Friday, October 06, 2006

Pit bull owners bare their souls to fight Ontario's ban on the dogs

Fundraising calendar features dog lovers in assorted states of undress

Iris Winston
The Ottawa Citizen

An 82-year-old Ottawa woman is posing nude for a fundraising calendar. Her inspiration: the love of a pit bull.

Octogenarian Squibs Mer-cier appears unencumbered by clothes with her Staffordshire bull terrier, one of the breeds that falls under Ontario's ban of pit bull-type dogs. The calendar is to raise money for a legal challenge to the law.

Ms. Mercier is the only founding member of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Canada still living, let alone posing for pin-up pictures. In the calendar, she and 11 other members of the club appear wearing only broad smiles with their dogs and the occasional discreetly placed best-in-show rosette or flag.

From a new bride flanked by her two Staffordshire bull terriers, to a model in a bubble bath with her dogs on the edge of the tub, the photographs -- most of them by professional photographers -- speak of the warm relationship between the dogs and their owners.

The brainchild of club president Clive Wilkinson, the calendar attempts to heighten awareness of the plight of Staffordshire bull terriers and related breeds that fall under the umbrella of Ontario's Bill 132.

The McGuinty government's bill, which amended the Dog Owners' Liability Act, received royal assent in March 2005. It "prohibits individuals from owning, breeding, transferring, importing or abandoning pit bulls." The bill grandfathers current dogs and owners, but insists that the dogs be muzzled in public places.

"I'm certainly not prepared to muzzle my dogs," says Mrs. Mercier, as she pets her gentle, 13-year-old champion Staffordshire, Duchess. "I've had Staffies all my life. They're wonderful companions. This stupid and unfair law will make the breed extinct. We have to fight it. If we don't oppose the bill, they'll just move on to the next breed. It's not dogs they should be banning. It's bad owners."

The battle against the legislation, with high-profile lawyer Clayton Ruby for the defence, is before the courts. This, says Mrs. Mercier, is why raising funds in various ways, such as auctions, raffles and now calendars, is a priority.

"This money could have gone into doing good for animals in other ways, if we didn't have this fight on our hands," she says. "But we're not going away. You only lose when you give up."

The first 450 copies of the 2007 Beautiful Staffies and Their Ladies calendar quickly sold out. A new batch of the "baring it all against banning" calendar is available through the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Canada at www.staffordcanada. com.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006


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