Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dutch government to lift 25-year ban on pit bulls

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government says it will lift a long-standing ban on pit bulls because it did not lead to any decrease in bite incidents.

Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg has informed parliament of the decision, which follows the advice of a commission of experts appointed to review the policy.

Instead, the country will focus on enforcing local leashing laws and owner education programs.
Spokesman Koen Geelink said Monday the ministry hopes to have a new policy in place by year-end, in which dogs that have displayed aggression will be tested by an expert.

The country banned the breeding and possession of pit bulls in 1993, after three children were killed by the dogs.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

7 pit bulls confiscated in sweep

The Lucas County dog warden yesterday confiscated seven pit bulls and wrote 52 possible citations during a sweep of Toledo, authorities said.

Dog Warden Tom Skeldon called the sweep an "ounce of prevention" as the weather warms and Toledoans walk their dogs outside again.

"This is the first big weekend of the summer, and we wanted to let the public know we would be out in neighborhoods at times when they didn't expect us to be," he said.

"I hope word gets around to people to keep these dogs as far underground as possible so they are not in a position to bite the kids or bite the mailman or whatever."

Of those animals confiscated, two were taken for being walked without muzzles, two for running at large, and three were being confined improperly, Mr. Skeldon said. The citations are issued until the owner claims the animal.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Family angry after dog mauls infant

Apr 14, 2008 01:40 PM
Raveena Aulakh
Torstar News Service

KITCHENER-"Hello doggie." Those are the last coherent words Ginger Visneskie remembers before her 2-year-old daughter was attacked by a German shepherd last week.

Visneskie had parked her car in the back of her Westwood Drive apartment building at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. She, her daughter Lilly and a friend were walking to the Visneskies' ground-floor apartment when they met a neighbour walking his dog, Angus.

The dog had been bitten by a rat the day before, Visneskie said, so she stopped to check his paw.
She was still bent over when Lilly stepped out and said, "Hello doggie."

Neighbours who saw the incident say the dog pounced on the child, threw her on the ground and sunk his teeth into her face. While they looked on in horror, Visneskie pulled on the leash and freed Lilly.

In barely five seconds, the child had been bloodied and appeared to be in shock. Visneskie didn't bother calling an ambulance. She and another neighbour put Lilly in the car and raced to the Grand River Hospital.

For the first few hours, Visneskie feared for Lilly's life and her eyesight.

"He'd bitten so close to the eyes, I thought he'd gouged them out," the 29-year-old single mother said.

When doctors finished sewing up the dozen bite marks on Lilly's nose, near her eyes and just below her chin, she had 35 stitches. She will need extensive dental work, doctors told Visneskie, since her lower jaw had been pushed into the roof of the mouth.

She has started a series of rabies shots — five in total — and may need speech therapy. Four of her front teeth were dislocated.

Angus' owner, meanwhile, says he's shocked by what happened.

"She (Lilly) has patted him in the past and it's been fine," said John Seenstra. "I'm sorry about what happened."

Seenstra said he warned the girl's mother that his dog wasn't muzzled and he said he told Visneskie to pick up the girl as she approached.

"I don't want everyone to think I'm an irresponsible owner," he said.

Along with their intense anxiety about Lilly's injuries, the Visneskie family feels a lot of anger.
Visneskie and her brother Tony are seething over what appears to be business as usual for their next-door neighbour and his dog. Now, when Visneskie sees the owner take the dog for walks, she shakes.

"When I see (the dog), I see him clamping down on Lilly," she said. "I am so scared for her and other children in the building now."

After the attack, the family focused on Lilly's well-being, making sure she got all all the medical attention she needed. Now that Lilly is recovering, the family feels helpless no action can be taken to have the dog removed from the property and to charge the owner.

The Humane Society says it's investigating the incident after some initial miscommunication.
"There are laws that protect people from dangerous dogs," said Kathy Innocente, the society's community relations manager.

"A dog can be deemed dangerous but we need to first find out what exactly happened on Tuesday."

Charges can be laid on the recommendation of the Humane Society.

Seenstra said the dog is normally muzzled when it goes out for a walk. "But I forgot to put the muzzle that day."

That explanation is not good enough for the family.

"Look at my niece. She's stopped talking or smiling," said Tony Visneskie, who is helping look after Lilly. "We don't even know how long she'll be in and out of hospitals."

Visneskie said her landlord, Transglobe Property Management, has assured her the company is looking into options for dealing with the dog.

The Visneskies and other tenants in the building said this was not the first time the dog attacked someone. Last year, neighbour Cayla Woodworth saw the dog bite a woman who had just gotten off a bus.

"It can happen with anyone," said Woodworth, who is now keeping a close watch on her own daughter. "I saw Lilly minutes after the attack, when she was splattered with blood."

