Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dog Kills Owner

Pit bull kills owner
Wed, May 31, 2006
The cross-breed dog attacked as the 77-year-old victim's wife looked on in horror.

I will post the picture as soon as Blogger allows me to.
Buster killed his owner in the front yard of his home Monday in an attack that overwhelmed the victim before he could react. (Sue Reeve, LFP)

WELBURN -- An elderly man died after his pit bull crossbreed dog attacked him and tore open his throat in front of his horrified wife and a taxi driver.

John Martin, 77, from this small community just south of St. Marys, didn't even see the Monday attack coming, Lynn-del Alderson, the cabbie who saw it with Martin's wife, Nancy, said yesterday.

"The dog started charging and pounced on him from behind," said a shaken Alderson, who was delivering groceries to the couple just before 5 p.m.

"He didn't have a chance."

Minutes earlier, the couple -- married for 25 years -- had been laughing and joking with each other on the lawn of their tiny farmhouse, she said.

The couple's five-year-old dog, Buster, a 90-pound cross between a pit bull and Labrador, was playing off leash nearby, she said.

Alderson, who regularly ran deliveries to the couple, stayed in her taxi, having been warned before by the owners not to leave the car because the dog had been aggressive in the past.

What happened next was a "surreal" twist of events that started when Martin playfully poked his 57-year-old wife and then turned to walk away, the cabbie said.

Through her driver's side window, Alderson watched in horror as the hulking dog lunged at the man from behind and knocked him over.

"They were just being goofy with each other, but as soon as John walked away, Buster ran at him," she said. "It was like he was protecting (Nancy.)"

Martin, whom Alderson called slight and gentle, struggled to get the dog off him.
"John ended up on his back and the dog lunged right for his throat."

Seeing Nancy frozen in shock, Alderson jumped out of her cab to see if she could find anything to use to beat the dog away from Martin.

"I was just screaming for her to get the dog off him and I couldn't find anything to use to get Buster off," she said, adding she then called 911.

When Nancy -- apparently the dog's favoured owner -- sprang into action, it took precious seconds for her to coax the dog off her husband, Alderson said.

Nancy leashed the dog, put it inside and the two went to work on Martin, bleeding profusely from the neck.

"We were putting towels on his neck, but there was just so much blood," Alderson said.

Paramedics arrived and Martin was taken to St. Marys hospital, where he died from multiple bites to the neck.

Ontario imposed a sweeping ban on pit bulls last year, after a rash of attacks on humans by the squat, muscular dogs.

Buster, a brown and white dog given to the couple as a puppy, was picked up by officials from Hillside Kennels Animal Control Ltd., contracted by Thames Centre.

Wayne Uncer, spokes-person for the Innerkip kennel, said a veterinarian confirmed the dog was a mix between a Labrador and a pit bull.

"This dog certainly has a large amount of pit bull in him," he said.

"Had it been a border collie or a German shepherd or a Lab, it might have bitten the person and let go," he said. "But a pit bull, once they get it in their mind to kill someone, that's what they'll do."

When officials arrived at the Martin home to remove the dog (law requires any animal that has bitten or scratched anyone be quarantined for 10 days), Buster was acting aggressively, Uncer said.

The dog, a neutered male that wasn't registered as a pit bull and hadn't seen a vet in five years, had to be put in a snare pull to be forced into a cage, he said.

Once at the kennel, however, the dog appeared to be a "placid family pet," he said.

While Uncer has seen a lot of dog attacks in his years as a kennel operator, he said he's never heard of a dog killing its owner.

"It's a really sad, unusual story," he said. "It . . . just turned nasty."

At Nancy's request, he said, Buster will be put down, likely after the 10-day quarantine.
Uncer hopes others will learn from the fatal attack.

"It may influence some of the owners to use excessive caution with these dogs," he said.

The first part of Ontario's phased-in ban on pit bulls took effect last August, requiring all pit bulls be leashed, muzzled and sterilized.

On a personal note...... Yesterday it was a mixed breed. Today (front page) it reads Pit Bull Kills Owner.
Who decides what breed of dog this is?? It doesn't look like a purebred anything to me. So, it's a mutt or a mixed breed dog....Plain and Simple. That is why my title reads: Dog Kills Owner. This is such a sad story and my heart goes out to the family, but socialize your dog.

This was what the paper said yesterday.....
Dog kills owner
Tue, May 30, 2006
Man was playfully poking wife when pet turned on him

THORNDALE — A woman watched, horrified, Monday as the family dog attacked and killed her husband.

John Martin, 77, of Wellburn Road in Thames Centre was playfully poking his wife outside their home about 5 p.m. when the couple's five-year-old-dog lunged at his throat, police said.

The wife, who had been standing in the driveway with a female cab driver, was eventually able to pull the dog off her husband.

Martin was pronounced dead at hospital in St. Marys.

The 40-kilogram mixed-breed dog has been quarantined by the Middlesex-London Health Unit at a local kennel.

Provincial police continue to investigate the incident, which occurred about 20 kilometres northeast of London.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pit Bull Ban Not the Solution: Dog Whisperer

Unfair pit bull ban not the solution, says celebrity behaviourist Dog Whisperer
John Mckay, Canadian Press

Cesar Millan poses with dogs.

TORONTO (CP) - Ontario's pit bull ban is an unfair law based on ignorance - because getting rid of a breed of dog doesn't get rid of the problem, says celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan.

Millan, known as the Dog Whisperer for his uncanny ability to solve canine behavioural problems, was in Toronto this week promoting his National Geographic Channel show and the recent DVD release of the first season's episodes.

"In the United States, in the '70s, they did the same thing to the Doberman. In the '80s they did it to the German shepherd, in the '90s they did it to the Rottweiler, and now they're doing it to the pit bull," he says.

"So whatever dog is in fashion, people are going to blame them for things."

Under the Ontario ban, which was passed last August, it is illegal to own, breed, transfer, abandon or import pit bulls or other breeds "substantially similar" to pit bulls. Owners who violate the law can be fined up to $10,000 and/or be sentenced to six months in jail. The court can also order a dog to be destroyed.

For the Dog Whisperer, there are no bad dogs nor bad breeds, just bad owners who need to be trained. On his show he displays a remarkable ability to rehabilitate once-dangerous pooches because he knows how to position himself as the alpha dog, the leader of the pack.

The worst thing an owner can do, he says, is to heap affection on a pet without balancing it with discipline and exercise. In the dog's eyes, that means the owner isn't a boss to be respected - and the result is a range of problems from disobedience to outright violence.

So Millan doesn't think much of the controversial Ontario law aimed at eventually eliminating the pit bull from the province.

"It's not fair," he says. "They're not going to defend themselves. They're not going to go to court and say, 'Look guys, it's not us. You guys don't walk us every day, you guys don't give us rules, limitations every day.' "

While Rin Tin Tin and Lassie are always touted as dog heroes in the movies, what about Petey of The Little Rascals, he asks. The dog with the famous circle painted around his eye was a lovable pit bull in the old Our Gang movie shorts.

Loving a dog is one thing, humanizing and pampering the animal is another, he maintains.
"It's a selfish attitude because it's what the human wants, instead of really seeing the picture - what does the dog need?"

And intelligence does not make a good pack leader/trainer, Millan says.

"I have Harvard graduates for clients who can't control a chihuahua."

In one rather scary scene from his show, Millan is seen stooping and placing his face right into a dish of dog food where a pit bull is eagerly eating. He even pokes the dog in the side of the face, but the animal respects the relationship and continues eating without snapping.

In Los Angeles, there are many homeless men who have pit bulls, he says, but they're not on a leash and yet they never attack anyone or misbehave.

"Homeless is homeless. He has no money. But he practises leadership behaviour. The dog doesn't see them as homeless. The dog sees them as pack leader."

For the record, Millan has been doing his thing for 20 years and claims a 99 per cent success rate with his rehabilitation techniques. In that time, there have been only two "bad" dogs he was unable to return to society, he adds.

Asked about his claim that he was born with his dog whisperer ability, Millan says he grew up on a ranch in Mexico where he learned animal communications skills from his grandfather.

"It's the tendency to be with animals, to spend more time with animals," he says. "So it's an innate behaviour . . . You are born with that innate ability to connect and if somebody nurtures that you can become the dog whisperer."

Yes, he has been bitten.

"Of course," he says matter-of-factly. "It's like cowboys that get stomped by bulls. Any time you're working in the world of taming animals, you're going to get hurt. But it's a rush that we get."

And his practice isn't without issues.

Earlier this month, a TV producer in Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against him claiming his dog was injured at Millan's psychology centre. Another suit filed in April claimed copyright infringement for his use of the name Dog Whisperer.

At the same time, Millan enjoys the admiration of such famous dog owners as Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Scarlett Johansson.

By the way, Millan has six dogs of his own: two Italian greyhounds, two springer spaniels, one chihuahua and one Chinese crested.

He's asked the inevitable dog lover's question: Why do we bond so strongly with a species that has a much shorter lifespan, pretty much guaranteeing a grieving experience as our pets grow older and die before us?

"Birth, life, death is a cycle. And they're all beautiful, you celebrate all of them," he says about the pet owner's inevitable heartbreak.

