Members of all parties support bill to end pit bull ban
TORONTO - Ontario's prohibition on pit bulls is unreasonable, unworkable and unfair, members of all parties in the legislature said Thursday as they passed a private member's bill urging the Liberals to lift the breed-specific ban.
Progressive Conservative Randy Hillier, who owns two dogs he said could be seized and destroyed under the Dog Owner's Liability Act, said the ban was introduced because of what he called a very few high profile dog attacks, mostly in the Toronto area.
"It was clear to everyone that the government of the day felt significant pressure to be seen to be doing something regardless if it was doing the right thing," Hillier told the legislature.
"Good public policy is driven by the interests of our constituents, by science and by evidence, not by media hysteria, nor bold headlines and slogans."
Pit bulls aren't really an identifiable breed, added Hillier, so the law only provides a physical description of dogs, that he said could be applied to many breeds.
The vague description of pit bulls in the legislation -- which speaks of broad shoulders, short hair and a wide forehead -- would apply to most of the male members of the legislature, said New Democrat Cheri DiNovo, a co-sponsor of Hillier's bill.
Pit bull bans are "ridiculous and cruel," she added, and have already been lifted in other provinces, many U.S. states and countries around the world.
"Everyone knows it's the deed, not the breed, that's the problem," said DiNovo.
"We know that German shepherds, we know that Labrador retrievers, we know that chihuahuas are as capable of biting, or more capable of biting, as so-called pit bulls."
Liberal Kim Craitor also called for the pit bull ban to be lifted, but his backbench colleague, David Zimmer, spoke passionately about the graphic images and medical reports the government viewed in 2005 as it was considering the pit bull ban.
"We saw photographs and looked at medical reports of children with their face torn off, adults -- men and women -- with the genitalia chewed off," Zimmer told the legislature.
Private member's bills rarely become law in Ontario, and with most Liberals voting against Hillier's initiative it is unlikely to be called for third and final reading, despite passing by a vote of 51 to 26.
In the end only three members of the minority Liberal government -- former cabinet minister Michael Colle, rookie Grant Crack and Craitor -- voted in favour of lifting the pit bull ban, along with all the Tories and New Democrats.
Ashley Thibault, one of about 100 pit bull owners who protested outside the legislature Thursday, said the ban has made life difficult for her and her pet Dot, a nine-year old pit bull.
"At least three or four times a day if I'm out with her I'm going to get some kind of bad reaction, and I've never wronged these people but for some reason they're right away my enemies," said Thibault.
"I have to find places that are private property and people agree that it's okay that she can be off leash and running, so it's just a lot harder to socialize her and get her to meet new people."