Pit bulls are dangerous and Ontario is right to ban them

Bet that got your attention!

Okay, it’s 2:00 in the morning and I’m way too tired to write intelligently, so I’ll keep this short although, as you’ll see below, I have problems keeping things short!

On February 26, the Toronto Star published an editorial entitled “Pit bulls are dangerous and Ontario is right to ban them“.

After reading that, I sat down and wrote a letter to the editor (in this case, editors, since the editorial is “approved” by the editorial board of the paper). Going off topic just for a second, I don’t for one minute believe that the entire editorial board of the Toronto Star wrote the piece of garbage that got printed, but technically, they’re all responsible.

The problem I have when I write letters to editors is I just can’t keep them short enough. I think they’re supposed to be around 150 or 200 words. I can’t do that!

I wrote the letter anyway and sent it off, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope that they’ll print the whole thing (or even part of it).

So, readers, you can have the pleasure of reading my letter instead, and maybe, if it gets passed around enough, more people will read it than the Toronto Star could reach anyway. Apparently, their circulation dropped 37% in four years between 2007 and 2010. No other major newspaper in Canada is losing readers at that rate. Maybe printing articles like the one above had something to do with that!

Here’s my letter (February 27):

Dear editors:

After reading the editorial “pit bulls are dangerous” (February 26), I felt the need to respond with a little common sense combined with a few facts.

I would not normally be so quick to tell a group of experts in their field how to do their jobs, but have you forgotten the basic lessons of Journalism 101, specifically research?

If, as you put it, the deed is the breed when a pit bull attacks, then is this also the case when a retriever attacks or a German Shepherd or a husky or a sled dog or a sheepdog or a Rottweiler or a “farm dog” or a Border Collie or a number of other types of dogs? Why do I list these specific types of dogs? Because they have ALL killed children in Canada and because, in the twenty-nine years that we’ve been tracking these things, a pit bull has never done so. I repeat, at least thirty-five children have been killed in this country by at least eighty-five dogs , yet a pit bull type dog has never killed a child in Canada, ever!

(Author’s note and correction: My apologies for a slightly incorrect number quoted above. The total number of victims from 1983 to February 29, 2012, is 36, 33 of those being children under the age of 12. The statement about pit bull type dogs killing no children is still correct. More detailed info is here.)

As journalists, does this not make you stop, for one moment, and think that maybe, just maybe, breed is not the issue here?

In 2005, Michael Bryant, former Ontario attorney general, stood up in the Legislature and listed nine bite incidents supposedly perpetrated by pit bulls over a sixty-nine day period. He used these specific incidents as his justification for introducing the pit bull ban in the interest of public safety. NINE incidents.

According to the Canada Safety Council, as many as 33,000 people were bitten by dogs in Ontario during that same time period with as many as 5,500 requiring medical treatment and 250 of those requiring hospitalization, yet Mr. Bryant, in his zeal to drum up public support for his discriminatory law, conveniently forgot to mention these during his impassioned plea for public safety. Were all of these injuries perpetrated by pit bulls? Not according to the dog bite statistics from cities such as Windsor, London, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, and Mississauga. In fact, it appears that pit bull type dogs were involved in incidents relatively proportionate to their population, just like other types of dogs, and they did not cause a higher percentage of hospital visits or medical attention.

Every single Canadian expert in dog aggression and dog behaviour, as well as worldwide scientists in similar fields, including the leading researchers in canine genetics, disagree with your editors’ assessments of these dogs. So, instead of simply buying into the hype and writing an undocumented, unresearched, and unproven piece of fluff in order to create controversy and sell newspapers, perhaps you should put some effort into your analysis and start asking yourselves (and then us) why every dog behaviour expert on the planet, people with far more experience in these fields than you or I, argues that you and the Ontario government are wrong.

A ban on a particular breed or type of dog is the proverbial killing of a gnat with a sledgehammer. Studies from both the United States and Canada estimate that only 0.01% of dogs cause serious injury to a human being. That leaves 99.99% of all dogs (including pit bulls) that somehow manage to live with us without turning on us when we’re not looking. It also appears that, based on the unprecedented number of reversals of bans that are happening worldwide, those types of discriminatory laws were not even preventing the 0.01%.

In the meantime, the ban in Ontario (and yes, despite your claims to the contrary, it is a ban) has caused the deaths of thousands of dogs each year, dogs whose only crime was to possibly look like some ill-defined, unprovable shape of dog that the government has managed to persuade the public (and obviously some members of the media) is dangerous. As a result of this ban, dog owners have lost their houses, their jobs, their life savings. Many dog owners, including myself, have left the province, sometimes at great sacrifice, in order to escape constant harassment and discrimination.