"Animals do grieve, but they move on. That's the lesson behind animals."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tot Mauled by Pit Bull

Tot mauled by pit bull
Police: Attack on 18-month-old girl is 2nd dog-bite incident at home
By Vic Ryckaert

One time before, police say, animal control officers had been called to the Near-Westside home over dog-bite incidents.

SCENE: A pit bull attacked 18-month-old Amaia Hess at 1:40 p.m. Friday at this duplex in the 1300 block of South Belmont Avenue, Indianapolis. The girl was undergoing surgery Friday.

Her mother and a man who lives in the duplex were treated for shock.

The second time, Friday, was horrific.

A pit bull mauled 18-month-old Amaia Hess in the front yard of the home in the 1300 block of South Belmont Avenue.

The toddler suffered damage to her eyes and has other wounds to her face, said Sgt. Matthew Mount of the Indianapolis Police Department.

She was in surgery late Friday night at Riley Hospital for Children. A hospital spokesman said she was in critical condition.

Witnesses described a terrible scene in the yard.

"I saw the dog tearing the baby up like a piece of meat," said Rhonda Smith, who saw the attack from her home across the street. "That was horrible. I never want to see this again as long as I live."

The dog's owner, Mark Hamilton, 42, was out of town Friday but could face fines from the city or criminal charges in the case, which remains under investigation.

The attack took place about 1:40 p.m. in the front yard of a single-story duplex with broken windows and weather-beaten trim.

The child and her mother were visiting Michael Hamilton, who lives at the home with his uncle, police said. Hamilton, 21, opened the front door to go in, and the dog escaped, heading straight for Amaia.

"Michael was able to pull the dog off Amaia," Mount said in a statement, "but only after she was viciously mauled."

The girl's mother, Bobbie Tomlin, 20, 2100 block of Crossford Circle, and Hamilton were treated for shock and released from Wishard Memorial Hospital.

Animal Care and Control officers captured and caged the dog. A second dog was also taken from the home.

Martha Short lives nearby and said the dog that attacked the toddler bit her in November.

"Once it locked its jaws on my stomach, it started shaking me," Short said, lifting her shirt to show six red scars on her abdomen that she said were left by the animal's teeth.

"That dog should not be around society -- period."

A police report confirms that Short was treated for injuries from a dog bite and a fight with her boyfriend at Methodist Hospital on Nov. 8. Court records show police were most concerned with the allegation of domestic violence in that case and did not identify or take action against the dog.

While Indianapolis has rules against vicious dogs, it has no ordinances specifically aimed at pit bulls.

"We don't prosecute dogs," said city Prosecutor Teri Kendrick. "We prosecute dog owners. Some of the worst cases we have seen did not involve pit bulls."

12 deaths a year in U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year.

About 800,000 seek medical attention -- half of them children.

Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department, and about 12 will die.

The rate of injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9.

Nearly two-thirds of injuries in children 4 and younger are to the head or neck.

Other attacks by dogs in Indiana

• July 1, 2005: Boyd W. Fiscus, 83, rural Morgan County, is attacked and killed by four dogs owned by a neighbor.

• June 8, 2005: Jane Brown, 69, Bluffton, is attacked while mowing her lawn and mauled by three mixed-breed dogs.

• May 1, 2005: Julia Beck, 87, dies after being mauled by dogs in her Marion home.

• August 2004: Mary H. DeLacy, 87, is killed by six pit bulls in Daviess County.

• Feb. 19, 2003: A Labrador-St. Bernard mix attacks a 17-month-old Columbus girl. She is treated at a hospital and released.

• Jan. 28, 2003: A 1-year-old Indianapolis girl is attacked by a pit bull. Her face is badly slashed, and she undergoes surgery at Riley Hospital for Children.

• March 26, 2002: A 3-year-old Indianapolis boy is attacked in his home by one of five dogs belonging to his family. The boy's skull is fractured.

• April 3, 2001: A stray dog attacks a 6-year-old in a Decatur Township yard where he is playing. He undergoes two hours of surgery to repair wounds to his shoulder, right cheek and lower lip.
• June 10, 2000: Census worker Dorothy Stewart, 71, is found dead of severe dog bites outside a rural Brown County home.

Rules governing dangerous pets in Indiana, Marion County

The owners of dangerous pets can face civil or criminal penalties in Indiana.

Under state law, the owner of a dog that bites another person can be charged with a misdemeanor. If the dog kills a person, its owner may be charged with a felony.

In Marion County, a local ordinance requires vicious, dangerous or fierce animals to be confined and restrained. Anytime the animal threatens a neighbor, its owner can be ticketed and faces a minimum $500 fine. The maximum fine is $2,500. Anytime the animal gets off its leash or crawls under a fence, the owner can be fined $50.

City Prosecutor Teri Kendrick said prosecutors generally weigh the circumstances in each incident before deciding whether to pursue a civil or criminal case.


Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.

• Teach children not to approach strange dogs.

• Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations. All dogs can bite if provoked.• Never disturb a dog sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.

• If a dog approaches, stay still. Most times a dog will go away when it determines there's no threat.

• If a strange dog approaches, remain calm, speak calmly and firmly, back away slowly and avoid eye contact.

• If knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck; protect your face.

Source: American Veterinary Association

Attacked by Pit Bull

Attacked by Pit Bull

Abbotsford News
May 27 2006

A dog owner says it is "her fault" her pit bull attacked a smaller dog Thursday at a McKenzie Road townhouse complex, but is angry with the man who intervened and hit the pit bull with a steering wheel lock.

"I am very upset at the man who repeatedly beat my 10-month-old puppy even after she let go of the other dog and had collapsed on the ground," said the pit bull owner, who did not want to be named.

"He didn't need to keep beating her in her head with the club . . . screaming that he is going to (expletive) kill that dog, as she lies on the ground half conscious.

"My dog has sustained more injuries and trauma than the other dog."

However, the man who intervened said the attack, which also injured the smaller dog's owner, could have been much worse if he hadn't stepped in.

"I was at the right place at the right time," he said. He declined to have his name published.
Animal control officer Richard Green noted the man who clubbed the pit bull was "trying to keep it at bay, keep it away."

The incident unfolded shortly before noon at a townhouse complex in the 1700-block of McKenzie Road. A woman with two pit bulls inside her car was removing some items when she noticed another woman walking a pomeranian.

One of her pit bulls, Isis, bolted from the car and grabbed the smaller dog by the ear and neck.

"It's my fault that I didn't close the door," said the pit bull owner.

The owner of the pomeranian was bitten in the hand as she tried to save her dog, and the man with the steering wheel lock hit Isis "several" times in an effort to get Isis to let go.

Isis was rushed to the veterinarian by her owner, and was treated for head injuries.

Isis' owner asked a friend to ensure that the pomeranian and its owner were OK as she left the scene, but somehow that was overlooked, she said.

She's now contacted animal control to offer to pay the vet bills.

Brian Nelson from Abbotsford animal control said the owner required stitches and the pomeranian had an injured leg. Police also note the pomeranian was bitten in the ear and back.
The pit bull owner admits Isis can be aggressive toward little dogs, but is fine around the little children she is exposed to.

"She is not a bad dog, she is young and has been through a lot in the last four months," Isis' owner said. "She was stolen from me and beaten. That may be part of the problem."

That said, she's taking responsibility for the attack. "I should have been more cautious," she said.

Animal control said there have been no previous incidents with Isis, but she now meets the definition of a dangerous dog. Isis must be kept in a six-sided pen, and must be leashed and muzzled when outside.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

'Primetime' Airs First-Ever Face Transplant

Isabelle is the first person
to receive a face transplant

'Primetime' Airs First-Ever Face Transplant
May 25th/06

For the first time on American television, viewers will witness a groundbreaking face transplant procedure as Barbara Walters goes behind the scenes of the revolutionary surgery in a new "Primetime"
special tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Last November, French doctors reconstructed the face of a woman who lost her nose, both lips and chin when she was mauled by her dog.

ISABELLE DINOIRE, 38, received a new face from a 46-year-old brain-dead donor during a surgery performed at University Hospital in Amiens. The groundbreaking operation was attempted after her Labrador chewed off the bottom half of her face while she was in a drug-induced sleep.

''When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette and didn't understand why it wouldn't stay between my lips,'' she told reporters about the incident. ''That's when I saw the pool of blood and the dog beside it.''

"Primetime" acquired a French documentary that follows Isabelle's amazing medical journey, beginning the day she arrived at the facial surgery department at the hospital. The documentary features never-before-seen footage that was shot during the unprecedented 15-hour procedure. Additionally, Barbara interviews hospital staff and famed transplant surgeon Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard.

The show will also air exclusive footage of Isabelle that was shot just last week that will allow viewers to see her progress so far. While the operation has been considered a success, there are concerns about the healing process.

Isabelle's doctors say her body could still reject the new tissue and it may take months before they know how much motor control she'll develop in the lower half of her face.

But the mother of two said that ''being able to show emotions through my face'' is already the best thing to happen since the dreadful accident.

Dog Bite - Lab

Dana Vachon comforts son Alen Forgues
on Wednesday, one day after the four year old
was severely bitten by a lab retriever mix
at a neighbour’s home in Searchmont.

