Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dog laws must be enforced

By: Hazel McCallion
March 4, 2008 10:25 PM -

I wanted to take this opportunity to comment on Rambo, the pit bull type dog that is impounded at the City’s Animal Services facility.

As you are probably aware, the dog’s owner has been charged under the provincial Dog Owner’s Liability Act, for having possession of a prohibited pit bull. As this matter is before the Court, it is not appropriate for me to discuss the particulars regarding the case.

When the pit bull amendments to the Dog Owner’s Liability Act were being discussed, the City of Mississauga strongly opposed the legislation. City Council’s concerns were expressed in writing to the Province and our Director of Enforcement attended public hearings in Toronto in 2005 and voiced our concerns, as did many other municipalities.

Once passed into law, the City of Mississauga must enforce the law. Failure to do so could result in serious liability issues if the City opted not to enforce the law and one of the dogs seriously injured a resident.

Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about the legislation, City staff are expected to do their duty and enforce the law. Although the option to transfer prohibited pit bulls out of province is available to the Pound Operator under the Animals for Research Act, staff have not done so in the past for a number of reasons. Liability concerns and the substantial staff resources that are required to do this cannot be ignored, and there is also a significant cost involved in doing this.

These are key reasons why municipalities tend not to exercise the option (to relocate animals to other communities). As I understand it, when municipalities have done so, it is most often involving very young puppies.

Up until this point in time, decisions on how to administer the law have been made by staff, as is common across the province. I have requested staff to prepare a report for City Council setting out the options available under the legislation, as well as the pros and cons of each of them. This will allow City Council to fully discuss the matter and determine the appropriate procedures to be followed by the City of Mississauga in the future.

Regarding Rambo, once a charge has been laid, it is not up to the City to decide the fate of the dog. In cases where there is an outstanding charge for possession of a prohibited pit bull, the dog is well taken care of in the City’s Animal Control Services Section, pending the outcome of the court proceedings. It is up to a Provincial Crown to conduct the prosecution and, ultimately, the fate of the dog rests in the hands of a Justice of the Peace or Provincial Court Judge, who must adjudicate the charge based on the facts in each case applied to the law. Once a charge has been laid, neither the Mayor’s office nor Council can interfere with a matter that is before the Court.

Hazel McCallion is the mayor of Mississauga and a dog-owner.


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