Vancouver City Council
CITY OF VANCOUVER
January 31, 2005
CC File No.:
February 17, 2005
Standing Committee on Planning and Environment
Chief License Inspector
Dangerous Dogs: Protection Strategy
THAT Council supports the objectives of the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan by implementing tighter vicious dog regulations, higher penalties and fines for the offending dog owners, more effective enforcement and a dog safety public education campaign as outlined in this report;
AND FURTHER THAT Council instructs the Mayor to send a letter to the Solicitor General requesting the Province look at the feasibility of legislation to deal with vicious/dangerous dogs province-wide, including more effective and comprehensive enforcement powers for municipalities.
The General Manager of Community Services RECOMMENDS approval of the aforementioned recommendation.
Animal Control By-Law No. 7528: establishes a dog shelter (pound) and licenses and controls dogs and other animals in the City of Vancouver.
License By-Law No. 4450: provides for the issuing of licenses and regulates business, trades, professions and other occupations within the City of Vancouver, including pet businesses.
In 1987, Council enacted a by-law which amended the Animal Control By-law by introducing a vicious dog definition and regulations pertaining thereto. Vicious dogs are defined as any dog with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack without provocation other domestic animals or humans; any dog which has bitten another domestic animal or human without provocation; or a Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or any dog of mixed breeding which includes any of the aforementioned breeds. Regulations pertaining to vicious dogs require the animals to be muzzled in public or confined either indoors or in an enclosed pen when on private property.
In May 2004, Council adopted the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan as a guide for improving animal control operations and services. Specific actions in the Plan are tailored to address key animal control issues facing the city and public and include a comprehensive review of by-laws, penalties/fines and enforcement. The Plan unfolds over a five-year implementation period and focuses on achieving a higher level of licensing compliance and increased licensing revenue every year.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY
The purpose of this report is to present Council with a strategy to address the issue of dangerous dogs, including pit bulls, in the City of Vancouver. In the recent past, there have been a number of high profile attacks on people and domestic animals by dangerous dogs. This has resulted in growing alarm over the aggressiveness of some dogs and the danger they pose to public safety. Telephone calls and written correspondence to Council and City staff concerning vicious dogs fall into two opposing camps. One side presents a strong public outcry for breed specific legislation banning all pit bulls, while the second opposes punishing the dog itself, favouring harsher penalties and fines for irresponsible dog owners and stricter regulations for the control of all dangerous dogs.
This report addresses both sides of a very contentious issue and documents legislation and regulatory measures employed by other Canadian and international jurisdictions to protect citizens from dangerous dogs, including pit bulls.
The report presents a two-part strategy to protect Vancouver residents and visitors from dangerous dogs including pit bulls. The first part of the strategy recommends implementing tighter regulations for all dogs deemed vicious, higher penalties and fines for offending dog owners, more effective enforcement and a dog safety and bite prevention public education campaign. The goal is to restrict and control all vicious and inappropriate dog behaviour. This recommendation supports the objectives of the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan, adopted by Council in May 2004.
The second part of the strategy recommends that the Mayor send a letter to the Solicitor General requesting the Province look at the feasibility of legislation to deal with vicious/dangerous dogs province-wide. Targeting all dogs that may be deemed dangerous and a review of enforcement powers and options at the provincial level would provide blanket protection for all residents of the Province, avoid a patchwork of breed specific legislation only in select municipalities and may result in increased and more effective enforcement powers for municipalities.
Another strategy proposing a ban on any new pit bulls in the City of Vancouver was also researched and is included in the report. However, staff believe that the challenges to this strategy are too great to warrant Councils support and that it would have limited effectiveness at this time.
Although vicious dogs have always been a public safety issue, in the past decade, Canadians have become particularly concerned with specific dog breeds such as pit bulls as a result of extensive negative exposure in the media. The media has reported horrific pit bull attacks/maulings of humans and domestic animals in British Columbia, Canada and world-wide. In 2004, reported pit bull attacks have occurred in Toronto, Vernon and Vancouver. Media reports often portray pit bulls as inherently dangerous with a propensity to attack without provocation. While such exposure has escalated the publics fear of pit bulls, it has also convinced some that pit bulls could serve as aggressive guard dogs or as intimidating companions to either impress or frighten others. Presently, the City has no statistics on the number of resident pit bulls but the overall number of bitings for all dogs in 2004 was 181, which is a drop of 45 from the previous year.
Pit bull dogs were originally bred in England for bull baiting, a barbaric public spectacle where the dogs would maul a bull to death. In the 1800s, pit bulls were imported to North America for the same purpose, but were eventually used in lucrative dog fighting rings. Over time, most pit bull owners found other non-violent uses for their dogs, including herding, search and rescue, security and protection of loved ones and a companion to the young and elderly. Although pit bulls are often mistaken as a specific breed, this is an umbrella term for pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, Pit bulls or any mix involving these breeds. The terms breed-specific legislation and pit bull ban, used interchangeably throughout this report, include all the dog breeds under the pit bull umbrella.