Boy takes 50 stitches after Searchmont dog attack
Undergoes 3-hour surgery

By Frank Dobrovnik

A boy was severely bitten in the face by a dog Tuesday.

Dana Vachon, a Hult Road woman, and her son, Alen Forgues, 4-1/2, went next door to their home in Searchmont, around 10:15 a.m. for help with a troublesome appliance, reports Sault Ste. Marie detachment of Ontario Provincial Police.

The neighbour, the owner of the dog, accompanied the mother into her house and the boy remained outside with the dog. The two women heard growling and went out to find the lab retriever mix had attacked the boy.

He suffered bites to his head and face and required 50 stitches to close the wounds.

A family friend said the boy underwent three-hour surgery Tuesday night.

Const. Bill Mackan said the dog owner has agreed to quarantine the dog at her vet’s office. “The owner has been very co-operative with us,” Mackan said.

Whether the attack warrants charges remains undetermined, he said. The family friend said the woman and child come from Quebec and have temporarily rented the Searchmont residence.

Algoma Health Unit is assisting the investigation. AHU officials did not return a call on Wednesday to The Sault Star.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Have you been bitten by a dog?

This website is about dog bite prevention and safety for kids and dogs. Over the past year Yvette VanVeen dog trainer/behaviour consultant has been gather bite stats.

Please fill in this survey:

It is a little long but will be really helpful in the future for BSL type issues. Apparently she has about 100 entries and plans to compile all the data in about 2 or 3 months.

Friday, May 19, 2006

No Proof Pit Bull Ban is Necessary

No proof pit bull ban is necessary: Ruby
Ontario calls law `minimally intrusive'

Act was amended to eliminate breed

The Ontario government isn't bothering to provide proof that its pit bull ban is necessary, instead asking a judge to take its wisdom on faith, a dog owners' lawyer says.

"For the government to ask: `Don't make any findings of fact.' That's the equivalent of saying, `Trust us, we're the government'," Clayton Ruby argued yesterday.

Ruby was making his final representations on behalf of Toronto dog owner Catherine Cochrane, who is mounting a constitutional challenge to the province's Dog Owners' Liability Act.

The act was amended last year to eventually eliminate pit bulls from the province.

Justice Thea Herman reserved her decision yesterday.

"It's been a fascinating few days," she said.

Under the legal changes, Ontarians can't newly acquire pit bulls. Existing owners must neuter their dogs and make sure they are leashed and muzzled in public.

Violators could get a maximum penalty of $10,000 and six months in jail.

Ruby argued that the law is too broad and vague in its definition of pit bull, so that his client, for instance, can't be sure if her dog qualifies.

Michael Doi, lawyer for the government, who has presented horrific examples of Ontario residents maimed by unexpected pit bull attacks, said the government has all the facts it needs to act.

"Even in the case of inconclusive scientific evidence, as long as the legislature has a reasonable" basis to fear harm and passes proportionate legislation, that's all it needs to pass constitutional muster, Doi argued.

"There is simply no constitutional right to own a pit bull," he said.

The law as passed is "minimally intrusive," he added.

The judge asked if sending a pit bull to dog obedience school might prevent attacks.

"There is absolutely no evidence before the court that dog obedience schools would prevent pit bulls from attacking," Doi replied.

"The evidence in our materials clearly indicates that it is not possible to determine whether a dog (will attack) today, tomorrow or some time down the road," he said.

Police Shoot Pit Bull

Police shoot pit bull during drug raid

It took a police bullet to stop a pit bull that attacked a Chatham-Kent officer during a drug search Wednesday night.

Chatham-Kent police were searching the home at 151 Grand Ave. E., unit 105, when the dog latched onto an officer’s hand — letting go only after a fatal gunshot, police said.

The officer needed several stitches to close the injuries.

Officers found cocaine, marijuana and $3,800 in cash.

Three men are facing several drug-related charges.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Court Report - May 18


The crown started with the arguments about "trial fairness", which was Clayton Ruby's third reason for unconstitutionality.

The crown argued first about Section 19 of the DOLA, where a document from a vet can be entered into evidence as "proof" that the dog is a pit bull. Ruby's argument was that cross-examination of a document was not possible and that, even if the vet is called as a witness, because the defendant would have to call the witness, the defence can only examine the witness "in chief", not cross-examine him. This means that it is dependent on the judge as to how "rough" the defence can get with the vet.

Crown pointed to the section Provincial Offences Act (POA) that applies to proceedings under DOLA. Part IV, Section 46, subsection 2 says that the defendant is entitled to make full answer and defence. Subsection 3 says that the defence may examine and cross-examine witnesses. Ruby responds to this later on.

Then the question was "how do we get a vet into court?" The answer is that the defence may issue a summons. What does it cost to get a vet? The court costs are $5.00 (i.e., not prohibitive) and are only applied upon conviction.

Also, the defendant could easily bring a motion before the judge to allow cross-examination (i.e., treat the witness as hostile).Even without cross-examination, the defence could still put contradictory evidence to the witness and, if the witness is hostile, request permission to cross-examine.The crown's basic argument is that, in order for cross-examination to NOT be possible, the legislation would have to EXPRESSLY prohibit it, which the DOLA does not.

Now to Section 1 of the charter (reasonableness):

According to the crown (which Ruby later challenges), the onus is on the applicant (us) to establish that there has been a violation of the charter. In this case, what the crown is saying is that it's not the crown's responsibility to prove that the legislation is reasonable. It's the applicant's responsibility to prove it isn't. Ruby disagreed with this (later) and provided arguments to the contrary.

The key to reasonableness is "harm to society". The government has to prove a reasonable apprehension of harm.Then he went off on a tangent for a second to talk about whether the judge should allow him to bring into evidence the legislative committee transcripts. He provided 3 case histories that allowed legislative committee transcripts into evidence. Ruby later attacked all 3 cases as irrelevant to this case.

The judge noted that the only time legislative committee transcripts are allowed to be used as evidence is to help with determining the INTENT of the legislation. She noted that there is no dispute among anybody about the INTENT of this legislation (i.e., reduction of harm to society), so why do we need the transcripts? No real answer from the crown on this.

Back to Section 1 of the charter.

Section 1 requires a "proportionality analysis" to determine if the legislation is reasonable in its attempts to achieve its objective.

The proportionality analysis consists of three parts:

1. There must be a rational connection of the challenged portion to the purpose of the legislation. In this case, the challenged portion is the banning and restrictions of pit bulls. The purpose of the legislation is dog bite reduction and public safety. Is there a rational connection between banning pit bulls and increasing public safety?

2. The legislation must minimally impair the lives of those it affects. This brings in the discussion of alternative measures that the government did or did not consider. Does banning pit bulls minimally impair those it affects compared to other, more generic, legislation?

3. The legislation must be proportional to the risk of harm. Is banning pit bulls an overly extreme measure considering the risk of harm from the dogs?

Rational Connection

Using a case related to obscenity charges for pornography (which was used throughout this case), the court in that case noted that, while there is NOT direct link between obscenity and harm to society, it is reasonable to assume that exposure to certain images could change a person's attitude towards the group depicted in those images (specifically women and children).

In the face of insufficient social or scientific evidence, it is sufficient that Parliament had a reasonable basis for assuming harm. Parliament does not need proof in order to reasonably predict harm. The government is afforded a margin of appreciation to achieve their objective of public safety. Although there was no conclusive proof of harm, the legislation could reasonably conclude that there was harm. In our case, the crown contends that their proof is actually better than the proof that was in the obscenity case and that legislation was upheld.

The judge responded by stating that the issue is not whether pit bulls cause harm, but whether it is JUST pit bulls causing harm or whether other dogs could cause or have caused similar harm. She asked the question "is that harm caused because the dogs are pit bulls"?

Minimum Impairment

There is no constitutional right to own a pit bull. This was reiterated throughout the case by the crown. I find it interesting that Ruby has never stated that we have a constitutional right to own a dog. He is saying that we have a constitutional right to NOT be imprisoned for owning a certain type of dog.

Leashing, muzzling, sterilizing constitute reasonable impairment.

Courts have held that Parliament must be given some leeway in restricting the public in order to prevent harm to the public.

Back to the obscenity law, many of the alternatives are RESPONSES after the harm has occurred. The judge responded "if one could determine ahead of time, through a temperament test, prior to an attack, if a dog was dangerous or likely to attack, would that not be a reasonable alternative and impair less? Also, would obedience school prevent attacks?"

The crown replied that there is no evidence presented to this particular court that obedience training prevents attacks.

Crown: Pit bulls are unpredictable. There is no warning of attack.

Judge: Saying that there is no warning of attack at the time of the attack is not the same thing as saying that dog cannot be assessed for dangerousness [using a temperament test].

Crown agreed.

Crown quoted AVMA report (Dr. Clifford) stating that pit bulls attack without giving warning signals. He quoted another AVMA report (Carl Seminac sp?) and Richard Stratton's book stating that both purebreds and crossbreeds are unpredictable. The Clifford report also discussed the wisdom and policy of allowing inexperienced vets to handle pit bulls, given that they are unpredictable and attack without warning. The Clifford report also stated that pit bull bites are more serious that other bites, directly contradicting Dr. Brisbin's that the "bite and hold" tendency of pit bulls actually causes less damage than the "slash and tear" of other breeds.

