Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dog's Life Hangs In Balance As Owner Battles Pit Bull Law In Court

Thursday January 24, 2008 Staff

It seems only appropriate that a dog named Rambo might be the one to topple or alter Ontario's controversial law banning pit bulls.

The 10-month-old puppy got away from his owner in Mississauga on Christmas Day and was wandering the streets unleashed and unmuzzled in direct violation of the law. Animal control experts collared the dog and took him into custody. Rambo's owner, Gabriela Nowakowska, was charged with owning a prohibited animal and the dog faced the prospect of being put down.

But the 20-year-old is refusing to take the edict lightly and is now challenging the interpretation of the law - arguing her dog isn't really a pit bull at all.

You may remember the controversy when the legislation was first introduced in 2005. Many critics insisted there was no way to tell what actually constituted a pit bull-type breed and warned there could be legal challenges. But after a series of highly publicized attacks involving dogs, the Liberals pushed it through anyway.

The law forced all canines deemed to be pit bulls to wear a muzzle in public and be properly restrained. They weren't allowed to run free and while owners were allowed to keep their existing pets, the edict made it clear any new puppies or dogs from the breed wouldn't be allowed into the province. If newcomers were found three months after the ban began in August 2005, the rules were clear: they would have to be euthanized.

Now Nowakowska intends to challenge the ban in court, with high stakes on both sides. If she wins, the law could be struck down or altered. If she loses, her dog will be killed. The owner is raising a war chest to help her in the looming battle with the legal system and is getting contributions from those opposed to the ban.

To win, she'll have to prove a negative - that her dog isn't a pit bull. For now, Rambo remains in limbo, in a cage and in the custody of officials in Mississauga. His life depends on the outcome of the case, which will be heard on February 29th.


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