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Peter Worthington

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Racism, Doggie-Style

Posted: 03/12/2012 8:08 am

Ever since 2005, after a nasty dog attack on an individual, Ontario has legislated a ban on pit bulls, imposed in the name of public safety.

The issue has been a topic of debate ever since.

Critics call the law "canine racism" and say breed-specific legislation (BSL) is vague to the point that it's uncertain as to what constitutes a "pit bull."

Legislation identifies Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, and "a dog that has the appearance . . . substantially similar to any of those dogs" warrants being banned or killed.

Holy Mackinaw!

To put the above in human terms, that's akin to deciding guilt on the basis of appearance, not behaviour. To be brutally frank, Bill 132 is a Ku Klux Klan law.

Right now three MPPs -- a Liberal, Conservative and NDP -- have a private member's bill, Bill 16, to rescind the pit bull ban. Conservative Randy Hiller, co-sponsored by the NDP's Cheri DiNovo and Liberal Kim Craitor, want the "racist" aspects of the legislation repealed.

And they are right.

As in people, violent behaviour is an individual characteristic. Gone are the days (one hopes) when people are automatically assumed guilty because of their looks. Politicians apparently haven't reached that stage with dogs.

While I tend to identify with dogs (and most animals), I think people are nuts to have dogs that frighten other people as pets. Those who choose as companions dogs that are intimidating and make people uneasy, are themselves strange and probably not likely to encourage their dog to be non-threatening.

If a dog seems vicious by nature, it probably means the owner is at fault.

The trouble with pit bull types (any square-faced dog with big jaws) is that when they react, it's not a cocker spaniel nip, but a real bite. Adding to the problem is that these breeds have been bred for excessive courage and loyalty, which can make them dangerous.

And no one should want a dangerous dog as a pet.

Ontario went overboard a few years ago when passions blocked common sense and legislation was passed against pit bulls in hopes of protecting the public.

One doesn't dispute the motives, but one can deplore the results.

Prejudice against a specific breed doesn't enhance public safety.

It used to be Doberman Pinschers that had the reputation of being dangerous.

That's since faded. Until Rin Tin Tin became a movie star in the 1920s and 30s, German Shepherds were considered erratic and dangerous -- but have since been called the "Swiss Army knife" of police dogs because of their intelligence, versatility, and judgment.

Judged by its actions, Ontario's McGuinty government is curiously hostile to animals. It seems under the sway of The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), which took aim at the Toronto Humane Society (THS) at a time when the THS had reduced its kill rate to around seven per cent.

The OSPCA's euthanasia rate hovers in the 50 per cent range, and if Toronto Animal Services (TAS) statistics were known, their kill rate far exceeds its adoption rate.

The McGuinty government tends to ignore pleas that it investigate. Which is why one hopes when they get the chance, members of the Ontario legislature will close ranks and repeal the pit bull ban -- not because they particularly like pit bulls, but because they dislike discrimination and canine racism, and feel owners are largely responsible for the behaviour of their "pets."