Owners of banned dogs renew call to repeal bylaw in Winnipeg
Recently tabled legislation that would outlaw certain dogs in Quebec prompted local dog owners to join in a “Global Solidarity Walk” on Saturday.
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Owners of illegal dogs normally keep a low profile to protect their pets, but a renewed call to repeal breed specific legislation (BSL) brought them out of the woodwork this weekend.
On Saturday, dog lovers in eight cities across Canada, with a few more in the UK and Germany, protested bans on dog breeds deemed dangerous, such as pit bulls, which have been outlawed in Winnipeg since 1990.
About 50 people joined Saturday’s walking rally, which took aim at legislation proposed in Qeuebec that, if passed, would give Canada the largest geographical coverage of BSL in the world, according to End BSL Manitoba founder, Jane Olijnek.
“We can’t allow Quebec’s bill to go through,” said Olijnek. “It will be the most horrendous thing to happen to our dogs.”
Last summer, a Montreal woman was mauled to death by a dog fist thought to be a pit bull, but later was identified as a boxer.
Olijnek said Quebec’s legislation is a “knee jerk” reaction, adding she feels BSL isn’t effective for protecting communities from dangerous dogs.
“Professionals cannot determine what breeds are in a dog—it can’t even really be done genetically,” said Olijnek, who believes any dog can be dangerous, and that legislation should instead focus on responsible ownership.
Under current Winnipeg bylaws—enacted after a series of pit bull attacks resulted in serious injuries—the American Pit Bull Terrier, The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier are banned within city limits.
After decades with the ban in place, a 2012 University of Manitoba study found a decrease in the number of hospitalizations caused by dog bites in the 16 regions in the province with BSL legislation.
But last year, the city still received 45 complaints related to prohibited dogs.
When a complaint is made, Animal Services makes their verdict based on the dog’s physical traits, according to a written statement from the city.
That leaves owners whose dog’s breed is ambiguous in “limbo land,” said Olijnek.
“We don’t know if they (Animal Services) want to take your dog or not,” she said, adding two of her own dogs could be considered illegal.
Because of the ambiguity, some dog owners are then “forced to live a secret life.
“They walk their dogs at night, walk them outside of the city where there is no BSL. They change their whole life to protect their family.”
Olijnek said the movement to end BSL is growing in Winnipeg and will soon have enough momentum to bring the issue to City Hall.