Meanwhile, Lilly's ordeal is far from over. She got her first rabies shot Thursday, and some of her stitches ruptured on Saturday, forcing another trip to the hospital.

Yesterday, she spent the morning in bed, hooked up to an IV, with fresh stitches on her face. Later, she was taken to hospital for a second rabies shot. Dental treatment can start once the wounds on her face and neck heal.

"I've been to more doctors in the past week than my entire life," Visneskie said. "It's so frustrating."

She now keeps a sturdy baseball bat within reach.

"I want it to be handy if that dog comes near my baby again," she said.

— The Waterloo Region Record

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ontario Government Recognized for Commitment to Animal Welfare

World Society for the Protection of Animals Applauds McGuinty Government and MPP David Zimmer

TORONTO, December 6, 2007 – The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has awarded the Ontario Government and Willowdale MPP David Zimmer for their efforts to improve animal welfare in Ontario.

Mr. Zimmer received a “Special Award for Leadership in Animal Welfare”. His private member’s bill to regulate roadside zoos resulted in a historic government commitment to improve animal welfare in Ontario. The government committed to many measures that will greatly improve the protection of animals including strengthening Ontario’s animal cruelty law (Ontario SPCA Act), which hasn’t been significantly revised in 88 years and establishing standards for zoos.

“For years WSPA has witnessed and fought against the suffering of countless animals, including those kept in roadside zoos,” said Melissa Tkachyk, WSPA Programs Officer. “We would like to recognize David Zimmer for championing this issue and the Ontario government for committing to change”.

The Hon. Donna Cansfield, Minister of Natural Resources and York-Center MPP, Monte Kwinter each accepted awards on behalf of the government. As the former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Mr. Kwinter was in charge of the SPCA and played a pivotal role in achieving the government’s animal welfare commitment. The Ministry of Natural Resources is currently responsible for licensing the keeping of native wildlife in captivity.

Highlights from the government’s commitment include:

Making it a provincial offence to cause distress to an animal. Imposing penalties of up to $25,000 and six months in jail for an animal abuse conviction. Imposing a lifetime ownership ban for persons convicted of animal cruelty.

Giving Ontario SPCA agents broader authority to inspect commercial premises like zoos where mistreatment of animals is suspected.

Immediate increase of annual funding for the Ontario SPCA to $500,000 to support inspector and agent training (current annual funding is $119,000).

Requiring veterinarians to report suspected abuse, with protection from liability for doing so.

Banning animal fighting and associated equipment.

Providing $80,000 for the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) to offer free care for pets of women who have left an abusive spouse or partner.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dog law problem; Pit bull puppies off to Quebec

There is obviously a problem with Ontario's dog breed-ban law when the Peterborough Humane Society doesn't even agree with it and to avoid the law steps across the borders to another province to avoid the law.

The Peterborough Humane Society is taking seven pit bull puppies to Quebec in a bid to find them homes and save them from destruction.

The refugee puppies will be placed with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Western Quebec. The dogs are not illegal in Quebec.

Under Ontario's breed-ban law, the seven-weeks-old puppies must be destroyed, so Algar is driving them to the border Wednesday with a $200 donation and the hope of finding the dogs a good home.

"It's not their fault they're pit bull puppies," Algar said.

"(My staff) didn't want to do it. I don't blame them," Algar said. "I don't want to do it either."
Euthanasia laws are understandable if a dog bites or attacks another dog or person, he said, but the puppies aren't a threat.

The border run is a first for the Peterborough Humane Society, but may not be the last and others may be doing the same thing.

Since the provincial pit-bull ban came into effect in 2005, Algar said, he's been working on finding a way to save dogs who must be euthanized based on their breed.

The dogs are being sent to an SPCA organization that has the same morals as Peterborough's, Algar said, and he's hoping the relationship between the two groups will help save other dogs.
The puppies were seized by the local humane society Feb. 21 under an SPCA warrant. Algar said the shelter received a report about a "thin dog" at a Parkhill Road apartment. No one was home when the inspectors arrived, he said, and a card was left on the door.

The second time they returned they heard voices inside but no one answered the door. Algar said inspectors and city police officers were waiting for a locksmith to open the door when someone told them a woman had jumped out a second-storey window clutching a blanket. She was stopped after a short foot chase, Algar said.

"She just set the blanket down and the puppies were in the blanket," he said.

Inside the home inspectors found two adult pit bulls, a male and female, he said. Both dogs were unlicensed and weren't fixed.

The owner of the dogs now faces 13 charges under the Dog Owners Liability Act, including one charge for every puppy born, Algar said. She is to appear in Provincial Offences Court March 17.
Algar said the two adult dogs will be spayed and neutered by the Humane Society.