With certain Canadian municipalities banning pit bulls outright and other jurisdictions, including the Province of Ontario taking actions to protect their citizens from dangerous dogs, including pit bulls, a considerable number of Vancouver residents are looking to the City for some similar protection.
Councils adoption of the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan in May 2004 is a first step in this direction. This Plan responds to external and internal issues facing the Animal Control operation and recognizes and addresses an increasing number of dog-related problems throughout the City, including the issue of public safety around vicious dogs. A key component is working closely with the SPCA and other interested groups in order to maximize resources and improve services.
Dangerous Dog By-Laws
Many Canadian municipalities have enacted Dangerous or Vicious Dog By-laws which provide a measure of protection to the general public and authority to local staff for the seizure and impoundment of vicious dogs. (The term dangerous and vicious is used interchangeably in this report). Saskatchewan is the only Canadian province with province-wide dangerous dog legislation. Generally, where such by-laws have been enacted, dogs deemed dangerous must be muzzled and kept on a leash when on public property and enclosed either inside a house or in a pen when on private property. These by-laws are generally not breed specific.
In the City of Vancouver, any of the five pit bull breeds and cross breeds are automatically considered a vicious dog under the Animal Control By-Law. The Vicious Dog By-Law, passed in 1987 as an amendment to the Animal Control By-Law, also defines any dog with a known propensity to attack or that has bitten a person or animal without provocation as vicious. Two by-law regulations pertain specifically to vicious dogs, including the requirement for these animals to be muzzled when out in public and securely confined either indoors or in an enclosed pen when on private property. Any person in violation of these by-law provisions is liable to a fine of not less than $200.00 per offence.
Authority to seize and impound dangerous dogs in the City is provided under the Vancouver Charter. The Charter defines a dangerous dog as one that has killed or seriously injured a person or a domestic animal or one that, in the opinion of an Animal Control Officer, is likely to kill or seriously injure a person. Authority under the Vancouver Charter is restricted to the seizure, detainment and court-ordered destruction of dangerous dogs and does not extend to control over the ownership, harbouring and treatment of animals.
Breed Specific Legislation
Breed specific pit bull legislation is much less prevalent than dangerous dog by-laws throughout the country. Although certain municipalities in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have enacted pit bull bans, most Canadian jurisdictions are still waiting to evaluate the repercussions of such prohibition.
Two Canadian cities have had pit bull bans in effect long enough to make an informed evaluation. Winnipeg became the first Canadian City to ban pit bulls in 1990, a year after an attack left a young girl badly disfigured. Kitchener-Waterloo enacted legislation banning pit bulls seven years ago.
In Winnipeg, pit bulls owned at the time the ban was implemented were allowed to remain subject to strict conditions for control. All grandfathered pit bulls have since passed away. The number of overall dog bites in Winnipeg has decreased since the implementation of the pit bull ban. In 2004, there were a total of 166 reported dog bites versus 310 before the breed-specific legislation was implemented. The number of pit bull bites decreased from 28 in 1989 to zero in 2004 as there are no pit bulls left in the City. Although the pit bull ban may have had an impact on the decrease in overall dog bites, the Citys considerable dog safety and bite prevention public education program likely also played an equally key role.
In Kitchener-Waterloo, the number of pit bull bites also decreased after the implementation of the pit bull ban in 1997. The fear that pit bull owners would switch to another vicious dog breed was not realized. A review of dangerous dog biting incidents following the ban shows no particular dog breed or mix that stands out as more vicious than another.
Both Kitchener-Waterloo and Winnipeg relied upon express authority under their respective Municipal Acts to enact by-laws banning pit bulls. In particular, The City of Winnipeg Charter Act gives Winnipeg clear authority to enact breed specific legislation concerning pit bulls. At the time of its inception, the pit bull ban in Winnipeg was challenged by the Manitoba Association of Dog Owners, with the Court ruling in the Citys favour.
In late August 2004, the Province of Ontario (Ministry of the Attorney General) introduced legislation to amend the Dog Owners Liability Act. If passed, the legislation would provide tighter regulations related to vicious dogs and require current pit bull owners to comply with strict new requirements for continued ownership, including having their animals spayed or neutered and muzzled and leashed when out in public. The proposed provincial ban would be supportive of municipal governments by respecting the municipalitys authority under the Municipal Act and would avoid a patchwork of regulations throughout the Province. If the Bill is successfully passed, Ontario would become the first Canadian province to target pit bulls through legislation. Appendix A presents the details of this proposed Provincial legislation.
Many states, counties, cities and towns throughout the United States have been wrestling with the issue of pit bull bans for years. Some have taken steps to strengthen generic dog legislation while others have moved to restrict specific breeds. Fourteen states have laws prohibiting municipalities from enacting breed-specific legislation (including Washington State, New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado) although some larger municipalities may have municipal authority to enact local breed specific legislation.
