Toronto Humane Society Survey: BSL Does Not Work

dogThe Toronto Humane Society has released the results of a survey of cities that establishes Ontario’s 2005 ban on "pit bull" breeds or dogs that resemble pit bulls has not made any difference in the number of dog bites.

In fact, dog bites dropped 10% in the year prior to the ban, 2004-2005, then dropped slightly in 2006. But subsequently, the number of bites rose to near 2005 levels.

In light of this survey, the Toronto Humane Society called for a repeal of the Ontario pit bull ban.

"If we want to reduce the number of dog bites we have to address the route cause of the problem, those irresponsible owners who do not appropriately care for their animals." said Ian McConachie, Senior Communicator at the Toronto Humane Society. "It is clear from these figures that the BSL aspects of the Dog Owners Liability Act has not worked to decrease the incidents of dog bites."

Inexplicably, the spokesperson for the ministry of the attorney general, Brendan Crawley insists, "This legislation ensures that there are fewer opportunities for vicious attacks by a pit bull…As time continues, we will be able to see the full effects of the legislative amendments and municipal enforcement efforts."

Crawley may be waiting a long time.

In fact, the 1991 UK Dangerous Dogs Act, amended in 1997, and which basically bans a number of breeds, was declared a failure  in 2007 when it was found numbers of dog bites had risen 10% in a year and 50% since 1998-1999. According to the BBC, hospitalizations due to dog bites increased by 25% after ‘pit bulls’ were banned in Britain.

Indeed, this month in Scotland the parliament passed the Control of Dogs Bill. The law allows authorities to issue control notices to owners whose dogs are "out of control", create a nuisance or a danger which is determined by the dog’s behavior. Scotland, still bound by the UK Dangerous Dog Act, is attempting to shift the focus from breed to owner responsibility and allow measures that will prevent dog bites. (Find a copy of the new law below.) Scotland experienced a 150% rise in dog attacks in the past ten years while the UK breed ban has been in effect.

In 2009 Italy repealed its ban on 17 breeds. At one time Italy banned 92 breeds of dogs. In describing the 2009 law, Secretary for Health, Francesca Martini, said "The previous order included a useless black list which also cataloged breeds of dogs without seeds unknown among others have no scientific basis and without providing any measure of prevention or training of the owners."  

In June, 2008, the 15 year old rule banning pit bulls in The Netherlands was lifted. A rule banning rottweilers that was instituted in 2000 was also lifted. The reason? The breed specific  legislation failed to reduce incidents of dog bites.

According to the city’s own data, when Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada banned ‘pit bulls’ in 1990, there were 214 reported dog bites that year.  For the decade following Winnipeg’s ‘pit bull’ ban, there were an average of close to 50 more dog bites per year.

A number of American cities have repealed breed discriminatory laws because they have proved ineffective, difficult to enforce and costly.

Last year the Canada Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from an appeals court finding the ban, formally called the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, was not unconstitutional or arbitrary or grossly disproportionate in view of evidence about the danger and unpredictability of "pit bulls". The so-called evidence was anecdotal, including unsubstantiated, mis-reported news items.

There are a number of myths about "pit bull" breeds that fuel the belief they should be singled out as particularly dangerous. The National Canine Research Council has collected these myths and refuted each and every one with scientific evidence. For more on the myths behind breed discrimination….

On top of that, study after study  has established dogs don’t bite because of their breed or appearance.  They bite out of fear that could have been the result of poor socialization, neglect, abuse, tethering or confinement or isolation.  In other words, it is the owner’s negligent or criminal actions that are responsible, not the dog’s breed or appearance.

There is not one major animal or health organization including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Control Association, the Centers for Disease Control, among many others, that supports breed discrimination.

Breed specific legislation does not work to make communities safe.  BSL penalizes responsible dog owners and means the death of dogs that are not in any way dangerous.

What makes it worse is that it is virtually impossible for anyone including animal control and law enforcement to look at a dog and determine its breed. Recently, in Denver Dr. Victoria Voith did a little test on animal shelter directors, dog trainers and others who work with dogs. 

They were asked to view 20 dogs on a videotape and identify each one by breed including whether the dog was a purebred or a mix. The professionals were surprised by how few dogs they identified correctly by breed. Voith believes as many as 75% of the pit bull identifications made by shelter workers, animal control or law enforcement are wrong. She is the author of Shelter Medicine: A Comparison of Visual and DNA Identifications of BREEDS of Dogs.  As DNA testing becomes more reliable, it is proving that many of the dogs identified as pit bull are actually a mix of dozens of breeds with little or none of the DNA of pit bull type dogs. 

