Two weeks ago, a Lachine man was given a ticket for having a dog that “looked” like a pit bull, and a second ticket for having a “mean” dog because the dog was barking.
Pit bulls are banned in Lachine, as well as in Outremont and Ville St-Laurent. BSL typically targets dogs like pit bulls and Rottweilers. The problem is that a pit bull is not a breed. Pit bulls are a type of dog belonging to the terrier family. So when BSL is enforced within a community, dogs are reprimanded just for the way they look.
BSL is also very costly to implement; dogs must be seized, housed, and in most cases, euthanized.
The legislation deems an entire breed dangerous based on the actions of a few of its members. It only considers a dog’s appearance, not its behaviour or how the owner has raised or trained the dog.
Several studies indicate BSL doesn’t actually work. Communities pass such legislation in the hopes that it will reduce dog bites, however, the numbers remain consistent year after year in BSL communities. According to the Fordham Law Review, BSL doesn’t solve the “dangerous dog dilemma” as those individuals who breed and train pit bulls to be aggressive are not affected by BSL. If their dog is taken away, what is stopping them from just getting another one? Nothing.
Prior to the 1980s, pit bulls were the epitome of a family pet. Remember Petey from Little Rascals? He was an American Staffordshire terrier, one of the breeds identified as a pit bull. The Staffordshire terrier, or pit bull, was considered a “nanny dog” because of its temperament and reputation for being good around children. According to the American Temperament Test Society, pit bulls are no more vicious than golden retrievers.
The media is partly responsible for the breed’s bad rap. Highly publicized attacks give the breed a dangerous reputation. Wannabe tough guys, gangsters and drug dealers seek out the breed as status symbols. The Michael Vicks of the world use them for illegal dog fighting because of their tenacity.
The National Canine Research Council investigated several dog bites and fatalities that were reported by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) as homicides carried out by pit bulls. Karen Delise, author of The Pit Bull Placebo, revealed the actual circumstances leading to some of these horrific incidents. Here are a few examples:
- A teenage girl gives birth to an infant. Distraught and frightened, she tosses the infant into a neighboring junk-strewn yard where two pit bulls resided. The dogs killed the newborn.
- A man restrains his girlfriend while ordering his pit bull to repeatedly attack her.
In these instances the dogs have been portrayed as the villain when in fact the real culprits are the individuals who could have easily prevented these deaths.
Consider one of the most recent pit bull attacks that took place in September. A woman was babysitting her infant niece. She put her down for a nap and left her and her young son alone with her three pit bulls. The dogs mauled the baby to death.
Firstly, a toddler should never be left unattended. Secondly, reports suggest that the pit bulls were resident dogs, meaning they never socialized with people and most certainly not with children. This was a case of negligence.
Have you ever wondered what happened to the Michael Vick dogs? PBS’s documentary, The Dogs are Alright, based on Jim Gorant’s book The Lost Dogs, tells the story of 51 pit bulls seized from the property. They were considered to be the most dangerous dogs in the country. Anyone who thinks these dogs were un-salvageable should watch this 14-minute documentary. They have all been rehabilitated and one of them works with children as a canine-assisted literacy dog.
Instead of punishing a dog for its looks, the government should consider a screening process for owners. Owners should not own a dog that may require additional attention or training that they are unable or unwilling to give. The dogs being held responsible are the ones who are being abused. Next time you hear about an attack, have a look at who is on the other end of the leash.