Appendix B presents a summary of dangerous dog by-laws and breed specific legislation across Canada, while Appendix C provides a summary of breed specific prohibitions in other countries world-wide.
Public Opposition to Breed-Specific Legislation
Those opposed to breed-specific legislation insist that pit bulls can be kind and loyal pets if raised in a caring and loving home environment. They believe that the solution to vicious dog problems lies in a combination of effective animal control measures, reputable breeders, responsible owners, public education and effective enforcement. Specifically, arguments against a pit bull ban are summarized as follows:
1. Sensationalized media reports have given pit bulls a bad reputation. In fact, the top four biting dog breeds in Canada do not include any of the pit bull breeds or cross breeds. The Canadian Safety Organization cites the top four biting dog breeds as German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers. It is assumed that there are proportionately more of these dog breeds than pit bulls.
2. Breed specific legislation does not work as pit bulls are impossible to identify. Genetically all dogs are indistinguishable and there is no scientific means to determine a breed of dog that can withstand the rigors of legal challenge.
3. If faced with a pit bull ban, those who own a pit bull as a status symbol or a fighting dog will simply replace their pet with another aggressive dog breed. Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherd Dogs, Akitas and Chows are all breeds that can be aggressive and are large enough to inflict severe damage on people and other animals. Furthermore, certain exotic dog breeds, such as the Dogo Argentino and the Cane Presario, considerably heavier and larger than pit bulls and often bred in South America as aggressive guard dogs, may become more attractive.
4. Evidence shows that any breed of dog can become aggressive if irresponsible owners mistreat, abuse, neglect, torture or train their dog to fight. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) declares that breed specific legislation does not address more fundamental problems which create and perpetuate dog aggression, such as bad breeding, failure to spay or neuter, mistreatment or neglect, poor training and socialization and inappropriate pet acquisition.1 This view is also supported by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association (refer to Appendix C). Government legislation should not target the dogs themselves, but rather their irresponsible owners.
5. The high-profile attack of a young girl, Shenica White, by two dogs in the City of Vancouver on December 22, 2002 is used by many as evidence of the need for breed specific pit bull legislation. However, Shenica was attacked by two mastiff-rottweilers, not pit bulls.
Most animal-related organizations also oppose breed-specific legislation. Appendix D summarizes the views of nine such organizations.
Public Support for Breed Specific Legislation
Those in support of breed specific legislation present the following arguments:
1. According to the Canada Safety Council, Canada has no national data/statistics on dog-related deaths and injuries, or which breeds cause the most harm. However, evidence to support the inherent viciousness of pit bull dog breeds exists in the United States. A Washington-based research groups serial and rampage dog attack data (January 2002) indicates that 48% of serial dog attacks and 45% of life-threatening and fatal attacks were done by pit bulls. Another special report, Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998 (September 2000), found that a third of fatalities caused by dog bites between 1979 and 1998 were caused by pit bulls.2
2. Historical dog bite investigations in other cities reveal that other dog breeds seem to be more dangerous than pit bulls as evidenced by a greater number of statistical bites. However, there is no reliable way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed in the canine population at any given time. Therefore, when the proportion of pit bulls to other dog breeds is taken into consideration, the number of pit bull bites becomes more significant.
3. Most animals fighting for territory, mates or dominance will surrender or withdraw when their adversary is stronger. Pit bulls combativeness continues when they are being overpowered, have asserted their dominance or until their foe has been sufficiently subdued. A case in point is a vicious incident in Toronto on August 28, 2004 where a man was attacked by two pit bulls and the police had to use over a dozen bullets to kill the animals. A witness on scene stated that even while badly wounded, the pit bulls kept attacking.3
Research by Dr. Margaret Young of North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine confirms the pit bulls tenacity. Her study found no clear evidence to support that Pit Bull Terriers are more likely to bite than other breeds, but they are more likely to cause damage. The breeds tenacity to tear at flesh rather than simply bite often produces grotesque injuries.4 While guard dogs such as German Shepherds tend to restrain their enemies by grabbing and holding, fighting breeds such as pit bulls inflict maximum damage to their opponents by grabbing, holding, shaking and tearing.
RECOMMENDED TWO-PART STRATEGY FOR DANGEROUS DOGS
Part I: Implement Tighter Vicious Dog Regulations and Higher Fines/Penalties
The first part of the recommended strategy proposes tighter vicious dog regulations, more effective enforcement, increased public education awareness on dog safety and bite prevention and higher fines/penalties for offending dog owners. It assumes that non-breed specific regulations are preferable to a pit bull ban as they are more effective in controlling problems related to all types of dangerous dogs, including pit bulls.
