UPDATE:  Bill 16 is before the Legislative Assembly: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=2552

Although Dalton McGuinty prorogued Parliament, there is an effort to have Kathleen Wynne reconstitute it.  There is a petition being organized by Randy Hillier, PC member of Parliament.  Please find it here and sign it: http://www.randyhilliermpp.com/bill16?page=4

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Back in 2005, the then Attorney General, Michael Bryant embarked on a campaign to ban all “pit bulls” in Ontario.  Regardless of the facts, against all expert and organization warnings, the Liberal majority voted it in.  Ontario has been in the dark ages ever since.

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Referred to as the Nanny Dog, circ 1892.

Families with well behaved, loving pets, responsibly owned are targeted by a phobic fear generated by the media, not facts.  Healthy, well behaved and friendly dogs have been either killed or sent for research.  Headlines sell and as long as people feed into the hype, media and politicians will continue to offer it up like an all you can eat buffet.

Ignore the facts.  Ignore the recommendations.  Ignore the alternatives.

Heck, ignore the fact that at the previous election of the time, one of then Premier McGuinty’s platform promises was to allow a party “free vote” if it was not an election platform issue.  Had he brought up breed specific legislation during the election, I highly suspect that the results would have been very different.  And yet, there we were, facing down this knee jerk reaction legislation and the Liberal party forced the vote of the party line.

How do I know this?  I met with one of his Cabinet Ministers.  I had given him the research, had an open and honest discussion with him.  Although I didn’t agree with his politics, he was a very nice man, well spoken and highly educated.  I asked him if he would please vote no to the bill.  He replied that as a Cabinet Minister he could not.  He had to vote the party line; in spite of the election platform promise.  If he couldn’t vote no, could he abstain?  To that he remained silent and thanked me for coming in.  For the record, he lodged no vote on Bill 132.  In essence, he abstained as I had requested.  I’ve always thought well of him because of that.  At least he saw the logic in what I presented to him and listened to his constituents.

Although it was almost 8 years ago now, the law remains.  Unmeasured, unverified, unapologetic.  The Liberals cannot say that the law is successful.  They don’t have the resources to verify it.  Not that they had the appropriate research to support it at the time to endorse implementing it either.

The fact is that dogs are dying.  Families are heart broken.  Rescues must spend money to ship these dogs out of province in order to be rehomed.  The province is spending tax payer money to police the bill and then go through expensive court proceedings when they’re challenged.

Yes.  There are still ‘pit bull type dogs’ in Ontario.  There’s no way to measure their popularity here.  The only official numbers would be via city and town dog license numbers.  Considering licensing typically have abysmal compliance rates, they wouldn’t be reflective of the population.  Add the stigma and unwanted attention of owning a “banned breed”, I’d wager to say that most wouldn’t register at all.  In 2010, a report stated that Toronto, Canada’s largest city only had a dog licensing compliance rate of 30%.  The breed statistics of that 30% would be dependent upon breed identification accuracy.  In terms of ‘mixed breed dogs’, people are often incorrect, even those who feel that they are qualified.  The difficulty regarding breed identification is highlighted in this article and associated studies: http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/breed-identification-1/

The responsible ownership model of all breeds as implemented in Calgary was highly recommended during the proceedings of Bill 132.  Lower bite rates equal higher safety.  The supposed intent behind the proposal of Bill 132 in the first place.  Calgary had higher licensing compliance rates, which helped to fund animal control and their various programs encouraging responsible ownership.  The most recent report finding that in 2010, Calgary had a compliance rate of 92%.

Almost 8 years later – the recommended model is still a success.  The implemented model is a complete failure, just as was suggested it would.

It is my fervent wish that the Liberal party be voted out in the next elections.  Now that they have gone against the Teacher’s Union, they have shown their true stripes of denial of democratic and informed decision making.  Forcing what they interpret to be popular rather than what is right.

Find below my presentation to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly (appropriate and referenced studies and articles were submitted along with the package) presented on Monday, January 24th, 2005.  Naive at the time, I truly thought that facts would be weighed and media hype dismissed.  I was even tricked during a question-answer period by a Liberal committee member.  As you can imagine, it’s quite daunting, being a private citizen and presenting in the very political arena that the politicians call home.  He said breed, I heard breed type in my head.  Thankfully another politician allowed me the opportunity to correct my statement.

I’m still proud of my participation in the process, even in the light of disappointment of the process itself.  Let’s hope that sound judgement and principles return to the Ontario government.

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Meeting: Monday, January 24, 2005 Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen of the Standing Committee,

First of all, I’d like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present before you today. My name is Tricia Barrett and I am the Ontario Director of the Rottweiler Club of Canada.  I am also the Chairperson of their Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) Committee.  Our national breed club felt the need to have our club’s voices heard from across the country, at this meeting today.  We are opposed to Bill 132.  It is misguided and ill conceived.  

In your report you will find the inquest recommendations into the death of Courtney Trempe.  There were 36 recommendations.  As we approach the 7-year anniversary of Courtney’s death – I am saddened that none of the recommendations have been implemented.  Even in the proposed Bill 132, none of the recommendations have been met in the spirit of the inquest. 

