Tuesday, May 16, 2006

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.


Post a Comment

<< Home