Two Canadian municipalities have taken this approach to deal with dangerous dogs with demonstrated success. The City of Winnipeg, which as noted also has a pit bull ban in effect, has strict regulations pertaining to all dangerous dogs, effective enforcement and spends between $70,000 and $90,000 annually on increased public awareness strategies (education and advertising) aimed at promoting responsible dog ownership and bite prevention.
The City of Calgary has no breed specific legislation but spends considerable funds on dog safety public awareness and education campaigns, has instituted significant fines and penalties for animal by-law contraventions and increased its enforcement capabilities. Calgarys Animal Services employs three full-time animal educational professionals responsible for carrying out various animal education programs, including bite prevention programs in schools and educational programs for dog owners. This approach has resulted in the following measures of success: there were approximately 1000 reported dog bites in 1985 and 260 reported dog bites in 2003, even though the Citys population and correspondingly number of dogs, has almost doubled in the past twenty years; other aggressive dog behaviour (ie. reported chases and damage to property) have also substantially decreased over the past twenty years; a 90% dog licensing compliance has been attained; and most dogs in the City can be identified.
The Citys current Vicious Dog regulations in the Animal Control By-Law require that all vicious dogs (including pit bulls) be muzzled when out in public and confined inside a house or in an enclosed pen when outside on private property. The shortcomings of these regulations are as follows:
1. Ineffective enforcement due to limited budget and staff resources.
2. Poor community education on existing animal regulations and the importance of compliance, and
3. Lack of authority of Animal Control Officers in issuing tickets and upholding regulations.
Staff has already commenced certain actions outlined in the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan to address the above shortcomings. The Animal Control Services Strategic Plan, adopted by Council in May 2004, supports tighter regulations for all dogs deemed vicious, higher fines, increased enforcement and effective public education. The Plan proposes a number of key actions in the first year to achieve this objective, including but not limited to, the implementation of a responsible dog ownership public education campaign, specific by-law amendments to expand penalties, fines, and enforcement powers, and provide animal welfare standards and regulations and increased patrol and enforcement.
One key action recently commenced involved reviewing the Citys Animal Control By-Law in relation to dangerous dog by-laws in other Canadian and American cities. The by-law review revealed a number of regulations and enforcement methods that may improve Vancouvers Animal Control operation and enhance animal care standards and animal-related practices throughout the City. These regulations/enforcement methods are listed below and elaborated upon in Appendix E:
1. Higher license fees
2. Proper identification by means such as micro-chip/tattoo
3. Notification of change of status affecting public health and safety
4. Vicious dog signage
5. Spay/neuter requirement
6. Insurance requirement for owners of vicious dogs
7. Higher penalties/fines
Other regulations that staff believe are more appropriate if implemented and enforced at a province-wide level include banning or regulating puppy-mills and dog fighting rings, as well as puppy brokers and back yard breeding.
The implementation of a dog safety public education campaign will also serve to increase public awareness around dangerous dogs and educate all dog owners on the current regulations pertaining to dangerous dogs, licensing requirements and dog owner accountability. A public education campaign (education/advertising) is a key component of the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan, wherein a total of $70,000 for Year 2005 has been allocated for this purpose.
1. The City may currently have insufficient authority under the Vancouver Charter to address some of the key regulatory and enforcement issues outlined in this report. Under the Vancouver Charter, authority over dangerous dogs is restricted to seizure, detainment and court-ordered destruction and the proposed tighter regulations would require broader control over the ownership, harbouring and treatment of animals as well. To implement these regulations, the City would formally have to request the Province to amend the Vancouver Charter giving City staff control over the ownership and harbouring of animals and giving Animal Control Officers greater authority. However, even if the Province was co-operative, such an amendment would be unlikely to occur until at least the spring of 2006.
2. The City is currently understaffed to effectively address the serious issue of vicious dogs but additional staff will be added over the next few years through Strategic Plan funding. The new regulations will be more effective through increased enforcement.
It is recommended that staff continue with the implementation of the key actions in the Animal Control Services Strategic Plan and report back to Council in early summer 2005 with recommended new/amended by-law regulations as outlined above and optimal staff resources required for effective enforcement. The timing for seeking approval from the Province for changes to the Vancouver Charter will also be outlined.
Part II: Request Province to Look at Feasibility of Legislation dealing with Dangerous Dogs
The second part of the recommended strategy assumes that province-wide legislation controlling dangerous dogs, including pit bulls, is preferable to legislation in only select British Columbia municipalities, such as Vancouver, as it would provide blanket protection for all residents of the Province. Province-wide legislation becomes even more important when one considers that most small towns, rural areas and even some cities in British Columbia have no formal animal control capabilities. Although some of these jurisdictions may have dangerous dog regulations, there is no staff available to effectively enforce the regulations. Furthermore, a patchwork of legislation and possible breed specific bylaws throughout the province would simply transfer the dangerous dog problem to those municipalities without similar legislation in effect.
