Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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.


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