Proportionality (Balancing)

The effects of the law so severely infringe on the right of the individual that it is grossly disproportionate to the positive effects of the law. Crown's argument is that the harm is severe enough and the restrictions reasonable enough that this legislation is proportional.

Federalism (Animal Pedigree Act)

In order to discuss a conflict between provincial and federal legislation, there must first be an assumption that both pieces of legislation are constitutionally valid. In this case, the constitutionality of the provincial legislation is in question, so this argument regarding federal paramountcy may be moot.

Also noted that Attorney General of Canada has not requested to intervene in this case, which he might have done if he felt that the two pieces of legislation conflicted.

Quote from a Supreme Court decision: "Courts should be particularly cautious about invalidating provincial legislation due to paramountcy if the federal government has not intervened".

Section 95 of the Constitutional Act of 1867:
Each province may make laws in relation to agriculture. Any laws of the province are valid in as far as it is not repugnant to a federal Act of Parliament. Where there is inconsistency, the provincial legislation is inoperative to the extent of the inconsistency. It is only inconsistent when it is impossible to obey both laws.

A federal law regulating a field does not necessarily "occupy the field" (i.e., prevent provincial legislation from addressing the same field). The purpose of the APA is to promote the purity of a breed and only this purpose should be considered when determining paramountcy. The purpose of the DOLA is public safety whereas the APA's is commerce and agriculture. Because of these two entirely different purposes, they can co-exist and be obeyed simultaneously.

In the Rothman's case (Saskatchewan Tobacco Control Act) where provincial legislation prohibited retail tobacco displays while the federal legislation did not, the provincial legislation simply prohibited something that the federal legislation did not. Both could be obeyed because they did not expressly conflict.

Final Comments

Judge: "Are there any sections that, if found unconstitutional, the crown would be willing to sever?"

Crown focused particularly on jail time and on the vet's certificate (i.e., bring a vet into court to testify instead of just a document). Basically, he left it up to the judge.



The judge has no option to sever parts of the legislation. It was not requested by the applicant. The only option to the judge is to make a decision if the entire legislation is constitutional or not. If severability becomes an issue, then this must be approached carefully because of the complexity and arguments will have to be made from both sides on that issue.

Legislative Committee Transcripts

In the cases listed by the government, the legislative committee transcripts were only used to determine the scope of the legislation, not the wisdom or the facts. In our case, nobody is question the purpose of the legislation.

Quote from Ruby

The government is asking the judge not to make any findings of fact. In fact, they're saying "For God's sake, don't make any findings of fact!" This is because the facts are not on their side. The whole point of their argument is "We're the government. Trust us!"

Reasonable Apprehension of Harm

Regarding the legislature having a "reasoned apprehension of harm", it appears that the cases to which this has applied in the past have all talked about trying to estimate what harm might occur based on certain actions or legislation. These cases did not have existing evidence of harm. They had to guess what the future harm might be. In our case, we have evidence of harm from all breeds, including the pit bull attacks listed by the crown. So there is no need for a reasoned apprehension of harm. The legislature should have given more attention to the existing evidence instead of just guessing at the possibility of future harm.

Core vs. Periphery

There had been quite a bit of discussion about this earlier, which I hadn't really covered. Ruby's point had been that there are a lot of dogs that "sit on the edge" of the definition of pit bull (the periphery). The core are the dogs that are one of the three listed breeds. Much of the reason for the arguments from the crown about trying to prove that "pit bull" is a commonly used word that everyone understands is so that a lot more dogs could get thrown into that definition, thus making the "core" bigger. One of the tests of reasonableness or proportionality is how big the core is compared to the periphery. How many dogs are guaranteed to fit the definition and how many dogs MIGHT fit the definition?

To show that the core in this case is insignificant, Ruby listed the registrations last year for Amstaffs and Staffy Bulls in Ontario (2 and 114 respectively). These dogs are insignificant in the population as a whole and are also not the problem, being purebreds that are unlikely, based on existing statistics, to ever be involved in a bite incident. "Pit bull terrier" and "substantially similar", on the other hand, are clearly definitions designed to catch as much of the periphery as possible.

The DOLA does not require the judge to consider the breed standards, unlike the Winnipeg bylaw which does.In the cases of the challenges to the Winnipeg bylaw and to a Quebec municipal bylaw, the courts must start by assuming that the bylaws are valid and are the will of the people. Then they must be proved to not be. This is the exact opposite of what's required here. The government must prove that their law is constitutional when it comes to Section 1 of the charter.In the cases where "substantially similar" or like phrases have been challenged and rejected, the purpose of the legislation must help interpret that phrase. In this case, the purpose of the legislation (danger) cannot help with the interpretation of "substantially similar physical characteristics" because all the evidence shows that you cannot determine the dangerousness of a dog by its physicality.

Canadian evidence (Zaharchuk) takes priority over U.S. evidence (Beck and Skeldon).

Bite Victims

The bite evidence of the victims cannot assist the court in the two questions:

1. Is the ban necessary?

2. Is it reasonable? (I think that's what Ruby said)

Section 1 Onus

Also, the onus is on the crown to prove that the legislation is reasonable under Section 1 of the charter.

Provincial Offences Act (Trial Fairness)

There is no right under this legislation to cross-examine the veterinarian who provided the document. It is only a privilege. Thus, it violates a defendant's right to make full answer and defence.

Rational Connection

If significant harm can and has been caused by all breeds of dog, then rational connection is lost between the harm to society and the ban on pit bulls.

Regarding pit bulls attacking without warning, specifically regarding temperament testing, Ruby discussed the American Temperament Testing Society results. He also quoted the Ohio case, where all experts except one agreed that all dogs give warning signs before biting.

In response to the crown's suggestion that alternatives other than banning pit bulls were in RESPONSE after attacks have already occcurred, Ruby notes that other portions of the DOLA allow for proceedings against an owner before an attack ever occurred (menace to public safety, failure to prevent a dog from being a menace to public safety).

Federal Paramountcy

The federal government has not intervened in this case for EITHER side. It is not here supporting the provincial government either. No conclusion can be drawn in favour of the crown just because the federal government has not intervened. Its own legislation is not at risk, so it doesn't need to intervene.


Judge reserved her decision. We have no idea on timeframe for a decision. We should expect at least two or three months, maybe longer.

The following article may cause high blood pressure, foaming at the mouth

Bite's worse than its bark
Regardless of who's to blame, pit bulls can be dangerous dogs

When I went on the inaugural SUN TV show CANOE Live on Monday, I wound up being criticized by some for inadvertently suggesting that so-called pit bulls were "stupid."
The nice lady from the Humane Society objected that her pit bull wasn't stupid, but friendly, loving and well behaved.

I backed down a little, and said that compared with Jack Russell terriers, which I've lived with for years, pit bulls were kind of dumb. Even that was unnecessarily rude to the dog. Had I thought, I'd have said "mentally challenged" rather than stupid.

The "debate," such as it was, concerned the court case whereby lawyer Clayton Ruby is challenging the province's ban on pit bull dogs on behalf of Catherine Cochrane who adopted a 2-year-old Staffordshire cross from the Toronto Humane Society. (The THS refuses to euthanize healthy dogs that are slated to be put down).

Although Ruby is correct that defining exactly what constitutes a "pit bull" is difficult, it also seems undeniable that certain types of dogs are dangerous and need to be curbed.

Winnipeg has banned pit bulls for about 15 years; Kitchener for eight years. Despite Ruby's claim that only 4% of all dog bites are done by pit bull types, too often it's this 4% that result in deaths, or the neighbour's kid having his face chewed off.

Clearly, something has to be done, even though banning, or "putting down" pit bulls is a grotesque injustice to these dogs, which have been specially bred for the characteristics that critics now want eliminated.

Pit bulls are bred for extreme courage and loyalty.

They are afraid of nothing, and their "loyalty" is to be defensive over territory or against anything they see as a threat -- even when there's no threat. To me, that qualifies as somewhat stupid.

It also makes them formidable, and sought after for illegal dog fights, which occur in rural areas and attract big betting money.

Frankly, I think something is basically wrong with people who own these types of dogs. Especially in a city, or in an apartment. Sometimes, one is tempted to say that owners, rather than their dogs, deserve to be "put down."


While pit bulls are the canine targets of the moment, it used to be German shepherds that were considered unstable and dangerous -- until recent breeding made them more gentle and tolerant.

For years, Dobermann pinschers were considered lethal, then Rottweilers, and now pit bulls. Reality is that any big dog can be dangerous, but what distinguishes the pit bulls are large, powerful jaws that can do real damage, and a refusal to quit if riled.

So who is likely to own these dogs that Attorney General Michael Bryant has called a "menace," "dangerous" and "a loaded weapon waiting to go off"?

Drug dealers seem to like them for protection, as do people who live in risky areas. Others like the idea of a "pet" that intimidates others.

It's not the fault of pit bulls that they are what they are. They are guard dogs, weapons, not house pets like Tricky-woo, Spot or Lassie.

Clayton Ruby's argument in court that "bad dogs are made by bad people," is true only up to a point.


Characteristics can be bred into a dog that make it react in certain ways. Even a "lovable, friendly, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly" pit bull has the potential for inflicting serious harm that even its owner can't control.

