THE CALGARY MODEL PROMOTES BREED NEUTRAL LEGISLATION, BUT DOES IT WORK?
In September 2016, four months after a fatal dog attack, the city of Montreal, Québec announced that all Pit Bull-type dogs would be monitored and, eventually banned.
Under the new laws, any dogs that matched the description of a Pit Bull-type would have to be registered, spayed or neutered, microchipped, must wear a muzzle in public and be kept on a short leash, and all owners must undergo a background check at their own expense; any new ownership of the dogs would not be allowed.
Montreal is following the Canadian province of Ontario and the city of Winnipeg by introducing breed-specific legislation.
The effectiveness of breed restriction is disputed everywhere it’s been tried, as it does not lead to a reduction in the number of bites. In Ireland for example, eleven breeds were banned in 1988’s ‘Control of Dogs Regulations‘, the incidence of dog bites has risen by more than 50% since then.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe state that,
Although some countries have adopted breed-specific measures, there is no scientific or statistic evidence to suggest that these effectively reduce the frequency or severity of injuries to people. To date, no scientific criteria have been identified by which it can be determined that a dog is dangerous by simply describing its racial or other physical parameters.
‘This is the beginning of the end of the reign of terror that Pit Bulls have wrought upon Ontarians for many, many years’, provincial Attorney-General Michael Bryant told reporters after introducing the province’s Pit Bull ban in 2005.
But it didn’t quite work out as intended. The number of bites from Pit Bull-type dogs declined because there were fewer dogs of that type, but the amount of bites overall was the same.
CALGARY REDUCED DOG ATTACKS WITHOUT BANNING BREEDS
In Calgary, several municipalities developed a plan around vicious dog behaviour — chasing, attacking, biting or injuring a person or animal — rather than specific breeds.
Calgary stands by its long-held decision to put the responsibility on the other end of the leash.
Calgary has been testing the theory since 2000, when it decided to shift from the standard “animal control” model to a “responsible pet owner” model.
I don’t support breed bans because they don’t work.
Said Bill Bruce, the former director of animal services for the city of Calgary, whose animal-control program is considered among the most effective in North America.
We have to get to the root of the problem, and that is that people must maintain control of their animals.
Forcing responsibility onto owners, educating the public on the importance of quickly dealing with problem dogs and ensuring pets are licensed led to a precipitous drop in the number of aggressive incidents.
The solution to reducing aggressive canine behaviour, city officials decided, was to approach owners while issues were still relatively minor and give them the tools to fix the problem.
Ban a breed and that type of owner will gravitate to the newest trend in intimidating or demonised dogs — in the 1960s, it was German Shepherds, in the ’70s it was Dobermans, followed by Rottweilers and then Pit Bulls. The latest move is toward larger breeds like Bullmastiffs and Cane Corsos.
We told owners that if you do four things: license your dogs, provide permanent identification through tags or microchips, sterilise them and provide training so they do not become a nuisance or threat, you can have as many pets as you want, any type of pet you want, and the government won’t be on your doorstep.
The fine in Calgary for having an unlicensed animal is $250, several times the cost of a license. Owners of dogs involved in attacks can be fined up to $10,000 and the dogs may be euthanised.
In 1985, Calgary recorded just over 2,000 aggressive dog incidents. In 2014, the city had 641 confirmed reports of aggression incidents, with 252 dog bites, despite increases in population and pet numbers.
Last year we spoke to the Australian government: they’re looking at putting in some breed-specific legislation.
BITES ARE UP IN CALGARY, BUT REPORTING HAS CHANGED
According to numbers released by officials in Calgary, there were 243 bites reported in 2015, nearly the same as 2014 when there were 244. That’s a jump from 2013 when there were 198.
There are two things that are going on, we’re really encouraging more people to report and we’re now looking at and including in-house bites, dogs that have injured people within their own home. Before, those stats weren’t calculated.
RULES COULD GET TOUGHER FOR CALGARY DOG OWNERS
The regulations could be changing for Calgary dog owners in an attempt to curb the growing trend of dog attacks, with five such incidents in as many days, all of which occurred in public areas like sidewalks and not in off-leash dog parks.
Animal and Bylaw Services said they’re considering changing the rules for owning certain breeds of dogs, because three of five recent attacks have involved Pit Bulls.
Alvin Murray, north operations manager for Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services said,
If you want to have a Pit Bull at home, you can, but I expect it will cost you much more for licensing, much more in the event there’s an attack like we’ve seen in the last few days.
In the Dover incident, a 14-year-old girl was attacked while she was walking to school. She suffered injuries to both of her legs and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.
But what makes the incident even worse is the fact that witnesses say the owner did nothing to stop the attack.
Calgary’s bylaw boss Ryan Jestin said he’ll urge city council to get tougher on owners of aggressive dogs. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s opposed to banning specific breeds, insisting that hasn’t worked in other jurisdictions, but added other measures could be taken.
“I’d be open to looking at stiffer penalties,” he said.
He fell short of calling for breed bans, but said some types of dogs like Pit Bulls seem more aggressive.
There’s a reason why the City of Toronto has banned them outright.
The problems caused by dangerous dogs will never be solved until dog owners appreciate that they are responsible for the actions of their animals.