryant, in 2005, the legislation was described as necessary because of alleged “pit bull” attacks reported in the media. The Minister stated that municipalities which had introduced a ban (e.g. Winnipeg) had seen a dramatic reduction in reported “pit bull” attacks.
The official opposition countered that the ban would be hard to enforce due to:
The difficulty in determining what constitutes a “pit bull” and lack of accuracy in distinguishing “pit bulls” from other breeds
A lack of trained resources to enforce the ban
Concerns about the effectiveness of Breed Specific Legislation, specifically the over inclusive/under inclusive aspect of determining the temperament of a dog by an appearance rather than a behaviour
The lack of urgency from animal control to deal with a dog who should be labeled as potentially dangerous when the dog in question is not identified or typed as a “pit bull”
When this Bill was originally introduced, the opposition argued that the focus should be on owner accountability rather than the breed or type of dog.
The breed specific components of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act forced municipalities to make cutbacks in other areas in order to adequately enforce the new requirements of the law.