Kids with chewed faces prove it.

So common sense dictates controls -- which is muzzling and prohibitive fines if the dog goes nuts -- and reducing their presence in crowded cities.

Canine Intelligence Testing

Testing Your Dog's **Brain Power**

The best way to measure intelligence is to assess your dog’s problem solving skills.

Furthermore, your dog’s level of persistence when trying to solve a problem should also be considered meritorious.

The following are three simple tests to help measure your dog’s smarts.

Problem solving:
Take a large towel or blanket and gently toss it over your dog’s head. If he frees himself from the covering in less than 15 seconds, give him 3 points. If it takes 15-30 seconds, 2 points. If it takes him longer than 30 seconds,give him 1 point.

Memory test:
Place a treat under one of three buckets that are lined up in a neat row. Make sure your dog sees which bucket the treat or toy is under. Turn the dog away for 10 seconds then let the dog go.

If she goes straight to the bucket with the treat under it, give her three points.
If it takes two tries to find the treat, then 2 points.
If she checks the wrong two first before finding the right one,
give her one point.

Problem solving:
Place a treat in a square of aluminum foil and fold it twice to seal it.
If your dog uses his paws to open the foil, give him 3 points.
If he uses his mouth and paws to open the foil, give him 2 points.
If he can’t get the foil open and starts playing with it, give him 1 point. This test, again, measures problem solving. If your dog scores 6 points or higher, then you have a canine Einstein on your hands; 4-5 points then he or she is average; 3 points or less, well…whoever said that intelligence was a prerequisite for love?

Memory/Adaptive Intelligence Test:

When your dog is nowhere in sight, rearrange the furniture. If your dog goes directly to his favorite spot on the couch where he likes to sit and watch his favorite shows, give him 3 points. If he investigates the room and finds his favorite spot within 30 seconds, give him 2 points. If he settles for a less comfortable place, out of laziness or sheer confusion, give him 1 point.

Adaptive Intelligence Test:

At a time of the day you don’t normally walk your dog, quietly pick up your keys and his leash when you know he’s watching. If he starts wagging his tail and gets excited, 3 points. If you have to walk to the door before he knows what’s going on, 2 points. If he sits there with a dumbfounded look, give him 1 point.

Bonus: If your dog lets YOU know it’s time to go to the bathroom by bringing you his own leash (without being formally trained to do so) or has mastered the toilet, don’t worry…your dog’s a genius!

Your Say: Pit Bull Ban

Your say: Pit bull ban
Readers square off on the controversial law
By Toronto Sun Online

The Ontario pit bull law is currently facing a constitutional challenge in a Toronto court, drawing heated words and emotions on both sides of the issue.

So we asked readers: Do you support the existing pit bull ban?

Here's what you had to say.

"I believe that the government should not be able to ban specific breeds of any animal. I believe that there should be legislation regarding the care of animals and persons who do not meet the requirements, should be penalized and not able to own pets in the future. It is owners, not pets, who are the problem!" - Victoria Murray, Kitchener, May 15

"I'm a dog lover. There is no acceptable reason for having a animal of this nature in society. Do we let people walk their tigers or lions in public?" - Mark Bunker, Chatham, May 15

"I absolutely do not agree with a ban on any breed of dog. History has shown breed bans to be ineffective. Our government needs to rethink this idea and give us sound dangerous dog legislation that actually will improve public safety." - Coleen Wilkinson, Sault Ste. Marie, May 15
"Is the pit bull the only breed ever known to bite a person? A few badly raised pit bulls shouldn't decide for the thousands of good pit bulls. Take the muzzles off and let them have their freedom!" - Darrell Loder, St.Catharines, May 15

"Too many people have been seriously injured by these dangerous animals. I fear that if this law is rescinded, more people will be maimed (or worse) and little will be in place to protect the rights of the victims." - Sandra Scott, Trenton, May 15

"My family has proudly owned pit bulls for the last 20 years. To my family, they are without a doubt the most intelligent and loving dogs you could ever want. ... We had even rescued one from a illegal pit bull fighting ring. This dog knew nothing but violence his whole sad life. But with lots of love from our family he turned out amazing. This same dog lost his life in a house fire saving my nephew." - Pam Cassibo, Brampton, May 15

"You shouldn't pick on one dog. The owners are responsible, yes, but every dog can be vicious. If the owner brings it up in a loving family, it will never bite someone. My husband owes a American Staffordshire Terrier, a breed of pitbull, and let me tell you something: That dog would rather lick your face off. Friendly, loving home — friendly, loving dog." - Nancy Howell, Mississauga, May 15

"How about requiring all dogs to be leashed and muzzled when out in public instead of focusing on a specific breed? The fact is dogs can bite — and do bite. Even friendly dogs. Too many dog owners let their dogs run loose and it's not fair to the public. I live across from a park, and can't count the number of people who ignore the "dogs must be leashed" sign. Dog owners need to realize that not everyone has a warm and fuzzy idea of dogs, and it's best to keep them by your side when out in public." - Bev Zee, Toronto, May 15

"Those dogs are a danger and should be banned; many I've known are very unpredictable." - Jacques Robin, Woodstock, May 15

"I do not agree with the pit bull ban. Not only is it too vague, but it opens the door for the government to ban any breed. Those dogs (of all breeds, not just pits) which harm other animals/people should be dealt with on an individual basis." - Melissa Cole, Scarborough, May 15

"I appreciate that not all pit bulls are a danger to others, but I would rather be overly cautious than to hear of another horrific attack on anyone: child, adult or other animal." - Lynne Roberts, Mississauga, May 15

"Personally, I can see both sides of the pit bull debate. Pit bulls are visually intimidating dogs in comparison to other breeds (take the Chihuahua), but I'm not sure viciousness is characteristic. If owners train their dogs to be aggressive, regardless of the breed, the animal will attack. However, that's not saying that all pit bull attacks stemmed from aggressive training. I'm sure some of the animals blamed in these attacks were docile, sociable creatures within their immediate families. The problem is, which animals are vicious and which are friendly?" - Sarah Jane Despard-Young, London, May 15

Girl in Dog Attack Healing

Girl in dog attack healing
The Leaf-Chronicle

A 4-year-old Brook Mead Drive girl is recovering at home after a neighbor's dog attacked her Saturday.

The 8-year-old yellow Labrador retriever thought to have bitten Abby Marie Bent's face multiple times was up to date on his vaccinations, said Animal Control Director David Selby.

The dog — named Dyson — is in a 10-day quarantine at the house of his owners, Reinaldo and Cynthia Lopez.

Abby was playing with other children Saturday morning in the Lopez's back yard when Dyson — for undetermined reasons — attacked.

Abby's mother told an animal control officer the dog bit when Abby tried to pet him, Selby said.

"I don't think anybody really knows exactly how or why it happened," Selby said. "We still don't know if the dog was sleeping, and she came up and surprised him — it's just hard to say."

The Lopezes indicated they plan to have Dyson euthanized when the quarantine ends, Selby said. Animal Control won't file charges against the Lopezes because Dyson was vaccinated and wasn't running loose, Selby said.

Abby was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and underwent surgery. She received numerous internal and external stitches on her cheeks.

Selby said a Labrador retriever's bite packs about 1,500 pounds of pressure.

"The wounds are severe," Selby said. "It's heartbreaking. She is an absolutely beautiful little girl. I have a 5-year-old daughter myself, and I can't imagine what I'd do."

Clarksville police spokesman Detective Vincent Lewis said Abby will have to have reconstructive plastic surgery to repair significant scarring.

The Bent and Lopez families declined to comment about the dog attack.

Selby warns parents against leaving young children unattended with dogs — of any breed.

"It can happen with any kind of dog," he said. "We have people bring in all kinds of dogs — a chocolate Lab just the other day — because they have growled at their kids," Selby said. "It's just really important for parents to watch their young kids when they're around animals."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ontario Pit Bull Ban Necessary to Protect Public from Dog Attacks

Ontario pit bull ban necessary to protect public from dog attacks
Gillian Livingston, The Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

TORONTO -- Government lawyers defended Ontario's controversial ban on pit bulls from a constitutional challenge Tuesday by insisting the law is a vital tool in the province's efforts to protect the public from what they consider dangerous weapons.

Pit bulls have a "predilection to attack,'' Crown lawyer Michael Doi said as he described the broad-shouldered, snub-nosed animals as the dog preferred by criminals who want an extra level of security.

"In many ways, pit bulls are the automatic guns of the dog world,'' said Doi, as some spectators in the courtroom groaned in disagreement.

Doi described cases in which police were forced to shoot pit bulls dead because the dogs attacked officers trying to execute an arrest or search warrant at the home of a suspect.

"With the criminal element, the dog of choice is a pit bull.''

The challenge is being argued by lawyer Clayton Ruby on behalf of Catherine Cochrane, who owns a two-year old pit bull mix. She is mounting the challenge with the support of animal-rights groups.

In court, the Crown described in graphic detail cases where children or adults were mauled by pit bulls in unprovoked attacks and suffered severe injuries that scarred them for life.

Superior Court Justice Thea Herman agreed that the attacks were vicious, but in cases where police had to shoot the dogs, their owners were the main problem, she noted.

