pit bull ban ontario

Ontario might repeal the ban on pit bulls

A bill repealing Ontario's controversial ban on pit bulls will finally be up for debate in legislature this week.

Conservative Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls introduced the bill, which has been rumoured to be on its way for some time, yesterday. It seeks to omit breed-specific language from Ontario legislation for dog owners.

If approved, it will mean that what are lovingly referred to as "bully breeds" — anything physically similar to Pit Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers — will be as legal to breed and own as any other dog in the province for the first time since 2005.

As it stands now, owners of the above breeds have to fix, muzzle and leash their pets, or else they can face a $10,000 fine and even jail time under the Dog Owners' Liability Act.

As part of the act, breeding and importing the above types of dogs has also been prohibited.

As a result of the ban, more than a thousand dogs have been euthanized, furthering the provincial government's end goal to gradually diminish the breed's population.

The law has been challenged formally and informally many times over the years, but it has been upheld under the somewhat widely-held belief that pit bulls are "dangerous and unpredictable," and thus prone to attacking humans and other dogs.

Pet owners, veterinarians and other advocates for bully breeds have long argued against this sentiment, saying that it's the circumstances a dog is raised under, not its breed that dictates its demeanour.

Unfortunately, pit bulls and similar dogs have historically been the most common breeds used in illegal dog fighting due to their powerful build and large, strong jaws. As a result, the dogs have garnered a bad reputation for violence.

Opinions on the matter are divided, with the majority of online response today seeming to be in favour of repealing the ban. Still, some are concerned about the motivations certain owners might have for seeking out bully type breeds.

A number of other members of local government in Ontario are on board with Nicholls' proposed bill, like fellow MPP David Piccini, who told The Peterborough Examiner last month that all animals of all breeds are equally "capable of aggressive behaviour... it's ownership-based."

Piccini spearheaded a petition earlier this year, which was supported by the Toronto Humane Society, to end breed-specific legislation.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner is also behind the motion, saying that the ban discriminates against specific breeds "in the face of scientific evidence" when speaking with The Star last month.

Given the number of organizations working to champion bully breeds and save them from euthanasia, the fact that dog bite incidents are on the rise despite declining pit bull populations, as well as the numerous marches and rallies against legislation banning certain types of dogs both in Ontario and globally, Nicholls' and Piccini's confidence that the proposed bill will pass seems well-founded.

Lead photo by

Steph Cloutier

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