Toronto gets bit by its own anti-dog law, makes amendments

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TORONTO, CANADA – Toronto has amended its vicious dog bylaws after its 2005 ban on “pit bulls” has proven to be a failure for controlling vicious dog bites.

In 2005, Ontario passed a law designed to permanently remove pit bulls — and dogs that looked like them — from the province. It required that “pit bull terriers,” American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and American Pit Bull Terriers must be kept muzzled or leashed in public and sterilized within two months of the bill’s passage.

It also became illegal to import such dogs into the province, the dogs are often called, “pit bulls.”

“Over time, it will mean fewer pit bull attacks and, overall, fewer attacks by dangerous dogs,” then-attorney general Michael Bryant told the Ontario legislature in 2005.

Mr. Bryant’s optimism was wrong. Since the passage of the law, the numbers of dog bites in the province has nearly doubled.

“The current law isn’t working, and thankfully we’re getting the stats to back that up,” says Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo, an opponent of breed-specific bans. “Anybody who’s been on this issue for a long time knows that it’s a predictable failure.”

DiNovo favours a system more like Calgary’s, where officials avoided breed-based bans while promoting education of dog owners and children, combined with enforcement. Bites in Calgary have dropped dramatically since the mid-1980s.

Toronto City Council addressed the dangerous dog law on Wednesday and unanimously passed amendments to the city’s bylaw on dangerous dogs.

Toronto redefined a dangerous dog as a dog that has severely bitten a person or an animal, a dog that has multiple bites or attacks on record, or a dog that has been ordered muzzled.

A dog deemed a dangerous dog must be leashed in public, the dog’s owner must purchase a dangerous dog tag from the city, and the dog must be microchipped. Warning signs must also be posted on the owner’s property.

Other amendments are that no pet can be tethered for more than three hours, choke collars and chains are banned, and pets will not be allowed to remain outdoors during extreme weather unless they have access to an enclosure that will protect them from the elements.

The new by-law will take effect on March 1, 2017. Anyone found guilty of an offense under the new by-law could face fines of up to $100,000.