To give you some idea of the ridiculousness of this approach, look at these annual Canadian death statistics, courtesy of Health Canada 1996:

Tobacco: 45,000
Suicides: 3,900
Car accidents: 2,900
Alcohol: 1,900
Murders: 510

Dogs (of all breeds): ONE*
* info courtesy of Dog Legislation Council of Canada and National Canine Research Council

I, and many thousands of dog owners, would greatly appreciate it if the editors of the largest newspaper in Canada would put a little more effort into separating accuracy and facts from hype and hysteria, rather than rattling off a piece of doggy doo to fill the page and create a stir.


Steve Barker (formerly of Toronto, left family and friends behind to move to BC from Ontario)

9 thoughts on “Pit bulls are dangerous and Ontario is right to ban them

  1. Bravo! What an excellently written and well thought-out letter! Kudos for allowing the facts to speak for themselves and not being tempted to respond harshly.

    I’m also curious to see if they print your letter and even more curious to see if there’s a rely to it.

    You should consider a career in writing, because I understand the Toronto Star could use a few good ones. ;)

  2. Steve, I have a breed specific magazine for the Havanese. I agree with everything you said. Any breed specific ban is nonsense and done out of ignorance. With your permission I’d like to re-print your article in the next issue of my magazine. It has an international readership and most of them wouldn’t know, for example, a Staffordshire Terrier if they saw one, but the law is a bad one and the reasoned response you wrote is important so I would like to share it with my readers to make a point about the stupidity of a breed specific ban. I’ll wait to hear from you. Thank you. Nathan Potechin Publisher http://www.havanesebreed.com

  3. I too am a passionate writer and am unable to keep it short… Especially when a point needs to be made. On behalf of my sweet, beautiful pit bull Lacey and my husband and I…THANK YOU!!!! I volunteer for a dog rescue in Southern California and fostered Lacey…We fell in love and decided Lacey needed to stay. She is not only a sweet pittie…she is one of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet…Quite frankly, I think she was born sweet but I also believe she is grateful for Stella’s Hope all breed K9 rescue pulling her from the high kill shelter that she was sure to be killed at…Lacey is not only a Pitt bull, a breed that is killed daily in astronomical numbers here in the USA, but she suffered from a horrible, painful case of Demodex mange… Pit Bulls don’t stop Stella’s Hope …and I thank God for that…I can’t imagine our life without Lacey In it…
    Thank you again…..I know our hope is education will conquer ignorance…but some people….but sadly lots of people aren’t capable of curing their ignorance…

    Lori A. McConathy

  4. Thank you for your wonderful letter. I too am an owner of a “Pit bull” he is also part boxer. He is a wonderful dog and has never bitten anyone. I think the problem in all of this is ignorance. If that jounalist really paid attention to how pit bulls even came about and about the fighting history they would know that if a fighter showed aggression toward a himan, it was destroyed. These dogs have been called “Nanny Dogs” because they are great family dogs and good with children. It is a shame that because of people like Michael Vick that these dogs are treated so poorly.

  5. Excellent job Steve, and once again the M.O. of BSL is exposed.
    We have seen exactly the same in New Zealand where the breed is scapegoated to bring in legislation that is actually anti-pet and has nothing to do with public safety.
    E.g. Mandatory microchipping. The National paper quoted one of our politicians saying EIGHT of these ‘types’ of dogs had offended in a year. At the time it was also reported that there is around a hospital admission a day in our country due to dog bite incidents.
    So what were the breeds involved in the other 357 incidents?
    As usual, the public have bought it hook line and sinker and this country is still killing thousands of dogs every year for simply having a particular look about them.
    It’s obscene.
    We’ve had only 5 deaths due to dog attacks in the history of the country and not ONE of them involved a Pit Bulldog despite the presence of tens of thousands of them and their mixes over the last 30 years.

  6. Regrettably sensationalism beats out common sense and hard evidence. As a proud owner of several breeds of dogs over the years I can honestly say that my bully breeds were some of the most loving. Bad owners make for bad dogs….as do bad parents to bad children. I only hope that the laws surrounding this issue are changed. It’s ridiculous! These dogs are beautiful & loyal. They deserve better!!

  7. I second everyone, beautifully said.
    Still owning a pitbull in 2016 in Ontario I can say that it seems to be all the wrong people enforcing the ban. To date no one in authority has ever commented on Rudie, recently a police officer walking past complimented my dog and cautiously asked if he was friendly which of course my response was “god yes!” mind you, I brought him to a new vet after moving to another city and I was rudely confronted by a receptionist who took it upon herself to tell me all about the ban etc etc

    I say without a doubt London, Ontario has been the most controversial place I’ve lived with my dog but otherwise most people are fairly accepting and even inviting. I have some faith that people are waking up to the fool goggles society convinces everyone to wear and thinking for themselves.

    ’cause truthfully how many people have been attacked by angry little balls of furr with nasty little teeth and actually feared the outcome lol, I have!

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