Dog owners gather to push for end to breed-specific laws

July 19, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Makayla Pereira

Last Saturday, July 13, many dog owners gathered in peaceful protest at Island Lake in support of the annual designated day to end breed specific legislation (BSL) around the world. 

The dog owners are asking for the Ontario government to repeal an existing law targeting pit bulls and replace it with breed neutral laws that enforce responsible dog ownership on all dog owners.

Ontario is home to the largest geographical ban on “Pitbull”-type dogs in the world. It has been 14 years since the government of the day established the breed specific law.

Emily Mallett, founder of United Paws and member of the Ontario Coalition Against BSL, said the current law targets any breed the law deems to be a type of pitbull, including three named breeds, the American Pitbull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier, but also says that any dog deemed substantially similar will also fall under the law. So any dog with a big blocky head, a muscular chest or muscular legs can fall under that description, “and by DNA that dog can be nothing like the breeds.”

Dog owners across Ontario are asking the government to treat all dogs and dog owners equally as the owners should all be held responsible for their animals. The biggest issue with BSL is that it is specific to the appearance of the dog, not its temperament or DNA.

“One of the biggest issues with BSL is trying to determine exactly what IS a ‘pit bull’ type dog. Because Pit Bull is not a recognized breed in itself, it has become a slang word, used like an umbrella term, to try to define dogs of certain physical characteristics (i.e. blocky head, broad chest, muscular legs). Regardless, no dog should be targeted by a label on their appearance. Discrimination is wrong. Period,” said Ms. Mallett

Ms. Mallett started her mission to end BSL many years ago. She mentions that many times in the past she would say “my dog is a Pitbull” and without knowing better she would use the umbrella term. However she quickly noticed the reaction she would receive from public.

She has been hosting the End BSL Walk for six years now; however, the global event has been in place for many more years.

It is from these reactions that set her on her mission that find out why the general public was afraid of her “Pitbull.” Her research led her to find out how many Pitbulls are abused and how they are the most common dogs abandoned and left at shelters.

“I found how much the dogs have suffered from people under this law so this really inspired me into action. And again I live with a very innocent fantastic dog and now we have another dog as well,” said Ms. Mallett, who went on to explain how her gentle dog will also sleep alongside her young daughter.

“We have two of these dogs who are seniors now, grandfathered under the law. They’re fantastic dogs, they have great temperament they’re very well behaved they’re very well trained. They’re socialized dogs and haven’t done anything wrong, but again in Ontario we have to be very careful with them and it’s just not fair.”

Another issue is that there are many myths and stereotypes which are scientifically not true or not accurate, but have caused the general public to develop a sense of fear of Pitbulls.

“More than half of the states in the U.S. have actually outlawed BSL because they’re seeing the statistic to prove both from a science based on the physiology of a dog but also the statistics on community safety, from hospital reports. They all prove that BSL is not working out as it was intended. It was presented as a means to evoke community safety and it doesn’t and its falsely appeasing the public and it’s saying, oh this type of dog is banned so all other dogs must be fine when that isn’t the case,” said Ms. Mallett

She explains she will not stop her peaceful protest until there is a change in the breed specific legislation and all dogs and all dog owners are treated with equal rights and held accountable for the actions of their animals.

“There is nothing more important to me than stressing the fact that all dogs are individuals, regardless of breed.”

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