Dog Legislation Council of Canada

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Corner Brook, Newfoundland - February 17, 2005
The Dog Legislation Council of Canada (“DLCC”) sent a full synopsis of the presentations concerning Bill 132 to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, excerpted below, to all Members of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, to assist them with their deliberations on Bill 132. The synopsis was created by Steve Barker, Ontario Director of the DLCC, who attended all four days of the Committee hearings and read the 400+ pages of Hansard, the verbatim record of those proceedings.

I realize that, as you read through the documentation below, you may feel that the document is taking one particular side. Although I personally oppose the Bill, I have tried to fairly represent both sides of the presentations.

This is difficult to do because over 70% of the presenters were against the Bill, and these presenters provided the committee with a significant quantity of facts, statistics, and history.

102 presenters made deputations to the committee, excluding the political parties themselves.
45 were individuals, not representing any particular organization.
57 were organizations.
22 individuals and 6 organizations were in favour of the Bill.
22 individuals and 50 organizations were against the Bill.
One individual was simply reporting the results of a survey.
One organization (the township of Clearview) was neutral in its opinion.

Of the individuals supporting the Bill, the majority were either victims of bites by dogs that looked similar to one of the targeted breeds or people who appeared to have had unfavourable encounters with dogs that looked similar to one of the targeted breeds. Many of these people were, quite naturally, afraid of the breed that they had personally encountered.

A surprising number of individuals in favour of the Bill also favoured the inclusion of other breeds in a ban, particular larger dogs. Even a number of people who had been bitten by dogs that looked like one of the targeted breeds expressed this desire to see other breeds targeted as well.

There were three presenters, bite victims, who were particularly compelling in their seriousness and level of tragedy, including Darlene Wagner (postal worker who suffered serious injuries while delivering mail), Louise Ellis (parent of a seriously injured child), and Carrie Hewiston (a young lady who still bears the scars from her encounter with three vicious dogs).

One presenter testified that she was afraid of a dog because she saw it "attacking the branches of a tree". She identified the breed by looking it up in a book. Another presenter testified that he had attended organized dog fights in Ontario while contracted as a consultant to the Ontario government. Some presenters exhibited confusion as to what constituted one of the targeted breeds and in fact mixed up their breeds, referring to Rottweilers, mastiffs, bullmastiffs, and German Shepherds while expressing their support for the breed-specific ban.

Of the organizations that supported the Bill, two were police organizations who expressed concern about encountering dogs owned by criminals during raids and execution of warrants.

Two were from Kitchener-Waterloo, discussing the apparent success of their efforts in that city. The manager of the Humane Society / Animal Control for that city expressed concerns regarding the potential cost of enforcing this Bill province-wide.

The remaining two organizations, although billed as such, were actually individuals. The City of Brantford was represented by Carrie Hewiston, the aforementioned dog bite victim. English Nannies for Dogs Inc. was represented by Diana Fischer, a victim of bites from multiple breeds of dogs. Ms. Fischer, apparently a long-time dog trainer, had many of the other trainers in the room scratching their heads when she seemed to indicate that Rottweilers and German Shepherds should be banned also, whereas the Staffordshire Bull Terrier should not.

Of the individuals who opposed the Bill, a number were not owners of the targeted breeds. Some of the individuals who presented were doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and engineers. One was a lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces. None were drug dealers, criminals, or gang members.

One in particular, Donna Trempe, is the mother of Courtney Trempe. Courtney was eight years old when she was killed by a bullmastiff in Stouffville. A coroner's inquest was held into Courtney's death and the jury produced 36 recommendations designed to reduce dog bites by all breeds. Breed-specific legislation was not included in these recommendations and Mrs. Trempe specifically denounced breed-specific legislation because it would not have prevented her daughter's death. She strongly advised the committee members to provide a law that would allow owners of dogs that attack to be more easily prosecuted for criminal charges. She even suggested that the law be named "Courtney's Law" in honour of her eight-year-old daughter.

The organizations that opposed the Bill consisted of the following groups:

4 presenters representing the three targeted breed clubs (breeders and owners)
5 city animal control enforcement and municipal pound organizations
2 all-breed registries (one from Canada, one from the United States)
1 all-breed Canadian Kennel Club show judge
10 dog training organizations
7 veterinarians, animal hospitals, and veterinary organizations
9 canine research organizations promoting education and enforcement
1 breed club representing an untargeted breed
1 all-breed activity club
10 all-breed rescue organizations, including humane societies and the OSPCA.

Many of these organizations noted that they encounter the targeted breeds (or dogs of similar type) on a daily basis without incident.

A large number of these organizations have as their members experts in dog training, dog behaviour, and dog bite prevention.

These organizations were unanimous on their major points, as follows:

Reliable and authoritative identification of breed without registration papers is technically impossible and, even if an attempt were made, the possibility of significant error would result in a large number of dogs being confiscated even though they likely do not belong to one of the breeds in question.

