Welcome to Ontario, the first province in the country to ban sushi and pit bulls. Do you feel safer yet?
At least, in fairness to Attorney General Michael Bryant, the pit bull ban is in response to a demonstrable problem and widespread public complaint — unlike the silly order forcing sushi to be frozen (now mercifully under review).
But Bryant’s announcement Friday that the province will ban pit bulls is still bad policy, fraught with problems.
For months now, Bryant has referred to pit bulls as the “loaded weapons” of the dog world. So we’re not surprised by his typically Liberal solution — essentially, a registry.
New pit bulls will be banned from the province, but people who now have them will be allowed to keep them for the life of the dog — if they register, neuter and muzzle them.
Yeah, that’ll work. We’re sure all those drug-dealer types who’ve purposely trained their pit bulls to be vicious will rush out and comply. And they won’t try to smuggle in dogs, breed them illegally or turn to other breeds, oh no.
Instead, law-abiding, responsible owners whose dogs are well-bred and trained will be punished for the sins of a few.
That said, Bryant’s bill does contain sensible measures. It imposes tough fines of up to $10,000 and even possible jail time (up to six months) for owners of any dangerous dog that bites, attacks or poses a public safety risk. This is smarter policy, along the lines of Edmonton’s vicious dog bylaw, and — if enforced — poses a strong deterrent to irresponsible and criminal pet owners.
Enforcement, though, is crucial to any dog law.
As it happened, the same day as Bryant’s announcement, an Ontario court ruled on the case of Bandit, the dog who was ordered destroyed a year ago for attacking a toddler. The case underlines two glaring problems with the new law:
First, Bandit is half pit bull, half Labrador. Would crossbreeds be banned? What’s more, the designation “pit bull” is not an actual recognized breed, but covers several breeds. We’ve yet to comprehend how Bryant will police this.
Second, although Bandit was ordered destroyed over a year ago, the Toronto Humane Society, which took him in, refused to do the deed. Where’s the enforcement? (The Ontario court upheld the dog’s death sentence Friday.)
We sympathize greatly with all the victims of horrific pit bull attacks, and share their desire for a safer community. But we fail to see how Bryant’s ban provides a reliable solution. The Ontario Veterinary Medical association, among other critics, shares our concerns.
Maybe the Liberals can try feeding sushi to the pit bulls and take care of both problems. It makes about as much sense as they do.