The Lower Mainland region of the Province is geographically similar to southern Ontario where the proximity of jurisdictions causes legislation enacted in one municipality to directly impact the residents of another municipality. As mentioned earlier in this report, the Province of Ontario is currently considering passing a Bill in the Legislature that would provide tighter regulations related to vicious dogs, prohibit any new pit bull in the Province, impose strict controls on existing pit bulls residing anywhere in Ontario and provide the authority for more effective enforcement. Provincial legislation that provides tighter regulations for vicious dogs and considers both sides of the issues related to a province-wide breed specific ban would protect all British Columbians, yet provide each individual municipality enough freedom to impose additional dangerous-dog related regulations as required. This type of legislation would also result in increased and more effective enforcement tools for municipalities including the City of Vancouver as regulations would be coordinated between neighbouring municipalities.
Should the Province agree to a review of the dangerous dog issue, it is critical that discussions include representatives of all affected municipalities and regional districts as well as the SPCA and various animal welfare and advocacy groups in the province.
1. In the recent past, the Solicitor General has indicated that the Province would be taking no action towards a province-wide pit bull ban. Having come to this conclusion, the province may not be in a position to revisit the issue at this time.
2. Should the Province agree to a review of the dangerous dog issues, the process required to implement the legislation may be lengthy.
3. Province-wide legislation must be flexible enough to address the concern over the proliferation of other large dogs in the Province with vicious reputations. Certain exotic dog breeds, such as the Dogo Argentino, Presa Canario and Cane Corso, which are often bred as aggressive guard dogs in South America may suddenly become more attractive.
ALTERNATIVE STRATEGY FOR DANGEROUS DOGS
Implement a Pit Bull Ban in Vancouver
This alternative strategy assumes that all dog breeds under the pit bull umbrella should be banned from the City of Vancouver as they are inherently dangerous with a propensity to attack without provocation. Furthermore, they are more dangerous than other dog breeds, even those with statistically greater biting numbers, because of their unforgiving tenacity to pursue their victim. A municipal pit bull ban was researched but is not supported by staff because of its limited effectiveness.
1. Under the Vancouver Charter, authority over dangerous dogs is restricted to their seizure, detainment and court-ordered destruction. Animal Control Officers are not permitted to enter private dwellings to seize a dangerous dog without a warrant from the provincial court system. They also experience difficulties with issuing tickets when they are unable to demand identification from individuals on the street. To implement a pit bull ban, the City would formally have to request the Province to amend the Vancouver Charter giving the City broader control over the ownership and harbouring of animals and giving Animal Control Officers greater authority. Even if the Province was co-operative, such an amendment would be unlikely to occur until at least the spring of 2006.
2. British Columbias Attorney General has indicated that the Province will be taking no action towards a province-wide pit bull ban. Therefore, even if a pit bull ban was successfully implemented in the City of Vancouver, the Provinces refusal to address the issue of pit bulls at the provincial level would eventually leave a patchwork of bans, with some municipalities enacting a ban and not others. Any new pit bulls illegally brought into the City would be transferred into another municipality, shifting the vicious dog problem to another jurisdiction.
3. Because pit bulls are so difficult to identify, the implementation of a pit bull ban in Vancouver could be costly in both time and money and it would be open to legal challenge.
4. Some legislation and by-laws put the onus on the dog owner to prove their animal is not a pit bull. This is impossible as pit bull terriers in Canada are not recognized as purebreds under the Federal Livestock Act and therefore, have no lineage and pedigree information.
5. A pit bull ban would not address the concern over the proliferation of other large dogs in the City with a vicious reputation. Certain exotic dog breeds, such as the Dogo Argentino, Presa Canario and Cane Corso, which are often bred as aggressive guard dogs in South America may suddenly become more attractive.
For reasons outlined in this report, staff are not recommending this strategy at the present time as it is felt that the recommended two-part strategy proposing more effective regulations, education and enforcement and a comprehensive province-wide review of the dangerous dog issue is needed prior to considering a breed specific municipal ban.
This report looks at two alternate strategies to address the issue of dangerous dogs, including pit bulls, in the City of Vancouver. These strategies were developed after conducting research into dangerous dog by-law legislation in other cities across Canada and world-wide. Successful animal control models in Calgary and Winnipeg were reviewed in detail.
Based on all the information collected, the recommended two-part strategy proposes implementing tighter vicious dog regulations, higher fines/penalties for offending dog owners, more effective enforcement and a dog safety and bite prevention public education campaign as outlined in the Animal Control Strategic Plan. The goal is to restrict and control all vicious and inappropriate dog behaviour.
The second part of the strategy recommends that Council request the Province to look at the feasibility of legislation to deal with vicious/dangerous dogs province-wide which would also include looking at both sides of the issues related to the implementation of a Province-wide breed specific ban. An alternative strategy involving the implementation of a pit bull ban in Vancouver is not recommended due to the challenges to its implementation and other issues outlined in this report.