The Humane Society must do the "right thing" and comply with the law, Algar said.

"But the right thing is not killing animals because the government says we must kill the animals," Algar said.

We agree and wonder about the wisdom of a law that forces death on puppies that have done nothing wrong other than be born.

This doesn't excuse the owner of the mating dogs. If the owner follows the law, the puppies aren't born and places like the Humane Society are not put into such a situation.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dog Bite Statistics - Are We Being Lied to by Politicians With a Hidden ‘Dangerous Dog’ Agenda?

Posted By Alison Green
Date: 4/03
Posted Under: Breed Specific Legislation, Canine Columns, Dangerous Dogs

Figures released to Norman Lamb of the Liberal democrats have been splashed all over the media alongside headlines proclaiming a rise in “dog attacks”. Pictures of snarling beasts, most often bull breeds or the current “devil dog” the Rottweiler have been used to help emphasise the point.

But wait one second…STOP THE PRESS… the figures do not show a rise in dog attacks. Allow me to explain.

A few years ago I did an awful thing.

I was at a barbeque on a lovely summers day with my family and our dogs. My children where playing with the other children and one of my dogs was playing with the resident boxer, the sun was shining and all was right with the world. My dog tired of his game with the boxer, picked up his ball before dropping it in my lap and sitting down looking at me hopefully. I smiled, picked up the ball and threw it for him.

The minute that ball left my hand I realised what I had done and yelled loudly to recall my dog but it was too late. As I yelled, my dog ran straight into my daughter knocking her flying down on the hard ground. Thankfully my daughter, although bruised and sore for a while, had no broken bones. My dog didn’t know what had happened but had stopped, ball forgotten and gone over to lick at my daughter. I was mortified and have never taken a ball to another barbeque since!

Had my daughter been more badly hurt and been admitted to hospital, she would have been included in the recent figures paraded around the media as “dog attacks”.

What the media and Norman Lamb fail to mention in any article I have read, is that the figures do not separate dog bites from dog strikes. I know of quite a few people who have been admitted to hospital because their dogs greeted them a little too enthusiastically or accidentally knocked into them.

They will all be logged under the same code meaning “bitten or struck by a dog” yet the two meanings are often very different and certainly don’t scream “dog attack”. Many people have been struck by dogs, many have been bitten by dogs however few have been attacked by dogs. While even one true dog attack is unacceptable the medias use of these figures to “show” an overwhelming increase in dog attacks is misleading and nothing more than scaremongering.

The media have also focused on the “rise” in certain areas but do not seem to be aware of the fact that the strategic health authority for treatment restructured at the start of 2006 which, according to Ben Bradshaw when he supplied the figures to Norman lamb as a written answer, means a direct comparison is not possible before and after 2006.

Hospital workers are also “ a bit bemused” by the figures. It has recently been reported in one online newspaper that hospital bosses in west mids where surprised at the “findings” of an 80% increase in under 18’s being admitted due to “dog attacks”.

A spokesman for George eliot hospital in Nuneaton told a reporter for IC Coventry

Although we don’t have access to detailed statistics, we can say anecdotally that, if anything, the number of people needing treatment for dog bites is falling.

“We’re a bit bemused by these figures, to be honest. We don’t get anywhere near as many as we used to.”

The article goes on to state:

The same sentiment was also expressed by spokesmen for the University Hospital, Coventry, Warwick Hospital, and the Hospital of St Cross, in Rugby.

Maybe they are “bemused” because the figures are being stated as something they aren’t!
In recent years it has been pointed out that children 9 and under are more commonly admitted for “bites or strikes” from a dog and this is true. However over the last ten years in England, the number of children 9 and under who have been admitted to hospital for this reason, has actually risen the least of all age groups, by 4.1%. This equals just 39 more admissions when comparing 06-07 with 96-97. Using the same years comparison, the age group of 40-49 year olds show a massive increase of 136%. We rarely hear of large numbers of 40 odd year olds being attacked by dogs so would it be fair to assume we are actually looking at more strikes than bites?

It is not unusual for smaller children to be admitted to hospital more often than adults as a precaution. I completely agree with the reasons for doing so. Children are much more fragile and less able to tell you if there is a problem. If my children bang their heads I turn into the most paranoid mother about, constantly checking on them. Better to be safe than sorry so could this possibly explain the large number of young children being admitted? Children are also more likely to be knocked over by dogs simply walking or running past them.

There are many reasons that could contribute to any increase and could help explain why certain age groups are showing high numbers. The only thing the figures do not show is a definite increase in dog attacks.

The dog world does have problems and they are problems that need tackling. We, as dog owners, parents and members of the public, have all been let down time and time again by the law. The Dangerous Dogs Act was meant to protect us 16 years ago. It failed. Now the same people who helped bring in that law, are trying again!

