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Dog owners relax after legal fight over breeds

By JIM MacDONALD

It was a merry Christmas in the Cameron household, now that the four-legged family members are no longer in the county illegally.

Just three days earlier, Marilyn and Willard Cameron of Country Harbour were cleared of all charges relating to owning a pit-bull type of dog that has been banned in the District of Guysborough for more than a decade.

The animals looked perfectly happy Monday afternoon as they ate pieces of turkey that fell to the floor, and were as playful as children with new toys.

"The dogs are like a couple of kids - they'll keep you awake half the night when they smell the turkey in the oven," Ms. Cameron said in her living room.

The cornerstone of the Cameron's legal issues the past couple of years has been Zeus, a 14-year-old mixed breed that was accused of being a pit bull.

The District of Guysborough banned pit bulls in 1995.

But "pit bull" is a breed that does not formally exist, Judge Robert Stroud noted during his ruling Friday in New Glasgow provincial court.

The bylaw is vague and overreaching, he said, and there were "difficulties from an enforcement point of view."

Fourteen-year- old Zeus lived in the county before the bylaw came into affect, but the bylaw did not have a grandfather clause that would have allowed pit bull-type dogs that lived in the municipality before then to remain.

That particular portion of the ruling confirmed the belief of Coun. Bradley MacLeod, the Camerons' elected representative and only member of council who supported the couple's fight to retain their pets.

At trial last month, a second case of owning a banned animal was dropped against the two, as the Crown did not proceed on allegations that their pup Sandy was also pit bull.

Mr. MacLeod, an advocate of the grandfather clause, didn't think it would be right to take a longtime pet away from its owners.

He adds that he'll raise the issue of what this case cost the municipality when council meets in the new year.

"I don't think it should have gone this far," he said. "There's other ways in dealing with this; I don't think it should have
gone where it did go."

Lawyer David Green worked pro bono for the Camerons.

Mr. MacLeod said the bylaw will have to be revamped, and suggests the court case should be viewed as a sign that council needs to review other bylaws, ensuring they are in accordance with the needs of constituents.

Ms. Cameron said she'll be buying tags for Zeus and Sandy for 2007, but is curious at to how the municipality will be viewing dogs in the next version of the bylaw.

"This discrimination against breeds is going to be done away with," she said. "Everybody is intimidated by big dogs, but as you know and I know, big dogs are just gentle and loving as little dogs.

"And some little ones can be just as vicious as the big ones if they want to."

http://thechronicleherald.ca/NovaScotia/549325.html

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