Kitchener-Waterloo pit bull committee meeting minutes 1997

I saw a discussion about pit bull myths on Facebook and it reminded me of some documents I have from government meetings regarding the city of Kitchener, Ontario.

In November 1996, Mr. Gary Leadston, an MPP and member of the ruling Progressive Conservative Party, introduced a bill PR71, the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo Act.

The sole purpose of this Act, if passed, was to allow the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo to regulate and prohibit the keeping of certain breeds of dogs.  Up to this point, no municipality in Ontario was allowed to regulate dogs by breed.

The bill was introduced on November 18.  It received one day of committee hearings on November 27, which I’ll get to later.  Within a month of its first reading, it received its second and third readings and also received royal assent, all in one day, December 19.

Another month later, on January 21, 1997, Kitchener-Waterloo held their own public committee hearing, again on one day only.

A year and a half later on July 13, 1998 (I don’t know what the delay was), the city of Kitchener-Waterloo became the first municipality in Ontario to ban a class or breed of dog, namely "Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and Pit Bull".  This bylaw did not include Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers that were or could be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.

How much things have changed in that province since then!

I thought I would point out some of the crazier things that were said at those meetings.  These were statements by authorities, not by members of the general public.

I won’t include any of the statements by city councillors Jake Smola and Berry Vrbanovic, since they are politicians rather than authorities on the subject of dogs or crime, but I will note that these same two councillors were intimately involved in helping former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant develop and promote the legislation that eventually became Ontario’s pit bull ban.

Dr. Gerhard Hess was a licensed veterinarian and, at the time, was the general manager and former president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society.

Here is what Dr. Hess said at the November 27 committee meeting:

"Pit bulls are different. They have a much higher level of L tyrosine, leading to a much stronger arousal state than any other breed. They have a higher level of endorphins, which makes these dogs able to withstand a much greater amount of pain than other dogs. They have much greater jaw strength than any other breed. They are able to lock on to the animal they attack and they will not let go until that piece is torn out. They have a false body signal. Any other dog, you can recognize when they’re showing friendship or when they’re showing an attack. You can tell what the dog is thinking, more or less, by the appearance of the dog. With a pit bull, you can’t. They have false body signals and they even show pleasure on attack by wagging their tails rather than showing anger."

"The breeds that would be allowed are the Staffordshire bull terrier, for instance, the one that Don Cherry has, and the American Staffordshire terrier registered with the CKC. The breeds not allowed would be the pit bull terrier and the American bull terrier or pit bull."

Author’s note: Don Cherry did not own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  He owned a Bull Terrier (sometimes known as an English Bull Terrier), a completely separate breed.

Constable Randy Peacock was a six-year member of the Waterloo Police and a member of their Emergency Response Team (SWAT).

Here is what Constable Peacock said at that same meeting:

Author’s note: A "pit bull" was chased by police over a 20 km, ultimately being hit by several vehicles and fired at 15 times.

"The animal had attacked a dog in a back yard, of which the pictures have been circulated, 15 shots were fired in the direction of the animal. I personally fired nine shots at the animal. Believing that I’m a reasonably good shot, I hit it all nine times. We shot at the head of the animal in the hope of destroying it. However, due to the breeding of the animal and the shape of the head, there’s a tendency that the ammunition we’re using in our service pistols doesn’t penetrate the skull, and we have a concern that we then have to go to the chest portion of the animal to destroy it, the problem being, when the animal is coming at you, you have nothing but the head as a target, to be quite honest with you, and that tends to be a problem with that."

Here is what Dr. Hess said at the January 21 Kitchener committee meeting:

"The Humane Society is interested in controlling the breed because the Pit Bull is an attack dog."

"Most other dogs bite and then back off; however, Pit Bulls bite and then tear out a piece of flesh and bite again. This combined with their strength and tenacity causes them to be more dangerous biters."

"The severity of bites inflicted by Pit Bulls is greater than most other dogs as the Pit Bull has 10 times the jaw strength of a Rottweiler, and in addition will not back up once it bites but will continue to attack until the other animal is dead. He also pointed out that the jaw has a unique mechanism that allows it to lock on it’s victim."

And that is how Kitchener-Waterloo came to pass the first breed-specific legislation in Ontario.

These people fed a bunch of unsubstantiated garbage to the committee members of both the Ontario Legislature and the Kitchener-Waterloo city council(s).  All of these statements have been scientifically disproven, yet were accepted without question because "authorities" were making them.