The answer to our problems is simple. We need to look at facts and not create mass hysteria by telling only half of the story. We need to log dog bites and strikes separately and in more detail. We need to know what the injury is, who, where and why. We need to ensure we all know how to act responsibly and safely around dogs.

We need a law that holds the owners responsible for their dog’s actions and ensure they are fully equipped to deal with the responsibility that comes with owning any dog BEFORE they obtain one.

Norman Lamb has got one thing right. He is quoted in several articles as saying

“No-one knowingly puts their child in danger but it seems that the message is not getting through.”

So lets make a Dog Ownership Test a legal requirement and force that message home.

Dog laws must be enforced

By: Hazel McCallion
March 4, 2008 10:25 PM -

I wanted to take this opportunity to comment on Rambo, the pit bull type dog that is impounded at the City’s Animal Services facility.

As you are probably aware, the dog’s owner has been charged under the provincial Dog Owner’s Liability Act, for having possession of a prohibited pit bull. As this matter is before the Court, it is not appropriate for me to discuss the particulars regarding the case.

When the pit bull amendments to the Dog Owner’s Liability Act were being discussed, the City of Mississauga strongly opposed the legislation. City Council’s concerns were expressed in writing to the Province and our Director of Enforcement attended public hearings in Toronto in 2005 and voiced our concerns, as did many other municipalities.

Once passed into law, the City of Mississauga must enforce the law. Failure to do so could result in serious liability issues if the City opted not to enforce the law and one of the dogs seriously injured a resident.

Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about the legislation, City staff are expected to do their duty and enforce the law. Although the option to transfer prohibited pit bulls out of province is available to the Pound Operator under the Animals for Research Act, staff have not done so in the past for a number of reasons. Liability concerns and the substantial staff resources that are required to do this cannot be ignored, and there is also a significant cost involved in doing this.

These are key reasons why municipalities tend not to exercise the option (to relocate animals to other communities). As I understand it, when municipalities have done so, it is most often involving very young puppies.

Up until this point in time, decisions on how to administer the law have been made by staff, as is common across the province. I have requested staff to prepare a report for City Council setting out the options available under the legislation, as well as the pros and cons of each of them. This will allow City Council to fully discuss the matter and determine the appropriate procedures to be followed by the City of Mississauga in the future.

Regarding Rambo, once a charge has been laid, it is not up to the City to decide the fate of the dog. In cases where there is an outstanding charge for possession of a prohibited pit bull, the dog is well taken care of in the City’s Animal Control Services Section, pending the outcome of the court proceedings. It is up to a Provincial Crown to conduct the prosecution and, ultimately, the fate of the dog rests in the hands of a Justice of the Peace or Provincial Court Judge, who must adjudicate the charge based on the facts in each case applied to the law. Once a charge has been laid, neither the Mayor’s office nor Council can interfere with a matter that is before the Court.

Hazel McCallion is the mayor of Mississauga and a dog-owner.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Judge refuses Rambo bail

Story and photo by Matthew Liebenberg,
National Post
A judge refused this afternoon to release Rambo, the young dog slated for death if a court finds him to be a pit bull. Rambo’s owner, Gabriela Nowakowska, made her first court appearance today in Mississauga, as a small group protested outside, waving placards asking for Rambo to be freed.
“We should get rid of this law,” said Victoria Hardy, who carried a placard against breed-specific laws. “It should be blamed on bad owners, not on the dogs.”
Now almost a year old, Rambo was running loose near Ms. Nowakowska’s home on Christmas Day when he was captured by animal control officers. Considered by Mississauga authorities to be a prohibited animal under the provincial Dog Owners Liability Act, he will be put down if found by the court to be a pit bull.
Holly Roithmeier’s placard asked that Rambo be allowed to leave Ontario if he can’t live here. “I think it’s horrible what they’re doing,” she said. “They shouldn’t euthanize the dog, he didn’t bite anybody.”
Ms. Nowakowska’s lawyer, Anik Morrow, asked the court’s consent for Rambo’s release. However, the Crown attorney requested time to consider the case and the court agreed to a meeting on March 14 to consider the motion. The date for a judicial pre-trial hearing was set for March 18.
“We’re very happy to engage this judicial process,” Ms. Morrow said afterward. “We know that Mississauga has a bit of a habit of snatch and kill, so we’re very happy that the dog is still alive. What I would like to do is to find a reasonable solution.”
Ms. Nowakowska told reporters she received Rambo as a four-week-old puppy from her boyfriend.
“I just want Rambo back,” she said. “It makes me feel sad because I don’t have him with me. My house is empty, there’s no one to greet me or keep me company.”