Province of Ontario: Legislation to Amend the Dog Owners Liability Act
If passed, the legislation to amend the Dog Owners Liability Act would:
· Prohibit owning, breeding, transferring, abandoning, importing, or training to fight, pit bulls anywhere in the province.
· Define a pit bull as:
o A pit bull terrier or
o A Staffordshire bull terrier or
o An American Staffordshire terrier or
o An American pit bull terrier or
o A member of a class of dogs that have an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to the above four types of dogs.
· Classify an existing pit bull as a restricted pit bull if the dog is owned by a resident of Ontario on the day that the legislation comes into force, or if the dog is born in Ontario within 90 days of the legislation coming into force.
· Allow for the making of regulations that would impose province wide restrictions on restricted pit bulls, including leashing and muzzling them when in public, and requiring pit bulls to be neutered or spayed. The proposed legislation would not interfere with the authority of municipalities to impose other appropriate controls.
· Authorize the commencement of a proceeding against a dog owner where the dog poses a menace to the safety of people or domestic animals, or against a person who contravenes the Act or any regulation or court order made under the Act.
· Provide for the power to search and seize dogs under a warrant on private property or without a warrant in emergency situations or in a public place.
· Provide that, in a court proceeding in which it is alleged that a dog is a pit bull, the onus is on the owner of the dog to prove otherwise.
· Provide for penalties for contravention of the Act or any regulation or order made under the Act
o Fines would increase up to a maximum of $10,000, double the current limit.
o Imprisonment for a term of up to six months could be imposed.
o Corporations, such as puppy mills, could be fined up to a maximum of $60,000.
o The court could also order the convicted person to make compensation or restitution.
DANGEROUS DOG BY-LAWS AND BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION ACROSS CANADA
Vicious Dog Amendment to the Animal Control By-Law (passed 1987) defines a vicious dog as any with a known propensity to attack a person or animal or that has attacked without provocation. Pit Bulls, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or a cross of one of the aforementioned breeds are automatically considered vicious.
Animal Control bylaw designates pit bulls and bull terriers as vicious.
Dog Responsibility bylaw (passed May 1, 2000), defines dangerous dogs as those that have pursued, bitten, attacked or injured without provocation. Any dog running at large is considered potentially dangerous. Owners pay higher licence fees and fines, and must purchase liability insurance.
Nanaimo, Maple Ridge
Have vicious dog bylaws that are not breed-specific.
Unlicensed pit bulls are prohibited from the town. Only pit bulls residing in the town prior to 1990 can be licensed. Licensed pit bulls must be leashed and muzzled when in public and confined when on the owners property. The owner must also carry $500,000 in liability insurance.
Edmonton has a Restricted Dog By-Law. Restricted dog breeds include only those dogs that a veterinarian licensed to practice in the province of Alberta has determined to be primarily either Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, but ONLY those that are ineligible for registration with the Canadian Kennel Club. Restricted dogs must be muzzled when in public; enclosed or muzzled on private property; license fees and fines for these dogs are higher; and their owners must have a minimum of $1,000,000 liability insurance covering their dogs.
Dangerous Dog bylaw means owners with dogs designated dangerous pay higher licence fees and higher fines.
Brooks, St. Paul, Wainwright, Chestermere, Stony Plain, County of Newell, Sexsmith
Municipalities have dangerous dog bylaws. In Brooks, restricted dogs must be in a secured enclosure on the owners property or muzzled and on a permitted leash. They must be muzzled and on a permitted leash when off the owners property. Breeds that fall under the category of Prohibited Dogs includes: Mastiffs, Rottweilers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Prohibited dogs are not permitted within the towns limits.
Saskatchewan has enacted Canada's only province wide Dangerous Dog legislation. Sentencing is costliest there, with a $10,000 fine and/or six months' imprisonment for any of the following:
· A dog that has attacked, bitten, injured or killed without provocation
· Owner not respecting court orders for keeping a dangerous dog
· Dog owned for the purpose of fighting or encouraging a dog to make unprovoked attacks on people or domestic animals
Village of Clavet
Prohibited from the city limits are pit bulls, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers or any dog mixed with one of the aforementioned breeds. Only dogs proven to be dangerous face fines or euthanasia.
The following breeds are prohibited from being acquired and residing in the town of Moosomin after January, 2004: Rottweilers, Dobermans and Pit Bulls.
Banned pit bulls in 1990.
Banned pit bulls.
Has a Dangerous Dog bylaw.
Province of Ontario (Ministry of the Attorney General) on 15 October 2004 announced its intent to introduce legislation to amend the Dog Owners Liability Act. If passed it would:
· Ban pit bulls
· Muzzle existing pit bulls, impose other province-wide restrictions to improve public safety, and allow municipalities to impose appropriate controls
· Increase fines up to a maximum of $10,000 and allow for jail sentences of up to six months for owners of any dangerous dog that bites, attacks, or poses a threat to public safety.
