Monday, March 26, 2007

Superior Court Strikes Down Key Elements of Flawed Pitbull Ban

TORONTO, March 23 /CNW/ - Despite headlines proclaiming that Ontario's pitbull ban has been upheld by the Superior Court, the Toronto Humane Societyis thrilled that two key aspects of the law have been struck down. Firstly the vague definition of "pitbull and pitbull-like" has been found faulty. The ban, while it stands, now applies only to purebred pitbulls. This removes death sentences from literally thousands of dogs who have had the misfortune of being pitbull-like. Secondly, bylaw enforcement officers are no longer allowed to go to court armed only with a veterinarian's certificate stating that the dog in question is a pitbull. This is significant because you can't cross-examine a piece of paper. The combination of the clarified definition and the added civic responsibility of demanding witnesses actually attend court will make it far more difficult to prosecute questionable and spurious cases. In fact, it looks like the law has actually applied the traditional standard of fairness, which is to say most of the mixed-breed dogs that have been unfairly caught in the net of the original legislation are now innocent until proven guilty.

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Ont. pitbull ban upheld by court

TORONTO — The Ontario Superior court has upheld Ontario’s controversial pit bull ban legislation.

“We consider this to be a good day for public safety in Ontario,” Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant told reporters Friday.

“This is the first legislation of its kind, I would anticipate that it would now be copied in a number of jurisdictions across North America.”

The Dog Owner’s Liability Act bans Ontarians from acquiring pitbulls and says owners must neuter existing animals and ensure they’re leashed and muzzled in public.

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

Ontario’s Liberal government introduced the ban following a series of horrific attacks that left people badly maimed.

The court did find fault with two provisions of the legislation.

In the first instance, it didn’t accept that pitbull terriers (as opposed to purebred pitbulls) be subject to the ban.

In the second, it said it wasn’t acceptable for bylaw enforcement officers going after violators to go to court armed only with a veterinarian’s signed document stating the animal involved is a pit bull. In the future, such expert testimony will have to be presented in person.

Caroline Wawzonek, a lawyer representing Toronto pitbull owner Catherine Cochrane, said the court decision will be appealed.

Cochrane’s constitutional challenge of the act was backed by the Dog Legislation Council of Canada, which represents a number of dog breeding and animal interest groups.

Prominent Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, who led Cochrane’s legal team, argued in his presentation to the court last spring that the definition of pitbull in the provincial law is too vague.

Part Of Ontario's Pit Bull Law Struck Down

Friday March 23, 2007

It's the first crack in the dam of what could be a very big legal flood.

An Ontario Superior Court Justice has struck down parts of the province's controversial pitbull law.

The legislation, which bans the breeds outright in Ontario, has been bitterly opposed by advocates who claim only irresponsible owners are to blame for problems with the dogs.

The court ruled two key parts of the law, including the definition of what a pit bull is, are unconstitutional. And the jurist found using a veterinarian to prove a dog's breed also violates the law.

Despite the outcome, the Attorney General - who pressed so hard to get the new legislation passed - insists 99 percent of the rules are still in place and that the vast majority of the law stands.

"This means that the law continues, which means no more pit bulls in Ontario," contends Michael Bryant. "No pit bulls sold, bred or imported into the province of Ontario.

"People should continue to leash and muzzle their pit bulls; pit bulls are banned are in Ontario, and that has been upheld by the Ontario Superior Court.

"Pit bulls remain banned, the purebred definitions of pit bulls are banned, anything substantially similar to those purebreds are banned."

But it appears the lawyers for the other side are far from satisfied by this judgment.

"We saved 'pit bull terriers' but not the other breeds," a statement from Clayton Ruby's law firm reads. "We made it impossible for the Crown to prove its case with a piece of paper signed by a veterinarian."

They vow to continue to appeal until they get the law quashed or changed.

Ontario Pit Bull Law

What breeds are included?

American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or any other breeds sharing 'substantially similar' characteristics

When did it take effect?

It was in full force on Friday, October 28, 2005.

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 have been 'grandfathered', and will be allowed to stay for the rest of their lives.

Pit bull owners must 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 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

The law stipulates 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.

Courtesy Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General