She also acknowledged a point made in earlier arguments by Ruby that if pit bulls are banned, irresponsible owners and criminals would simply choose a different breed of dog.

"It raises the question: is the problem the dog or is the problem the owner?'' she said.

Doi countered that the validity of the law is not in question, only whether it violates the Constitution.

"It's not the wisdom of the legislation that's at issue, it's the constitutionality of it,'' he said.
"Just as there's no constitutional right to possess an automatic weapon, a banned weapon in Canada, ''there is no constitutional right to own a pit bull.''

The government has the right to take action against any threat to public safety, Doi noted.

Cochrane, who adopted Chess from the Toronto Humane Society as a puppy, said the ban has curtailed what she can do with her dog, who is friendly and not aggressive.

Documentation for the dog, whose bloodlines are unknown, classify it as a mastiff, a pit bull, or an American Staffordshire Terrier cross, one of the breeds covered by the ban.

As a result, Cochrane has to muzzle the dog and keep her on a leash at all times when out walking. Cochrane said she fears these limits will make her pet less friendly with other animals and people.

"I feel as though I'm being put in a position where I need to prove that I'm not guilty,'' Cochrane said. "To me, that's a reversal of how things work here.''

On Monday, Ruby argued that the ban, put in place last August, is too broad because it encompasses several recognized breeds, along with any dog with "substantially similar'' characteristics to those breeds.

The onus is on the owner to prove that the dog isn't a pit bull, he said.

If affected dogs aren't sterilized and muzzled and leashed while in public, the owner can face a fine of up to $10,000 or as much as six months in jail, or both.

Attaching a penalty of jail time to such a broad law is unconstitutional, said Ruby, who noted the law considers all pit bulls dangerous regardless of their actions and forces owners to take special measures as a result.

"I don't think it will prevent dog attacks,'' Cochrane said.

"Because it doesn't do anything to help people choose a dog that's right for them, or how to train a dog correctly, it just doesn't look at any roots of the problem.''

Crown lawyer Zachary Green insisted the law is not vague or too broad, pointing to cases in Manitoba and Quebec where municipal pit bull bans similar to Ontario's have been upheld by appeal courts.

As long as the court is able to interpret the law, then it's not unconstitutionally vague, Green said.

The hearing resumes Thursday with closing arguments.

Pit Bull Owners are the Victims

Pit bull owners are the victims

Sarah Dann, National Post
Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ontario's pit bull ban is once again getting media attention, with Clayton Ruby's constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court this week. However, for those of us who own pit bulls, the spotlight is never off us.

The fallout of the ban takes many forms, none of them positive.

While the media continues to portray pit bulls as a dangerous breed by almost exclusively covering stories in which pit bulls have attacked, pit bull owners know the dangerous dogs are very much the exception to the rule. We know this because we live day in and day out with pit bulls who are gentle, playful, sweet, smart and loving pets. Our dogs enjoy their dog friends and are loyal and loved, albeit hairy, members of our family.

The pit bulls covered in the media who have done harm to people and other dogs are anomalies. Basing assumptions about pit bulls on these bad apples is like basing assumptions about people on the serial killers and child molesters typically covered in the media.

Unfortunately, the public is all too willing to believe such stories. Particularly now that these have been legitimized by the Ontario Liberal government's pit bull ban, some people feel their fear is valid and some lash out at pit bull owners as though we are dangerous members of society. They take licence to hurl insults, make threats or to make sweeping generalizations about ''pit bull owners'' as though we are all the same. I have often heard "You don't look like a pit bull owner,'' which illustrates the prejudice of those who assume all pit bull owners look like thugs. Whatever those look like.
Don't underestimate the danger of the government's prejudicial legislation. No other legislation so blatantly discriminates against members of one part of our society. Yet, by virtue of the ''breed'' of dog pit bull owners have at the end of their leashes, we have been painted with the same brush, and that brush has declared us socially unacceptable. For me, the ban constitutes defamation of my character and slander by ''my'' government. It threatens my security and puts me at risk of discrimination. Those reading this likely feel some condemnation of me. It is a built-in response and a dangerous one.

Fortunately, pit bull owners are finding more and more support among the public, rather than less and less. The average joe dog owner and the average jane citizen are starting to see the short-sighted thinking that is the essence of the pit bull ban legislation and are questioning more and more a government that is quick to ban rather than to look to individual responsibility to solve problems.

Public fear of pit bulls is based on ignorance about their true nature. Pit bulls are by nature loyal, intelligent, loving dogs. Those that do damage are typically abused and mistreated animals that need public protection to guarantee safety, not a ban that drives the criminals who mistreat their dogs further underground.

The average pit bull owner is a decent citizen who would do anything to be able to protect their dog's right to be free and held accountable to the same laws as all other breeds.

To this end, we have our fingers, toes and paws crossed that Clayton Ruby will be successful and that pit bull bans in Canada will be a thing of the past.

- Sarah Dann is owner/operator of Happy Dog Communications.

Court Report - May 16

Legalities require me to tell you that I'm not a lawyer and this document contains only my interpretations of what was said in court and my opinions. Nothing in this document should ever be construed as advice.

It was the government's turn to make their case.

Sonny Allison, a director in the CKC and a fighter against BSL, described the entire morning as "a semantic dance around the elusive definition of a mixed breed of dog whose breed cannot be scientifically proved". I would agree.

The focus is on two things:

1. Can you identify a pit bull?

This applies to both the vagueness and overbreadth arguments.

2. Do pit bulls need to be treated specially?

This applies to both the overbreadth and the reasonableness arguments.

The entire morning was spent on the vagueness argument.

The crown went through a number of case precedents where upper courts have allowed vague laws. His basic argument is that most laws are general in nature, with the judges dealing with specifics in court cases and that this is no different.

There are four points to be made re vagueness:

1. The law must be intelligible.

However, according to the case law that he quoted, it does not have to be intelligible (i.e., interpretable) by the average member of the public so much as it has to be interpretable by a judge. He made arguments that it is intelligible, based on the statement that the word "pit bull" is so commonly used that everyone knows what it means. He also argued that it is possible to identify the predominant physical characteristics of a particular breed and whether an individual dog has some or all of those characteristics.

2. There must be an area of risk defined. What risk is the law trying to prevent?

This will also be brought up this afternoon when they try to prove that pit bulls are dangerous enough to be specially regulated.

3. The law is entitled to speak generally and allow the judges to balance specific arguments pro/con during a court case.

4. The threshold for vagueness is very high.

Courts are reluctant to find laws unconstitutional due to vagueness without first trying to interpret the law exhaustively in other ways.

The next part was just the word "pit bull". He brought up numerous court cases where the word was used and accepted, as well as testimony from both sides that used the word. He argued that it is an identifiable dog, that "pit bull" refers to APBT's, AST's, and SBT's and dogs that are substantially similar. He spent a lot of time on this.He then discussed the breed standards for the three purebred breeds, basically to prove that it is possible to identify the unique characteristics of a breed by sight alone.

He also requested that the "pick the pit bull" pictures NOT be allowed into evidence. Ruby had used these pictures to show that police officers were not able to accurately identify pit bulls. His argument is that we were unable to prove, through registration papers and/or other methods, that the 25 dogs shown were actually the breeds listed. In theory, because we didn't prove that (in his view), they could all be pit bulls or they could all be Jack Russell Terriers. There is no proof that the dog in the picture is the breed we say it is.

Accordingly, if the pictures are accepted based on Zaharchuk's evidence that they each accurately represent their breed, then it is possible to identify dog breeds by sight.

This afternoon will be more focused on the unique danger to society that pit bulls represent. It will be more difficult to keep our mouths shut during this, but Breese has told us to not even roll our eyes or we might get kicked out.

Here is my summary of the afternoon of May 16.

Legalities require me to tell you that I'm not a lawyer and this document contains only my interpretations of what was said in court and my opinions. Nothing in this document should ever be construed as advice. This applies to my previous posts as well and they will be modified to note this.

Well, we knew this would be a more difficult day, since the government would be doing all the talking. As mentioned in my previous post, the morning was simply a semantic dance around breed definitions. The afternoon was much different.

The purpose of the afternoon presentation was to attempt to persuade the judge that pit bulls need to be treated differently from other dogs. As such, pit bulls must be shown to be more dangerous, so much effort was put into this. If they are successful in this attempt, than that would go towards proving the risk to public safety that is required for legislation to be considered reasonable.

The crown discussed their evidence, originally received back in February and March, related to six separate attacks by dogs that were identified as pit bulls. They discussed the details of each attack, including graphic descriptions of the attacks themselves, of the injuries they caused, of the repair and recuperation required, and of the long-term effects of these attacks. Five out of the six attacks were horrific in nature. The other, although injurious to humans, particularly children, did not result in quite the level of injury, but was used in part to try to show the tenacity of the attacking dogs.

