Ten years ago today, on August 29, 2004, a dog bite incident in downtown Toronto set the wheels in motion for Ontario’s “pit bull” ban, which was passed six months later and became effective exactly one year later on August 29, 2005.
Over the next year, tens of thousands of dog owners who, up to that point had been happily enjoying a normal public life with their dogs, found themselves involved in political activism, legal wranglings, and media firestorms. They also found themselves in fear for their dogs’ lives and for their own safety, as the Ontario government ramped up a propaganda campaign that could not help but promote vigilantism, despite the government’s claims to the contrary.
Almost exactly five years ago, the architect of that ban and an admitted alcoholic, Attorney General of Ontario Michael Bryant, struck and killed a cyclist in downtown Toronto. He left the scene of the accident, called his public relations company before calling the police, was never tested for his alcohol content, and eventually walked away from the entire incident without ever seeing the inside of a court room. The circumstances of that incident have never been challenged in court and never will be, but one thing is certain.
In the past nine years, Michael Bryant has killed more people than the dogs he claimed were dangerous to public safety.
In 2008, I left Ontario for British Columbia and will likely never return. If it weren’t for the fact that my family still lives there, I wouldn’t step foot in the province nor spend a dime of my money there. I grew up in Ontario and it’s always had a place in my heart, but not the way it is right now.
Regularly and frequently, we still get e-mails or phone calls from people whose dogs got loose or whose neighbours thought their dog was of a certain “type”. We’re not talking about vicious or attacking dogs. We’re talking about family pets.
In seconds or minutes, the lives of these dog owners were turned upside down.
With their dogs confiscated and facing tens of thousands of dollars in potential legal bills in order to even try to get their dogs back, many gave up. Others managed to persuade the local animal control department to let them ship their dog out of province, but, as part of the deal, were prohibited from talking about it. They would tell us in private messages, but refused to go public. Still others have fought the charges in court and have been successful, but spent all their savings and anything they could borrow in order to do it. Some even lost their jobs because they had to take so much time off work.
In 2005, during the committee hearings, there were many suggestions made, often from the successful non-breed-specific experiences of other jurisdictions.
I made a presentation to that committee and, in that presentation, I provided the government with the following information:
– 36 recommendations from the inquest into the death of Courtney Trempe in 1998;
– 26 recommendations from the inquest into the death of James Waddell in 2003;
– recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Task Force on Canine Aggression.
At the end of the committee hearings, the Ontario Liberals were asked repeatedly to fund a provincial dog bite prevention and education program.
They were asked to implement a provincial responsible dog ownership program.
They were asked to create a provincial dog bite registry.
They were asked to provide municipalities with appropriate funding to ensure effective animal bylaw enforcement.
All of these requests were from the same inquest recommendations that I and many others had provided to them.
The experts were unanimous in their denunciation of this law and in their predictions of thousands of unnecessary dog deaths with no reduction in dog bites. Since the implementation of the law, it has become painfully obvious that the experts were right. Yet this government steadfastly refuses to re-open this conversation and the enforcers of the law continue to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of friendly family pets based solely on the way they look.
If you live in Ontario, please write your local Member of Provincial Parliament with your concerns and send letters to your newspapers. The more people that complain, the more interested the news organizations will become.
If you live outside Ontario and are choosing not to spend your money in that province, please write the Minister of Tourism for Ontario (just google it) and send your concerns to the Canadian newspapers as well.