May I ask why?

There is a massive amount if information available on effective legislation.  Why was it not utilized when this bill was drafted?  Surely if the public has access to these documents, our government did as well.  A Canadian study on the Feasibility and Implications of Breed Specific Animal Services condemns BSL as a viable option.  You will find this report in your packages as well.

There have been several misleading and inaccurate claims during this campaign.  The distinction must be made between consultation and endorsement.

Consultation is defined as:

          “A conference at which advice is given or views are exchanged.”

Endorsement is defined as:

          “Official approval; sanction; support.”

Several times since August 30th, Mr. Michael Bryant, our Attorney General, has been quoted as saying that he had consulted with the experts.  Consultation is only a discussion – at no point does it imply endorsement or approval as he suggests.  In fact, I would even question the word consultation, as it seems as though there was no exchange on the Attorney General’s part.  The fact is there is not one, single expert organization that endorses this bill.  As you have already heard today and will continue to hear again and again throughout these hearings – responsible ownership is the single, most influential component of any canine-safety initiative.

I will spare you the listing of each and every organization that is adamantly against this Bill. All that needs to be done is to read down the list of presenters at these hearings.  Each and every expert group and organization will tell you the same thing.  No to Bill 132. 

I must also reference the mysterious 5000 emails that Mr. Bryant received in support of this ban.  I know that he also received many, many emails against this bill, has he counted for and against incorrectly?  Why have they not been assessed by an independent audit?  Apart from that – I would ask that the Committee listen to the professional opinions of the experts presenting today and throughout these hearings.  These people have come before you, many from great distances, to give you their educated opinions rather than based on impressions and perceptions.

There are no expert studies that support Mr. Bryant’s claims of increased safety.  In fact, areas which have implemented Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), have found that their bite numbers went up after implementation – therefore decreasing public safety (Mr. Bryant’s success story of Winnipeg is an example of this).  Many areas are now rescinding their BSL bylaws in favour of Responsible Dog Ownership Legislation that requires a high standard of ownership by all dog owners, regardless of breed.  In fact, there are now many States in the US that have outlawed BSL altogether.

Most recently, New Brunswick defeated a proposal for Breed Specific Legislation at the provincial level.

FREDERICTON - A committee of MLAs has agreed that dangerous dogs should not be regulated by breed and owners should take the blame if their dog attacks someone. Committee chairman Jody Carr says it's more important to educate owners aboutthe potential liability of dogs and preventing accidents.
Carr says the committee concluded it would be a mistake to concentrate on particular breeds and will recommend that owners of any kind of dog will be penalized if their dog bites someone.”

In England, they had implemented BSL.  It was found to be expensive, time consuming and impossible to enforce.  They have since dropped all breed specific legislation in favour of more deed specific.

Here we have both national and provincial examples that have been defeated as plausible solutions to canine related injuries.  That must be acknowledged and considered as to how Ontario should proceed.

During a meeting I had with Hon. Gerrard Kennedy, he made a very interesting statement: “We cannot legislate social behaviour.”  This was in response to my statements regarding responsible ownership of dogs; responsibly owned, no dog would be given the opportunity to cause injury.

I would argue quite adamantly, that all legislation is intended to control and mold social behaviour.  What is and is not acceptable in a society, what you may and may not do that affects your fellow man.

I own a Rottweiler.  He is a large male, 115lbs, lawfully licensed here in Toronto.  He is registered with the Canadian and American Kennel Clubs, a Canadian Champion, has several temperament certificates, a first level Obedience title and is currently in training to serve the public as a Search And Rescue dog.  His training will be ongoing until the day he passes on.

How does this bill, protect me as a responsible dog owner, from the malicious reporting of possible menacing behaviour of my dog to the authorities?  How does it allow for myself and my dog to be assessed and found innocent?  How will I be protected from further harassment?  How do I know that my playing, frolicking dog won’t somehow be misinterpreted as exhibiting menacing behaviour?  Do I have your assurances?  What are they based upon?

There have already been incidences of harassment, threats and assaults from self imposed enforcers of this proposed bill.  People have been verbally and physically attacked, their dogs abused.  Responsible dog owners have had to put themselves at risk by now walking at night – trying to avoid these confrontations.  I cannot tell you the perils that we are now vulnerable to, due to walking alone in the dark in city streets and parks.  This has been affecting all dog owners – due to the public erroneously identifying various breeds (my own included). This panic mentality has got to stop being encouraged by our government.

I must admit that I am afraid.  I’m afraid for my own personal safety and that of my beloved pet.  I am afraid of vigilante justice.  I live in High Park because of its lovely ‘doggy friendly’ nature, well-kept trails and friendly community.  How can you possibly endorse a law that will put myself, my dog and the public at risk? 

The most effective legislation model available to Canada is Calgary’s.  I have included a copy of it in your packages.  Strict licensing and leash laws have decreased all bite incidences, across the board by 70% in the face of a dog population that has doubled. Whereas Calgary has a 90% licensing compliance rate, Toronto pales by comparison with a mere 10% – 15%. 

