500 DOGS KILLED IN PIT BULL BAN'S WAKE
Humane Society says city's too quick in putting down dogs
By ZEN RURYK, CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
The city has put down 500 pit bulls and other similar dogs since the province targeted the canines in a tougher provincial law that took affect 16 months ago.
Toronto animal control officials report a 13% increase in the number of pit bulls -- and other dogs of similar breeds -- that have been destroyed when comparing the 16-month periods following and prior to the changes to the Dog Owners' Liability Act on Aug. 29, 2005.
The city euthanized 441 pit bull-type canines -- 59 fewer -- during the 16 months before the law took affect.
"It's significant enough -- certainly to those 59 dogs," said Eletta Purdy, manager of Toronto Animal Services.
She added yesterday that the increase is likely due to provisions that prevent animal officials from putting up banned pit bulls for adoption.
The legislation bans ownership of pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers and any other dog that possesses characteristics of those singled out on the list.
However, exemptions are granted if someone in Ontario owned one of the targeted dogs at the time the law was enacted. Animal control officials cannot put dogs up for adoption if they do not qualify for an exemption to an ownership ban.
Purdy said she doesn't know whether the legislation' s anti-pit bull provisions have made Toronto a safer place.
"I don't know that pit bulls, per se, were the main issue as far as dealing with dog bites and attacks," she said. "I think the issue was mainly having to do with specific dogs and their behaviour as opposed to a breed group."
Animal control is now determining the number of pit bull attacks on humans that have occurred since the legislation came into force.
Purdy said the law does have measures that allow animal control to better deal with menacing dogs in general.
Lee Oliver, of the Toronto Humane Society, which opposes the breed-specific ban, said he believes those enforcing the legislation in Ontario are too quick to put down the dogs.
"If people will slow down and pay attention, we don't have to be euthanizing all these dogs," he added.
Oliver said that when there's doubt, animal control officials are destroying pit bulls instead of asking questions.
Of the 122 dogs up for adoption at the Toronto Humane Society yesterday, 50 of the pit bulls had had owners.
FACTS SINCE THE LEGISLATION TOOK EFFECT
City animal control officials have euthanized 500 pit bulls and other similar dogs since new provincial legislation kicked in August 2005:
- 122 of the euthanized animals were put down at the request of an owner.
- Concerns about temperament or behaviour prompted the euthanization of 107 of the animals.
- The courts ordered eight to be destroyed.
- Another 195 were put down because they were banned -- no evidence someone owned them prior to the implementation of the law.
- 26 for health reasons.
- 42 were euthanized for other reasons.
- The city estimates there are 250,000 dogs in Toronto. Dog owners have purchased licences for 24,267 pets. Of that total, 1,185 of the licences are for pit bulls and dogs of similar breeds.
- Animal control officers have laid 137 charges against owners since the new legislation came into force in connection with 93 pit bull-related complaints.
- Changes to the Dog Owners' Liability Act ban people from owning pit bulls, Straffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers or any other dog that has the characteristics of those.
- Those who continue to own pit bulls must abide by regulations that require they be sterilized and leashed and muzzled in public.