That means a lot of dogs condemned by BSL are not even "pit bull" breeds.    

BSL is a very costly negative for a community and state and will create a climate where dogs are viewed as enemies rather than family members requiring proper care, management and love.  Go here for ways to improve relations in the community with dogs and also how to address the reasons dogs bite and keep communities safe. 

Check out Animal Law Coalition’s BSL Watch and help stop breed discrimination.

5 thoughts on “Toronto Humane Society Survey: BSL Does Not Work”

  1. This is an excellent article. Nice to see all the FACTS put together in one concise article. People should ALSO look up a study that was done called “PANIC POLICING MAKING: BREED BANS IN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES” and read how media fuels BSL and how politicans pander to media hype as opposed to FACTS by putting forth ridulous legislation not based on facts but heresay. While “saying” these laws are about public safety “THEY” in fact PUT the public at greater risk of dog bites.

    ALL places that have recinded Breed Bans, based on legitmate documentation, NOW look to individual owner accountablity and strong leash laws.

  2. Oddly enough if the Ontario Gov`t truly believes that BSL is effective in reducing dog bites,one would have to wonder why they targeted Staffordshire Bull Terriers,American Staffordshire Terriers and APBT`s in the first place.

    This is the OVMA Testimony from the Committee Hearings prior to the Ontario Ban.

    Note the Breeds mentioned in the only Bite Study(CHIRPP)

    “An argument is sometimes made that, while all dogs bite, only a few breeds cause serious injury when they attack. Again, this hypothesis does not withstand scrutiny. A study by the Canadian hospitals injury reporting and prevention program examined the dog breeds involved in attacks that were serious enough that the victim sought medical attention at one of eight reporting hospitals. The study revealed that 50 different types of purebreds and 33 types of crossbreeds had been involved in the attacks, the most common breeds being German shepherds, cocker spaniels, Rottweilers and golden retrievers.

    What about the most serious of attacks, those resulting in the death of a person attacked? Since 1983, there have been 23 reported human fatalities in Canada due to dog attacks. A total of 55 dogs were involved in these attacks, and only one of these dogs, an American Staffordshire terrier, would be banned under the proposed legislation.”

    Karen Delise has a copy of the CHIRPP Bite Study and a list of the Canadian Fatalities.

    The dogs responsible for the majority of the Canadian Fatalities are Husky/Sled dogs not the banned Breeds.

  3. A new Bill to repeal Breed Specific Legislation was reintroduced today in the Ontario Legislature by MPP Cheri DiNovo.

    This would be a very good time to send her a letter of support whether you`re an Ontario Resident,someone who might like to move to Ontario from within Canada or immigrate to Ontario from another Country with a ‘pit bull’ or a Tourist who might like to visit Ontario with a ‘pit bull’.

    The way it stands now people can`t move to Ontario or even visit Ontario with 3 Breeds(AmStaff,APBT or Staffordshire Bull Terrier) or a dog that might be considered “substantially similar” to those 3 Breeds.

    More Info on the Bill and Contact Info for MPP Cheri DiNovo can be found here

    This Bill must pass 3 Readings.


    It`s going to be up to people outside of Ontario,Canada to force a repeal of Ontario`s BSL.
    Ontario`s Premier has made it very clear that he has no interest in facts.
    He has no respect for his own Citizens.
    He has no respect for the lives of innocent animals.
    Maybe he has respect for the almighty dollar or respect for the People who are prevented from moving to Ontario because of this ban.

    Write to the Minister of Tourism
    Hon. Michael Chan
    cc your letters to the following people
    Ted Arnott-Tourism Critic
    Paul Miller-Tourism Critic
    Cheri DiNovo-Sponsor of Bill 60 to repeal BSL

    Write to the Minister of Immigration
    Eric Hoskins
    cc your letters to the critic
    Cheri DiNovo who is also the Sponsor of Bill 60 to repeal BSL

    They must receive enough letters to make them sit up and take notice.

    Here are the facts in Ontario
    OVMA Testimony from before the 2005 Ban

    CHIRPP Bite Study and Canadian Fatalities are on NCRC site

    Ontario needs help now more than ever.

    Take a few minutes and write a polite letter.
    Some letter writing help if you need some

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