If passed, the legislation would allow for a transition period for existing pit bulls. During this time, owners would be required to comply with strict new requirements for continued ownership. The proposed ban is meant to be supportive of municipal governments, and that this proposed bill respects the municipality's authority under the Municipal Act. This comprehensive approach would avoid a patchwork of bans.
Kitchener and Waterloo
Both communities have Dangerous Dog bylaws and have banned pit bulls. To ban a type of dog, they needed to have a private member's bill passed in Ontario legislature. Ban does not include bull terrier or English bull terrier.
Dangerous Dog bylaw prohibits the ownership of "any dog of the Presa Canario, Pit Bull, Staffordshire, Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull, or American Staffordshire Terrier" or any hybrid or similar crossbreed.
Vaughan, Midland, Laurentian Valley Township, Grimsby, Pelham, Bonnechere Valley Township, Killaloe, Hogarty and Richards, Cambridge, Ingersoll, Mariposa, Mississauga
Have a Vicious or Dangerous Dog bylaw or references to vicious dogs in existing bylaws.
Town of Georgina (which governs Newmarket, East Gwillimbury and Stouffville)
Enacted a Vicious Dog bylaw after Courtney Trempe's death. In addition to muzzle, leash and pen regulations, the bylaw outlines that no one under the age of 16 may walk a dog deemed vicious. Dog must be microchipped.
September 27, 2004: City Council decision bans the following breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull and any dog that conforms primarily to the American, Canadian or United Kennel Club standards for these breeds. Public muzzling and other abusive restrictions are mandatory for all existing dog owners affected by the breed-specific clause.
Sherbrooke, Saint-Jean-sur-Richilieu, Lachine, Kirkland, Outremont, Saint Genevieve
These communities have banned pit bulls. In addition, Sherbrooke has controls on Rottweilers and Mastiffs.
No breed-specific bans in the province. The first reading of a province-wide bill, the "Restricted Dogs Act" took place May 28, 2004.
Banned pit bulls (as of May 1998), even though there are no pit bulls in the community. Based their bylaw on similar pit bulls bans in other Nova Scotia communities.
City council introduced a bylaw pertaining to fierce or dangerous dogs but did not ban any specific breeds.
Banned pit bulls and rottweilers.
Cape Breton, Digby, Annapolis County, King's County
Have fierce and dangerous dog bylaws.
Prince Edward Island
Province is considering changes to the Dog Act that would address vicious dogs and dog control.
Banned Pit Bulls and Rottweilers
No dangerous or vicious dog bylaws or bans, though the "Dog Act" has provisions for destroying a dog that is found to be dangerous.
Numerous communities have dog control bylaws. Generally, dogs at large are picked up and destroyed if there's no ownership and after being quarantined for the rabies program.
In the Dog Bylaw a dog is "vicious or a public nuisance if it has made an unprovoked attack upon any person or domesticated animal in the course of which such person or animal is bitten or injured or where such person suffers damage to his or her clothing or personal property."
Territory's Dog Act pertains to dog control. Iqaluit's "Domestic Animal Control" bylaw includes references to vicious dogs.
No dangerous dog laws at the territorial level.
BREED SPECIFIC PROHIBITIONS WORLD-WIDE
BREED SPECIFIC PROHIBITION
Breed lists were initially introduced to restrict 15 breeds of fighting dogs, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Fila Braziliero, Mastiff, Tosa Inu, Ban Dog, Akita, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Dogo Argention, Dogue de Bordeaux, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Rottweiler. These laws have since been abandoned as unworkable.
A series of attacks near the elections in 1991 prompted then Prime Minister John Major to pass the controversial Dangerous Dog Act. It laid down the law on pit bulls, with humane societies calling it a death penalty for the animals. The law was reviewed in 1997 and amended because most felt it wasnt working. Existing dogs must be registered, spayed or neutered, tattooed and microchipped and the owners must have insurance.
The Pit Bull Terrier and Japanese Tosa are banned from breeding. Other breeds continue to be under consideration.
France has had a pit bull ban since 2000. All owners must spay or neuter any current dogs, or face a 100,000 franc fine with six months in jail. The hope is the breed will die out with the current generation of dogs.
Pit bulls were banned in the country in February 2001. Anyone who defies the law can face heavy fines and up to two years in jail.
Ban went into effect last year. Dogs cannot be trained, bred or drugged to become aggressive. Owners must also be insured against any damage they cause. And anyone with a criminal record cant own whats considered a vicious dog.
Ban in effect since 1993 for the American Staffordshire Terrier, Fila Braziliero, Dogo Argentino and Neopolitan Mastiff. The Rottweiler is also being considered.
A ban for the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier is currently under consideration.
Introduced their restrictions in 1997. Owners can have pit bulls but must display clear warning signs and keep the dogs behind reinforced fencing.
Ban in effect for seven breeds including the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, American Staffordshire Terrier, Fila Braziliero, Dogo Argentino, Tosa Inu and Pit Bull.