The six incidents were:

Carrie Hewitson (young adult, Brantford, 3 dogs, 2003)

Darlene Wagner (postal worker, Chatham, 2 dogs, 2004)

Robert Adams and brother (12 and 4 year old boys, Ottawa, 2 dogs, 2005)

Jadon Laroux (2 year old boy, Ottawa, 3 dogs, 2005) and father and neighbour

Lauren Harper (5 year old daughter of Louise Ellis, Toronto, 1 dog, 1994)

Tom Skeldon testimony (young boy, Ohio, unknown number of dogs)

I understand that no part of the witnesses' testimonies related to these attacks was challenged by Mr. Ruby.Crown also presented the testimonies of various police officers related to shooting attacking pit bulls. Judge asked if other non pit bull breeds had ever had to be shot by police officers. Crown was unable to answer this because no evidence had been introduced regarding this.

The lawyers and the judge can only deal with evidence that had already been introduced back in February and March.Crown made two points regarding targeting pit bulls:

1. The legislature has perceived pit bulls as a problem and has the right to address it.

2. It is not the role of this court to determine the wisdom of the legislation, just its constitutionality.

Later, the judge made a comment that a number of the attacks listed seem to clearly indicate a problem with the owners rather than with a particular type of dog. She also made the argument that we know well, that problem owners will simply move to a different breed.

Crown's answer, after what I assume was a discussion amongst their lawyers during the break, came back and discussed how assault weapons are not allowed in this country, no matter how good an owner you may be. He describe pit bulls as the "assault weapons of the canine world".

The test for overbreadth is gross disproportionality, the proof of which rests with the applicant (us). It is a valid state interest to protect the public from harm.

How much harm do you need to justify the state interest? One judicial decision stated that, once it has been demonstrated that the harm is not trivial or insignificant, then it is Parliament's job to determine how much to legislate.

A reasoned apprehension of harm is all that is required. Government does not have to scientifically or statistically prove the harm exists before legislating preventive measures.

In one case discussed earlier, obedience training was a suggested alternative for management of a pit bull. Crown argues that muzzling and leashing are also valid and reasonable management tools and that sterilization is the ultimate management tool that eventually eliminates the risk of harm entirely.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pit bull safe, loving pets, lawyer says in attacking ban

Pit bull safe, loving pets, lawyer says in attacking ban
Allison Hanes
CanWest News Service; National Post
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dozzer was the first dog slated to be euthanized because of a biting incident under the new pit bull legislation.

TORONTO - Dangerous dogs and not just pit bulls should be the target of efforts to protect the public from unprovoked attacks, Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby argued Monday during a challenge of an Ontario law that effectively aims to ban the breed from the province.

There is no evidence pit bulls are any more prone to biting than other dogs, he told Judge Thea Herman during his final arguments in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice.

Of 55 dogs involved in 23 fatal attacks in Canada since 1983, only one was a pit bull, Ruby said.

''There are scads of pit bulls out there who are safe, loving pets and will never hurt anyone,'' he said.

A breed-specific law that threatens longtime pit bull owners with hefty fines and jail time if they don't muzzle, restrain and neuter their pets and prohibits new dogs from being bred, bought or given as a gift fails in its primary purpose, he said.

''It doesn't focus on dangerousness but rather on breed and breed is not a sufficient enough marker of dangerousness to pass constitutional muster,'' said Ruby, who filed the constitutional challenge of the 2005 law on behalf of University of Toronto anthropology student Catherine Cochrane.

He said instead of cracking down on pit bulls, pet owners should be given the chance to prove their dog is not a threat to the public by having a vet test the animal for traits of aggressiveness or an unpredictable disposition.

Herman asked how Ruby responded to some experts who claim pit bulls usually fail to exhibit any warning signs before attacks.

He said opinion is divided on whether this is true.

Cochrane says her dog, Chess, is a calm and gentle Staffordshire bull terrier mix, one of four specific breeds covered by the legislation.

The identification of specific breeds is a major practical flaw in the law, according to Ruby
Pit bulls are defined for the purposes of the Dog Owner's Liability Act as a pit bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire bull terrier or any dog that looks similar.

That description is so vague as to be overly broad, Ruby said, and could lead to innocent owners of Labrador retrievers or other kinds of dogs being charged or fined under the law just because their pet shares certain physical characteristics with a pit bull.

In Sarnia last month, a justice of the peace acquitted a dog-owner of failing to comply with the laws for that reason.

Another problem, Ruby contended, is that the act leaves it up to veterinarians to weed out the pit bulls from the other breeds, something the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association has already said its members are unqualified to do.

Vets, animal control experts, dog breeders and police are all incapable of distinguishing a pit bull from a pit bull cross, mix breed dog or mutt simply by sight, Ruby said, noting it is a subjective call unless genetic testing is conducted.

The law, he said, should crack down on pet owners who train their animals to be vicious. Such people tend to favour some breeds over others, which he said is probably more responsible for giving pit bulls a bad wrap than the dogs themselves.

''If I'm right in my thesis that bad people create bad dogs E and some people want vicious dogs, then when they ban pit bulls they'll move on to another kind of dog like German shepherds or huskies,'' Ruby said.

Lawyers for the Ontario government, led by attorney Robert Charney, will make their defence of the legislation today.

Court Challenge-Article 4

Ontario's pit bull ban an unconstitutional 'cheap fix' for government: lawyer
Mon May 15, 06:12 PM EST

TORONTO (CP) - Ontario's ban on pit bulls is unconstitutional because it labels a breed of dog dangerous regardless of its actions and threatens to jail owners who may not even know their animal is considered illegal, lawyer Clayton Ruby said Monday.

Ruby was in court on behalf of Catherine Cochrane, a dog owner who is mounting a constitutional challenge to the law put in place last August by Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant that forces owners to muzzle and leash their pets.

"If you want to safeguard people from dangerous dogs, all the evidence suggests you've got to focus on dangerous dog owners," Ruby said outside the courthouse.

"You've got to actually spend a dollar or two and monitor those people who have dogs that are vicious."

Existing laws already include penalties for any owner whose dog is a menace to other people or pets, he added.

Ruby said the ban is unconstitutional and too broad because it bans all pit bulls, even though animal experts say the majority of the dogs are friendly family pets.

Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant stood firm that the legislation would weather his challenge.

"I'm confident that the bill with withstand judicial scrutiny, but ultimately it'll be up to the Superior Court to make a decision based upon the arguments made before it," Bryant said Monday.

"A lot of effort went into this bill to make sure it was as specific as possible."

Ruby argued otherwise. The description in the law of what's considered a pit bull, which is not a recognized breed, is too vague and broad and can encompass as many as 24 other breeds of dogs, Ruby told court.

People who own mix-breed dogs could be walking around with an animal that's considered a pit bull under the law without even knowing it, he said.

Several recognized breeds are banned under the law, as well as any dog with characteristics that are "substantially similar" to those of a pit bull.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association has said it can't determine what breed a dog is solely by looking at it but only through a study of its bloodlines, Ruby said.

"It's all about what a dog looks like and not at all about what a dog does. That can't be constitutional if you've got imprisonment as a result."

The law forces pit bull owners to muzzle, leash and sterilize their dogs or face a $10,000 fine or up to six months in jail - or both. Dogs can't be bred or brought into the province.

Statistics also suggest there are other dogs more dangerous than pit bulls, Ruby noted.

A Canadian study found that since 1983, 23 fatalities from dog attacks in which 55 dogs were involved. Only one dog involved was a pit bull breed, an American Staffordshire terrier.

American statistics also show other breeds are more likely to bite than pit bulls, Ruby said.
Cochrane adopted Chess as a puppy from the humane society, which labelled the dog as a Staffordshire Terrier cross, one of the banned breeds.

"She can't possibly prove the opposite, which is what the requirement of the law is," Ruby said. "She's got to show that it's not a Staffordshire Terrier cross, and there's no way on Earth she can do that."

Changing the law so that offenders don't serve jail time would negate the need for a constitutional challenge, Ruby said.

In court documents, Crown lawyers argue that the ban is necessary to protect the public from potential pit bull attacks. They say attacks by pit bulls are more deadly than from other dogs and pit bulls often attack viciously without being provoked.

The case continues Tuesday with arguments from the Crown.

Court Report - May 15

Court Report
May 15 1:15pm
(from - Steve Barker DLCC)

Here is my summary of the morning of May 15.

The courtroom holds about 40 people. Packed. Wish it was bigger.

Clayton Ruby is great. Much drier in this environment than in front of the cameras. Much more of a quiet and respectful environment. Still manages to get in a dig at the government occasionally. Refers a lot to case law related to his three arguments. He uses cases that have nothing to do with dogs to illustrate the concepts.

He started by reviewing the pit bull definition, the restrictions and regulations, the penalties, and the Animals for Research Act.

Three arguments:

1. Overbreadth

The law is too overreaching in that it captures many dogs not of the proscribed breeds and many dogs that are not dangerous (the stated purpose of the law). He used this category to discuss whether or not pit bulls are more dangerous than other breeds.

Note that the U.S. courts are not allowed to use overbreadth to strike any law except if it violates freedom of speech. Not the same here in Canada. We can use the overbreadth argument much more liberally.

The main argument is that the constitution is not there to BALANCE government interest (public safety) against individuals' interests. The constitution is there to PROTECT the individual IN SPITE OF a legitimate government interest.

Nice quote: "These dogs are better than most, based on the evidence in Canada, which was not contested by the government".

He also listed the other alternatives that the government could have considered that were less restrictive on a specific group.