Misidentification of dogs that look similar to or somewhat like one of the targeted breeds will be a problem. This was discussed by the UK RSPCA presenters who experienced this firsthand, and by Dr. Gary Goeree, the Kitchener-Waterloo veterinarian, who testified as to his own firsthand difficulties as a member of Kitchener's Dangerous Dog Identification Committee. Also discussed were the four serious incidents in Ontario in which the dogs were initially identified by the media as "pit bulls", only to discover days later that the dogs were a different breed altogether.

People who want a dog to enhance their image or for intimidation will move to another breed, as witnessed in Winnipeg, where two other untargeted breeds clearly filled the gap left by the dwindling number of targeted breeds. These bite statistics came from the city of Winnipeg and showed an increase in the number of bites immediately after their ban and no significant decrease until Winnipeg adopted Calgary's model of dog owner education and strict enforcement of licensing and leash laws.

A breed as a whole cannot be defined as "dangerous", since only 0.01% of the dogs belonging to any individual breed ever bite.

Individual dogs of other breeds that are not targeted by this Bill have been proven to be dangerous to public safety. A number of presenters discussed serious attacks by other breeds that were virtually ignored by the media and by the politicians. A number of these ignored attacks were in every way as damaging and permanent as the publicized ones.

Also discussed in support of the fact that dogs of other breeds can be dangerous were the 23 children that have been killed in Canada over the past 20 years by 59 dogs of 12 different breeds, none of which were the targeted breeds. The Attorney General clearly stated on public television that one particular breed, although included in this list of 12 that have killed in Canada, was not dangerous.

Dogs that have killed in Canada were almost exclusively unneutered males and a significant number of the attacks happened in packs of loose roaming dogs, again none of which belonged to the breeds targeted by this Bill.

The experts were clear and unequivocal in their statements that lack of dog training is the first and foremost reason for biting, along with animal abuse and the failure to teach children how to act around the family dog.

The experts were also clear that the majority of public attacks are from dogs that are running off leash or are not confined properly within their own property, not from dogs that are on leash and under the control of their owners.

Cost of enforcement was estimated at a minimum of $10 million dollars for the first year, based on the costs encountered by the UK and by Prince George's County Maryland. Obviously, the true costs will not be known until years later, but the experience of other jurisdictions has definitely shown this approach to be expensive, while still managing to be ineffective.

Since the targeted breeds account for less than 5% of all dog bites in Canada, the breed-specific approach that the government is promoting was denounced by the experts as an ineffective solution to reducing bites by all dogs.

The experts were unanimous and unyielding in their calls for dog owner education, parent and child education, strict enforcement of existing leash and licensing laws, a province-wide dog bite registry, a province-wide bite prevention program, stricter laws regulating breeders and trainers, and a concerted effort to reduce back-yard breeding (the practice of throwing two unregistered dogs together and selling the resulting puppies for almost nothing).

I believe that you should be made aware of the amendments that were proposed and voted upon during the clause-by-clause portion of the committee hearings.

The NDP member proposed a number of amendments related to removing breeds from the Bill, all of which were voted down by the majority Liberal members.

The NDP member also proposed a significant amendment that dogs not specifically licensed as show or breed dogs should be spayed or neutered. This amendment was also voted down.

The PC members proposed a number of amendments related to removing breeds from the Bill, all of which were voted down by the majority Liberal members.

The PC members also proposed a significant amendment, as follows:

(a) ensuring that municipalities have the resources they require to enable them to provide effective municipal dog control in the interests of public safety;
(b) providing for the development and implementation of a comprehensive program, including education, training and other measures, to encourage responsible dog ownership;
(c) providing for the development and implementation of a comprehensive dog bite prevention strategy to encourage dog owners to take all reasonable steps to prevent their dogs from biting persons or domestic animals;
(d) providing for the establishment and operation of a province-wide dog bite registry.

This amendment was also voted down.

All of the above amendments were in full agreement with the recommendations from the inquest into the death of Courtney Trempe.

The Liberal members proposed a number of amendments, the most significant of which were:

(a) broaden the definition of "pit bull" which may make conviction of owners easier, even if it is not clear whether the dog's heritage contains any of the three targeted breeds;
(b) when a purported veterinarian signs a document stating that a dog is a "pit bull", the court will not require proof of signature or proof of the signatory’s membership in the College of Veterinarians;
(c) the proof required in this Bill will be on the balance of probabilities, not beyond reasonable doubt, even though there are criminal repercussions for offences under this Bill.

All the Liberal amendments were passed.

The wealth of information and expertise that was made available to this committee was staggering and, I believe, record-setting. Legislation examples were provided from jurisdictions that have substantially reduced all dog bites through education and enforcement.

The work has already been done by these experts for this government. The solutions have already been found and proven. We already know what works and what doesn't. We have more history, more results, and more information than ever before. It is not necessary for us to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The Dog Legislation Council of Canada (“DLCC”) is a Canada-wide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible dog ownership, assisting provincial and municipal governments to develop effective licensing and enforcement legislation, and educating the public regarding dog bite prevention. The DLCC does not support any legislation which targets a breed instead of the real problem - the irresponsible owner. Its members are expected to abide by and promote the DLCC Code of Ethics.

The DLCC is a proud member of the Banned Aid Legal Defence Fund -