The primary offenders in this travesty were:

Dr. Gerhard Hess (now deceased, I believe)
Constable Randy Peacock
City councillor Jake Smola
City councillor Berry Vrbanovic


Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills, November 27, 1996

Author’s note: Just in case this disappears from the Ontario Legislature website when and if they do another revamp of their site, there’s a copy at:

Minutes of K-W Ad Hoc Committee on Pit Bull Legislation, January 21, 1997 (original PDF version)

Minutes of K-W Ad Hoc Committee on Pit Bull Legislation, January 21, 1997 (HTML  version)

4 thoughts on “Kitchener-Waterloo pit bull committee meeting minutes 1997

  1. Lunacy at it’s best,when did that nice evenly tempered man Michael Bryant become an expert,I beleive he was incapable of even identifying a pit standing next to a golden retriever.I thought maybe the cyclist he murdered he mistook for a pitbull.

  2. Wow. Goes to show how much crap gets fed to the public by both the politicians and the media. I wonder if it would be useful or just a waste of time to try to find actual data on the L tyrosine and bite strength issues. The tail wagging during “attack” is pretty normal in a dog (of any breed or shape) that has habituated or been trained to human aggression. It is just a sign of arousal and dopamine release. Mice do it too. Ooooh scary mice.
    The “super skull” idea is just too ridiculous and is obviously this officer’s excuse for being a poor shot. Not that this is unexpected. Handgun accuracy at a head-on target is notoriously difficult, no matter the shooter. No hunter, even with a long gun, would ever shoot at an animal’s head, its just to small a target and the room for non-fatal error is too great.

  3. It is time that politicans did their due diligence. The myths prepetulated on these dogs are nothing less than MADNESS.

    A test done, by professionals on bite force, was done between a German Shepard, a Rotweiller and a Pit Bull type dog. After TWO tries the pit bull came in THIRD, behind the Rottie and the GSD. Here is a link to that test.
    The results of the first test was a tie between the GS and the Pit. The Rottie won two of the two tests.
    SOME people will spew out garbage and be believed no matter how WRONG they are. How terribly sad.

    A average Rottie weighs in around 110 lbs and a average pit bull type dog from 55 to 65 lbs. University of Florida zoologist Kent Vliet, has been quoted as saying. “Bite force is linked to the size of the animal”.

    When does common sense come into play instead of “crappy myths”?

    I’m beginning to think that politicians need to have IQ tests done before running for office.

  4. There has been only one scientific study* done regarding bite strength in dogs – and it isn’t the Nat Geo ‘pop science’ piece, which is not to say that isn’t also valid. The study did not get past the pilot stage due to the difficulty in measuring bite force in a wide variety of dogs. The highest reading was 1394 Newtons (=313 pound force) for a Rottweiler, which is nowhere near the bizarre – and completely unsubstantiated as well as impossible – 2000 pounds per square inch bite pressure often attribute to Rottweilers and ‘pit bulls’ by self-styled experts such as the ridiculous Stanley Coren. I still await his scientific reference for this oft-repeated myth. To date, he has been unable to supply it – he thinks he heard it at a meeting but he can’t remember where it was or who made the statement.

    The endorphin nonsense first appeared in an article in The Economist around 1991, the time when the DDA was coming in in the UK, which was reprinted in the Globe and Mail or the Star (can’t remember). The article was written by a ‘staff writer’ who was unnamed and provided no scientific references at all. It was darned scary reading though, I still remember it.

    Basically, most people are too lazy to dig for the facts. When they hear statements made in the mainstream media, especially by people who are supposed to be ethical, knowledgeable and reliable, they just take them at face value, no matter how absurd they are. It’s a sad fact of modern life – very few people are concerned enough to actually dig for the facts.

    So, when that ticking time bomb and threat to public safety, Michael J Bryant, former AG of Ontario, stood up and told people that they consulted with the public, that he received 5,000 emails, blah blah blah and they were going ahead with the ban, people assumed there was public support. A quick trip though Hansard show this was not true but hey, reading Hansard is ‘hard’ and folk just want their ‘news’ in 5-second sound bytes.

    Scary times indeed, just like all the other scary times throughout history.

    Donna L. Lindner, DVM; Sandra Manfra Marretta, DVM; Gerald J. Pijanowski, DVM; Ann L. Johnson, DVM; Charles W. Smith, DVM

    Summary: A force tranducer was developed to measure bite force in dogs. A total of 101 readings was obtained from 22 pet dogs ranging in size from 7 to 55 kg. Bite forces ranged from 13 to 1394 Newtons with a mean for all dogs of 256 Newtons and a median of 163 Newtons. Most measurements fell within the low end of the range, with 55% of the biting episodes less than 200 Newtons and 77% less than 400 Newtons. J Vet Dent 12(2):49-52, 1995

    I go into a little more detail about bite force here:

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