2. Vagueness

The law does not provide the ability for a person to know if they are obeying the law and it fails to protect citizens against arbitrary application of the law. A vague law is a law that fails to provide a boundary between permissible and impermissible behaviour.

Noted that the government selected a group of people (vets) to be the legal identifier of pit bulls when that same group (the OVMA) has testified that they can't do it.

Discussed the Sarnia case, where the judge specifically said that the law is vague.Excellent evidence read from Lee Steeve's testimony that you cannot identify a breed by its appearance alone. Her response to hard cross-examination was great, specifically about how, in certain circumstances, poorly breed Labrador Retrievers could be substantially similar to poorly bred American Staffordshire Terriers.

Quoted Tom Skeldon (Ohio dog warden) from the Ohio case where he admits he can't identify a pit bull.

Discussed the significant differences between U.S. law and ours. A constitutional challenge in the U.S. based on overbreadth is basically not allowed and vagueness is very difficult. Ours allows more leeway and puts more onus on the government to prove their case.

Quoted Ohio decision where the judges were "troubled" by the lack of definition of the breed.

3. Trial Fairness

Listed his cross-examinations of police officers and animal control officers, as well as Darlene Wagner (postal worker, attack victim). Showed very well how difficult it is to pick the pit bull. Some admitted that they can't ID at all. Others picked some breeds correctly, but signficant numbers were wrong.

Here is my summary of the afternoon of May 15. My apologies for the late report. I just got home now. My attempts at "cellphone blogging" have been remarkably unsuccessful.

Trial FairnessClayton Ruby continued his arguments, focusing a lot on his third argument - trial fairness.

He first focused on Section 19 of the DOLA, related to accepting into evidence a document purported to be from a veterinarian, stating that a dog is a "pit bull".

This is a case of the legislation forcing a judge to admit into evidence what would normally NOT be admissible - a document of opinion without a witness testifying. The crown can choose not to use such a document, but if they do, the legislation does not give the judge the choice to rule on the admissibility of the evidence. It must be accepted. This is not normal or acceptable.

In addition, defence cannot cross-examine the veterinarian because he does not need to testify. They can subpoenae him as their own witness, but at their own cost. Even then, they cannot cross-examine him, only examine him "in chief". Basically, it's more difficult to "go hard" at him.

The credibility of the veterinarian is crucial, considering that the identification of breed is the crux of the legislation. This document does not even have to be sworn in front of a JP. There are no safeguards in this substitution to ensure that the statement is likely true.

There is also a mandatory presumption of fact. It substitutes non-evidence (document) for evidence (witness testimony) without an overriding reason why the original witness should not be examined. There are valid reasons for not having a witness testify (protection, national interest, etc), but protecting a vet from cross-examination is not one of them.

Clayton Ruby also asked that the judge deem inadmissible some government evidence based on legislative and committee Hansards (transcripts of legislature and committee sessions). The legislative Hansard contained some of Michael Bryant's comments and the committee Hansard contained statements made by members of the public. Case precedent shows a reluctance by courts to accept politicians' legislative comments as evidence and case precedent always refuses to accept statements by members of the public in committee Hansards. This is because neither of these are sworn statements and neither have the option of cross-examination.

The government also has a responsibility to show that there were reasonable alternatives, if they were proposed. Their Hansard choices were biased in their favour, while they ignored the 80% of the committee presentations against the ban, many of which presented reasonable and less restrictive alternatives.

Reasonableness Test

A law that imprisons citizens can fail the vagueness and overbroad tests (section 7 of the charter) can still be saved by section 1 if the government can prove that the legislation, even though overbroad or vague, has a rational connection to its purpose. The purpose of this legislation is to reduce dog bites. Is the legislation reasonable enough to be saved by section 1 in order to accomplish this purpose?

Ruby then listed all the reasons why banning pit bulls will not solve the problem of dog bites, including quoting studies and witness testimony.

This legislation, as a result of the reasons listed earlier, fails the rational connection test. This is actually quite rare in section 1 challenges. Most section 1 challenges focus on legislation not being the least restrictive option. This legislation also fails that test, since the government was provided with ample testimony offering proven alternatives.

Using the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Sikh student who wanted to take a kirpan (traditional religious dagger) to school. In finding in favour of the student, the Supreme Court said that the risk to community safety must be unequivocably proven in order to not violate the charter. Since even the government's own witnesses agreed that most dogs targeted in this legislation are happy, friendly pets that will never bite anyone, the risk to community safety is not great enough to justify vague or overbroad legislation.

The Supreme Court did rule that a breathalyser test law could be saved by section 1 because the "extreme" measures were rationally connected to the purpose of the legislation. This was proven using scientific research and statistics. Our legislation has not been proven this way. In addition, in order not to be unreasonably restrictive on citizens, the test must be performed twice with at least fifteen minutes in between tests, and must be completed within two hours. This shows that the lawmakers made every attempt to keep the infringement reasonable.

Federal Animal Pedigree Act

Breese Davies, Ruby's associate who has done a lot of work on this case, presented an argument that the provincial law conflicts with the federal Animal Pedigree Act. The federal APA stipulates that the only people allowed to identify breeds are pedigree registries, in this case the Canadian Kennel Club. Nobody else in this country is allowed to identify a breed and the only reason that the pedigree registry is allowed to identify the breed is if they have the pedigree of the dog. In conflict with this federal law, the provincial legislation, without any consideration that there is a federal law prohibiting it, gives the province the power to identify breeds and then hands that power even further to veterinarians, whose regulating body (the OVMA) has testified that it is impossible for them to perform this function.

Pitted Against

Pitted Against

Clayton Ruby believes one Ontario law’s bark is worse than its bite. And he’s anxious to get it struck down.

The prominent attorney was front and centre in a Toronto courtroom Monday, presenting an open challenge to the province’s pit bull law.

The legislation was brought in by Attorney General Michael Bryant last year after a series of widely publicized attacks by the animals.

But Ruby insists the rules are blatantly unfair and unconstitutional and he believes he can prove it to the satisfaction of any judge.

“The Attorney General says it is okay to ban an entire breed to protect the public,” he notes. “We think it is opposite.

"Bad dogs are made by bad people. Some really want angry, vicious dogs. And if you ban them from possessing pit bulls, they will move to Rottweilers or Shepherds or Huskies.

“This legislation can't work. It will not protect. There is no end to the list. This legislation cannot protect, and the Attorney General does not want to accept that.”

He also complains there are so many similar looking pets around, it’s hard for even the experts to tell what classifies as a pit bull and what falls into another category altogether.

Bryant’s response? The law is good, it’s fair and it’s the right thing to do.

“I'm confident we will pass constitutional scrutiny when the time comes,” he insists.

But it appears certain the rules are as divisive now as they were when they passed last year.

“Dogs, regardless of the breed that are good-natured, should not be muzzled, as it gives the public a very bad opinion,” maintains owner Anne Matthews. “And when you're walking down the street and you have a muzzle on the dog, they'll cross the street.”

But for Louise Ellis, whose daughter was attacked by a pit bull last year, the ban is not only necessary, but a lifesaver.

“They don't understand what it's like to be attacked by one of these dogs, you know,” she complains. “A dog bite is one thing. A pit bull attack is another.”

The law forces current owners of pit bulls to muzzle their dogs in public, sterilize them, and won’t allow any more to be brought into the province.

The penalty for this dog disobedience: huge fines and even jail time.

But the muzzle may not be coming off the animals anytime soon.

While Ruby finished his arguments in court on Monday, and the Crown gets its own shot when the session reconvenes in the morning, it’s expected the judge will reserve her decision. And it could be a while before we hear anything either way.

What breeds are included in the pit bull ban?

American Staffordshire terriers, pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American pit bull terriers - also any other breeds sharing 'substantially similar' characteristics

When did it take effect?

Monday, August 29, 2005, and a 60-day grace period ended Friday, October 28.

What are the regulations?

The amendments to the Dog Owners' Liability Act (DOLA) bar people from owning, breeding, transferring, importing, or abandoning pit bulls.

Pit bulls kept legally after the ban will be known as 'grandfathered' or restricted pit bulls.
In order for a pit bull to qualify as a 'grandfathered' or restricted pit bull, it must be owned by an Ontario resident on August 29, 2005 or born in Ontario within 90 days of August 29.

As of October 28, 2005, pit bull owners have to have their dogs leashed and muzzled in public and sterilized. Additionally, owners aren't allowed to train them to fight, and can't let them stray.

The only time a muzzle isn't required is when the dog is on the owner's property, or on another person's property if they consent to the muzzle's removal.

Muzzles should be humane, but strong enough to prevent the animal from biting without interfering with its ability to breathe, pant, see, or drink.

The leash must not exceed 1.8 metres.

What are the potential penalties if laws are broken?

$10,000 fine ($60,000 for corporations) and/or

Six months imprisonment and/or

The court could order the person convicted to compensate the victim and/or

The animal could be taken away or destroyed

What to do if you see a pit bull that's not abiding by the restrictions:
Municipalities are responsible for animal control, so you should contact your local animal control or by-law enforcement office. In emergency situations though, contact police.

If you're bitten by a pit bull because the restrictions aren't being followed, you can bring a civil action against the dog's owner for damages.

The new laws stipulate that the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack regardless of whether the owner is at fault or negligent.