Dogs that are considered excessively dangerous are forbidden, under threat of a seven-year jail sentence.
Royal decree restricting several breeds, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
*Source: Pulse24.com: Torontos 24 Hour Newsource October 26, 2004 & The Domino Effect (tracking breed specific legislation).
ANIMAL-RELATED ORGANIZATION POLICY STATEMENTS
Canadian Kennel Club
Does not support breed-specific legislation but supports dangerous and/or vicious dog legislation that protects the public from dangerous dogs. Opposition to breed-specific legislation is based on the fact that a dangerous temperament is a product of many factors, and not by breed alone. Thus, breed-specific legislation may include dogs which are not dangerous, while excluding those which are. Banning a particular type of dog is only a reactionary measure with little effect, and one that will only serve to push the indiscriminate breeders and/or owners underground, or to another breed not included in the legislation.
Canada Safety Council
Does not recommend breed bans.
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Supports dangerous dog legislation provided that it does not refer to specific breeds.
The Centers for Disease Control
Breed-specific approaches to the control of dog bites do not address the issue that many breeds are involved in the problem and that most of the factors contributing to dog bites are related to the level of responsibility exercised by dog owners. Furthermore, tethered dogs are more likely to bite than untethered dogs.
American Veterinary Medical Association
Supports dangerous animal legislation by state, county, or municipal governments provided that legislation does not refer to specific breeds or classes of animals. This legislation should be directed at fostering safety and protection of the general public from animals classified as dangerous.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dogs breed with certainty, enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.
Vancouver Dog Owners Association
Believes that it is not breeds that are bad, but individual, poorly trained animals. They do not support a ban on any particular breed at this time, but continue to encourage the City of Vancouver to continue to support the responsible dog owners program, provide more low cost training programs for people and their pets, and to provide more safe areas for dogs to play off-leash without being a threat to other park users.
The BC SPCA recognizes that dog bites are a serious public safety problem. Their interest in this issue relates directly to the goal of creating humane communities where people and animals enrich each others lives. However, the BC SPCA opposes breed banning as a strategy for achieving this goal. Rather, it echos the voices of researchers on the Veterinary Task Force on Canine Aggression, the National Council on Pet Population Study and other reputable groups in stating that:
o Breed banning is a simplistic and ineffective solution to a multi-faceted problem.
In conclusion, the BC SPCA supports a cooperative effort between humane organizations, municipalities throughout BC, and the provincial government to develop a progressive and humane Community Animal Management Strategy. Working together we believe we can find an effective and long-term solution to the problem of aggressive dogs in our communities.
A B.C. pit bull advocacy and breed education group that believes there are progressive ways to write legislation that satisfy both camps, namely protecting the public from ANY aggressive dog, regardless of breed.
DANGEROUS DOG BY-LAWS/REGULATIONS
Higher License Fee
Owners of vicious dogs would pay a substantially higher license fee. A vicious dog designation would also be recorded on the animals licensing record. Licenses would be denied to anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offence or animal cruelty.
Vicious dogs would be micro-chipped or tattooed to identify them as vicious.
Notification of change of status
Owners of vicious dogs must inform appropriate authorities of any change in the status of their dog that might affect public health and safety. The owner of a vicious dog would be required to notify the City with 24 hours if their animal is loose, has attacked another animal or a human being or has died, been sold or given away. If the dog has been sold or given away, the owner would provide the City with the name, address and telephone number of the new owner who would be required to comply with all the vicious dog regulations.
Vicious dog signage
Owners of vicious dogs would be required to display a sign on their property warning of a vicious dog on the premises.
Although spaying or neutering may not reduce the probability that a dog will act aggressively, such a requirement would help reduce the number of dogs with a genetic tendency to bite and will also prevent owners of dangerous dogs from profiting from the sale of offspring of these animals.
Insurance requirement for vicious dog owners
Many victims of dog attacks are unable to recover medical expenses because the dog owner is uninsured or underinsured. Owners of vicious dogs would be required to show proof of at least $1 Million in liability insurance.
Higher Penalties & Fines
An increase in the Citys dog population has resulted in more vicious dog incidents, problems with the shared use of on and off leash dog parks and other public areas and a greater number of by-law infractions. As a result, increased fees/penalties for vicious dog incidents and new penalties for other behaviours such as failure to control vicious dogs are required. With an increase in fines, there will also be firm consequences to the dog owner for failure to comply with the by-laws, resulting in an increased likelihood of prosecution.
1 Durham Regional News October 26, 2004 Author Carly Foster
2 Legislative Assembly of Ontario Hansard November 4, 2004 Pg. 71
3 Toronto Sun Columnist September 1, 2004 quote from Toronto Police Sgt. Greg Cole
4 Community Animal Control March/April 1984 The Pit Bull Terrier: Should it be Controlled by Law? William Hoffard
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