Thursday, October 28, 2004

Mass hysteria once again wins in Ontario

Ontario's Attorney-General Michael Bryant plunges forward with the province wide ban on pit bulls - protect us please Ontario government, even if it does defy logic!

From the time he first began to muse about a ban in late August, there were worrying indications that he was planning to forge ahead, regardless of the facts.

Indeed, in the Star last week, Bryant accused those who disagree with him of making a "fundamentalist argument."

[. . . .]

So who are these fundamentalists? They are a broad group — including scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control who have investigated the problem, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Canada Safety Council and the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association.

All argue that banning specific breeds such as pit bulls is not the best way to deal with dog bite problems. All cite evidence to back up their positions.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, which represents veterinarians in this province, is not exactly an extremist organization.

But it couldn't get in to see the minister, or indeed anyone on his staff, before he made his decision 11 days ago.

"We wrote to him on Sept.15 and offered to meet," association executive director Doug Raven said yesterday. We followed up with a couple of calls to his staff who said, `We're working on it'."

The association finally did get a faxed reply from Bryant — on Oct.15, the day he announced his decision.

"Unfortunately my schedule does not permit me to meet with you at this time," the letter read.

To be fair, the attorney-general did talk to some opponents of the ban, including representatives from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But he did not appear to talk to some key "fundamentalists" — including cities and jurisdictions that had once banned pit bull and either rescinded or relaxed them.

Britain, for example, banned four breeds — including the pit bull — in 1991. Unauthorized pit bulls were to be killed. Six years and countless court cases later, however, the British government relaxed the law to eliminate the compulsory euthanasia element, in effect giving threatened pit bulls a reprieve, albeit under considerable restrictions.

Cincinnati tried a pit bull ban for 13 years but eventually rescinded it in 1999, saying it was expensive and didn't work.

In Denver, a 15-year-old ban appears singularly ineffective. In spite of the prohibition, the city routinely rounds up and kills dozens of pit bulls annually — 410 last year, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

As a result, Colorado's state government this year passed a law to prevent municipalities from outlawing specific breeds such as pit bulls ("Doggy profiling" is how Governor Bill Owens described the practice).

Bryant cites the experience of Winnipeg. It's had a pit bull ban since 1990. And it is true that the number of dog bite incidents has dropped by about one-third since the ban, from an average of 344 a year in the late 1980s to an average of 236 over the past 14 years.

But what's also true is that even before the ban, pit bulls accounted for fewer than 10 per cent of recorded dog bite incidents — 28 out of 310 in 1989.

Tim Dack, chief operating officer of the city's animal services division, says dog bites have gone down in large part because the city has made an aggressive effort to license dogs, deal with strays, and educate the public.

Bryant has written that Winnipeg's experience proves pit bull owners won't turn to other dangerous dogs when the breed is banned.

That's not what Winnipeg's Dack says. He supports the ban, saying that, so far, it has led to fewer serious bites.

But he also told me that a lot of former pit bull owners appear to have turned to rottweilers and cross-rottweilers and that there has been a corresponding increase of bites from these breeds.

"We don't permit muzzled wolves on leashes in public parks," says Bryant as justification for his ban

1 Comment:

Liberal Refugee said...

It is indeed an ineffective solution to dog attacks. Politicians use it as a smoke screen only to appease a public fear while diverting attention away from the government’s failures to resolve any issues or in Bryant’s case his government’s failure to keep their promises.

Has it worked anywhere? The ban I mean, not the smokescreen.