“WE DON’T HAVE A PET PROBLEM, WE HAVE A PEOPLE PROBLEM“. We don’t punish breeds, we punish behavior. The bottom line is, we believe all dogs are capable of biting.” “It’s not controlling pets, it’s about holding people responsible for their pets.”
Bill Bruce, Director of Animal Services Calgary.
Calgary Creates a Model for Dealing with Dangerous Dogs
If I told you the solution to preventing dog bites was stronger dog control laws and better public education – you’d probably just smile and nod… Sure, good in theory right?
Calgary, Alberta has taken steps in enforcing tougher animal control bylaws, and guess what?
It’s working… And the City of Calgary has proof
Statistics are a truly interesting thing, and so easy to manipulate. They are used to support claims such as pit bull attacks have dropped by 25% since the breed ban – a statement made supporting the Winnipeg pit bull ban. The truth is, pit bulls accounted for fewer than 10% of recorded bites in Winnipeg – 28 of 310 in 1989. Over 45 major expert organizations (80% of the organizations that presented a case regarding the bill in Ontario) spoke out against the ban. Expert testimony showed that Husky, Shepherd, and Rottweiler type dogs are responsible for 65% of all Canadian dog bite fatalities over 20 year periods. The “pit bull” breeds identified in Bill 132 account for less than 5%. How much sense does it make to ban one type of dog, when statistics that encompass ALL dog bites show 95% of serious bites and fatalities result from other breeds and types of dogs. In fact, of the dogs listed on the “banned breed” list – one breed, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, has NO known attacks in Canada. The Bull Terrier, which is fairly close in size to a miniature poodle, is actually listed as one of the 10 best breeds for children by University researchers. England, France and Germany have not included this breed in the “pit bull” group – but Ontario has. This fact alone presents the question – are breed bans really based on based on proof of inherent danger?
In Winnipeg bites went up after the ban. Were the bites less severe? In 2003 a boy was killed by German Shepherds and last summer there were many vicious maulings by other breeds. Expert testimony points out that it is a myth that “pit bull” type dogs are unique in how they attack. Other breeds also have a bite and hold pattern. A bite and hold attack is not qualitatively more severe than a series of slashing bites typical for a breed like the German Shepherd.“Please, let’s not look at banning specific breeds of dogs. Let’s look at banning the irresponsible, dangerous owners who either train their dogs to attack or don’t train them in good behaviour. Put them in jail. Fine them as you would a drunk driver. Make our society aware that if their dog attacks, there will be serious consequences, not months and years of lawyers battling in the legal system. That’s what happened to us and that’s just not right.- Donna Trempe, whose daughter Courtney was killed by a Bull Mastiff in 1998. There is a better option, the Calgary model. It solves every problem identified in Ontario including the concerns about police safety when dealing with criminals who own large, powerful dogs. To achieve the same bite reduction in Winnipeg as was seen n Calgary 58% of ALL DOGS would need to be on the ban list. Calgary’s solution creates a model which allows animal control officers to intervene long before a first bite.
The Calgary Model
Calgary’s bylaw officers have taken a stand against breed banning, and responded to dog bite concerns with a tougher licensing program and stronger enforcement. The City of Calgary also spends considerable funds on dog safety public awareness and education campaigns. Research shows that just 1 hour of dog safety training in grades 2 and 3 can reduce these attacks by 80%. “We don’t punish breeds, we punish behavior,” said chief bylaw officer Bill Bruce. “The bottom line is, we believe all dogs are capable of biting.” In Calgary, 90 per cent of dogs are licensed, allowing bylaw officers to keep track of pets and owners. The city also has a strict fine structure that includes a $250 penalty for chase incidents and $350 fines for bites. The bylaw also allows the officers to declare specific dogs as “dangerous” and this label brings with it higher license fees, muzzling rules and age restrictions on the dog’s handlers. The bylaw states that a dog can only be destroyed by owner request or court order.
The county of Newell in Alberta received dozens of letters and e-mails from around the world from people who oppose breed restrictions, said deputy Reeve Jack Harbinson.”We decided after listening to the people, they were right,” he said.
The success of their actions? Approximately 1000 reported dog bites in 1985 and 260 reported dog bites in 2003.
Calgary’s dangerous dog legislation was implemented in response to the bite problem. Dangerous dog, not dangerous breed. The results speak for themselves – a 70% drop in the number of OVERALL dog bites. The measures Calgary has taken have shown results, and set a model and a precedent that should be implemented across Canada.
THIS is the model Ontario should be looking at.
Written by Dana Grove
TO SEE MORE ABOUT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS THAT WORK in Calgary. PLEASE CLICK on the links below
Bill Bruce visited Toronto this week, (September 2011) and the Toronto Star published an informative article on the Calgary Model. We recommend sending this article to you MPP.