For a bill which is entitled: “An Act to amend the Dog Owners’ Liability Act to increase public safety in relation to dogs….”  I am stunned that education has been ignored.  In your kits, you will find an article by Canada’s own Dr. Stanley Coren, a Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, author of many books on dog behaviour and television host of the series “Good Dog”.  He has been recently quoted as saying:

"Regardless of its breed, a well-socialized dog is unlikely to bite.  Statistics show that simply taking a dog through a basic obedience class reduces the likelihood that it will bite by 90%, while giving one hour of instruction on "bite-proofing" to children reduces the risk that they will be bitten by over 80%. Combine both dog obedience and child education and you can reduce dog-bite injuries by 98% without banning any specific breed of dog."

How can any proposal “to increase public safety in relation to dogs” possibly ignore these staggering statistics?  I am absolutely astonished.  This one implementation alone, which is not covered by Bill 132, may save thousands of injuries.  Which is more financially feasible?  Educating owners and children?  Or presiding over court cases and paying hospital fees?

The additions to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act are premature.  We are not actively policing our existing bylaws, yet we are blaming those bylaws as being ineffective.  Once seatbelts were installed in cars, injuries did not decrease until wearing them was enforced. 

When a dog running at large injures a person – why was it running at large?  Every municipality has leash laws.  So it is a failure in two parts.  One: that the owner allowed their dog to run at large.  Two: law enforcement for not implementing, maintaining and enforcing their leash laws.  If they for some reason were not able to enforce their leash laws, then that must be reviewed.  Are they under staffed?  Are they under funded?  Are they overwhelmed?  If so – there is no sense in adding to their duties.  Bill 132 is not a replacement of current laws; it is in addition to existing laws.

The following are my recommendations for changes to Bill 132:

1.  Strike all references to “pit bull” and any references to any specific breed being flagged within this legislation.

2.  Strike the proposed text and replace it with that matching the Calgary Bylaw, which is a clearer definition.  From here forward, any section referring to a specific breed of dog be replaced with the following:

“Vicious dog” means any dog, whatever its age, whether on public or private property, which has

(i) without provocation, chased, injured or bitten any other domestic animal or human; or

(ii) without provocation, damaged or destroyed any public or private

property; or

(iii) without provocation, threatened or created the reasonable apprehension of a threat to other domestic animals or humans; and which, in the opinion of a Justice, presents a threat of serious harm to other domestic animals or humans; or

(iv) been previously determined to be a vicious dog

3.  The entire section of “Pit Bulls – Ban and Related Controls” be stricken from the record completely.

4.  Search and Seizure

The only persons, with a warrant, that should be allowed to Search and / or Seize any animal should be as written in Section (12), Subsection 1:

A police officer, including a police officer within the meaning of the Police Services Act, a special constable, a First Nations Constable and an auxiliary member of the police force.

Subsection 2, 3 and 4 may attend with a Police Officer as stated above, however may not be able to search or seize any animal unless accompanied by a police officer with a warrant. Replace any references to any other title able to execute a seizure or warrant to “Police Officer”.

5. Warrant to Seize Dog

This section is particularly troublesome, as it does not outline any prior steps to a warrant being issued.  An escalation of events must occur, with warnings, hearings and / or orders to appear before a Justice before a warrant is issued.

6. Animals for Research Act

Any reference to the Animals for Research Act be stricken.  Simply – if deemed to be a “Vicious Dog”, it is not a candidate for a research animal.  Technicians work very closely with research animals and therefore, cannot be put at risk by a potentially dangerous animal.

It should also be said that if this point is argued and the justification be made that the dogs are not vicious – then again, they cannot be sent to research as the only reason they would have been seized or deemed un-adoptable, would be due to questionable temperament. Therefore, the animal shouldn’t have been seized and is adoptable.  Obviously, they are of stable temperament or the scientific community wouldn’t accept them – thereby disproving the very foundation of this Bill. 

7.  Seizure In a Public Place, Section (15)

Replace any animal descriptions / definitions for the animal in question with that defined as a “Vicious Dog” in #2 of this document.

8.  Subsection 16 – Force

Match the phrasing of this section to that of section (4):

“as are reasonably required to give effect to the safe and humane seizure of the dog”.  The phrase “as much force as necessary” to be stricken.

9.  Delivery Of Seized Dog To Pound, (17)

Add the following: “To which the dog will be maintained in good health until such time as the court may hear the case.”

In conclusion, please – do not endorse Bill 132.  Yes we need change.  However it must be researched, endorsed, educated and supported. 

The voters of Ontario are watching and listening very carefully to these hearings.  We want effective legislation.  Should this Bill not be altered responsibly, to the recommendations of the experts – our voices will be heard loud and clear in the next elections.

Please listen to our expert organizations as they present to you throughout these hearings. They are more than willing to support the government in the definition, implementation and maintenance of Responsible Ownership Legislation for Everyone.  Work to protect ALL victims.  Work to protect ALL owners’ rights. 

Thank you

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