Sunday, August 06, 2006

SFU student dogs breed-specific regs

By Sam Cooper The Tri-City News
Aug 04 2006

Picking on pit bulls won’t make society any safer, an SFU study says.

SFU criminology graduate student Niki Huitson studied breed-specific legislation for her master’s thesis and concluded it doesn’t curb attacks.

Breed-specific legislation restricts or bans ownership of certain dogs. In Ontario ownership of pit bulls is banned outright.

About half of Lower Mainland municipalities have breed-specific laws. In Coquitlam, pit bulls are defined vicious, requiring owners to muzzle them in public, while Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have no breed-specific laws.

Huitson says pit bulls have been demonized, leading to breed-specific laws that only give a false sense of security.

“Evidence in cities with tough [breed-specific] licensing laws, like Calgary, shows it is not reducing dog bites,” Huitson said. “Dog bites are consistent regardless.”

Former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell was external examiner for Huitson’s study and endorsed her conclusions.

Huitson interviewed representatives from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Vancouver SPCA, the RCMP, as well as dog breeders. She says many felt there should be dog attack laws but most agreed designating certain breeds as dangerous would not solve the problem.

Huitson said there is no scientific proof that certain breeds are more vicious but the pit bull’s historic image as a fighter makes it a target of irresponsible owners.

“There is one or two per cent of the population that buys the dog to be aggressive,” Huitson said. “Clearly it is the owner that makes a dog vicious and we need to be tougher on them.

“Enforcement is the problem. There has to be liability for owners or breeders who train vicious dogs.”

Huitson said mandatory obedience training for all dogs, and responsible owner education will reduce attacks.
Port Coquitlam’s manager of bylaws, Dan Scoones, formerly in charge of animal control for Victoria, said Huitson’s conclusions seem sound.

“You get a far greater return on your money by educating people to be responsible dog owners [than using breed-specific laws],” Scoones said. “If there was persuasive evidence that pit bulls were more likely to attack, I think we would have laws on them.”

When a dog is declared vicious in PoCo, muzzling and confinement rules are applied.

PoMo bylaw enforcement officer Tom Krish also said breed-specific laws don’t make sense. “I don’t believe that just because it is a pit bull it will be vicious,” he said.

In PoMo, owners of dogs declared vicious must pay $295 for licensing and follow safety restrictions.

Coquitlam spokesperson Therese Mickelson said the city’s dog control legislation defines vicious dog broadly, including the pit bull family and any dog showing a propensity for viciousness.

Mickelson said she couldn’t comment on Huitson’s conclusions against breed-specific legislation.

Statistics show there is typically one fatal dog bite a year in Canada. The only recorded pit bull fatality in Canada was in 1995, by an American Staffordshire terrier.

Huitson owns three American pit bull terriers and said, “They have all been trained for obedience, and are sociable.”


Anonymous Boarding At The Wedge said...

This article makes an important point in my opinion and experience with dogs. which is that some owners desire aggressive dogs. It does not mention the problem of clueless owners however.

If Pit Bulls (or any other breed) are banned the sort of owner who desires an aggressive dog will seek out some other aggressive dog to own.

The approach has to be on owner wareness. This includes clueless owners who do not appreciate certain basic things about dog behavior and why owners and dogs need obedience training. Although our boarding kennel does board some pretty protective "pit bulls" and pit crosses the dogs that have actually bitten one of us during our 30 years of operation have been (1) a dach x chihuahua cross, (2) a shar pei, (3) a German Shepherd and (4) a Rottweiler.

In three of the 4 instances the owner on checking the dog in had described its personality as friendly to strangers.

The three most dangerous dogs we have cared for were (1) A Springer with Springer rage, (2) A delightful appearing "Benji" fluffy faced golden and white dog (3) A Neopolitan Mastiff.

The Benji dog has bitten quite a few people (but not us) because his reaction to someone he does not know trying to pet him is to attack without warning. His owners make numerous excuses for him and for a while they would feel sorry for him so they would walk him without his muzzle. He is so very appealing in appearance that strangers try to pet him even if warned off. Our local leash laws say that if the dog is on a leash and the owner warns you not to touch it and if it bites you, the owner is not lible and there is no dog bite report against the dog.

Changing the attitude and expectations of dog owners and holding dog owners responsible is much more important than banning specific breeds.

There is a very useful book on dog uman interactions called " The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. That should be required reading for all new dog owners in my opinion.

[I am not Jean Donaldson nor do I work for her publisher]

12:38 PM  
Blogger Charles W. said...

This is REALLY frustrating. There must be 800 references to that SFU study, and not ONE of you had the MLA knowledge to site the study so that someone can find it. Just write that you read a study and expect everyone to believe you. If I didn't already know BSL was BS Id have to assume you guys were lying.

7:29 PM  

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