Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What does a pit bull look like?

HugABull opposes breed specific legislation (BSL) for many reasons. It punishes responsible owners - who follow laws and whose dogs don't bite - and not the irresponsible owners, who simply go further underground. It's expensive. There is no hard data to show that it works, whereas there is very promising data to show that dangerous dog legislation DOES work.

But it is the issue of identifying a pit bull that causes the most headache, and as a recent story in Ontario shows, the most heartache. The Bronco family in Brampton, Ontario chose to breed their boxer and bulldog, and found homes for two of the puppies nearby. Two years later, an animal control officer spied one of the dogs in its home, determined it resembled the "pit bull" banned in the province, and seized it.

None of the dogs in question have caused any trouble, shown aggression, or strayed off their property. Based only on the way they look, they have been taken from their family homes and now sit in a shelter. Their owners must decide whether to initiate legal action, see their dogs euthanized, or ship them out of the province for re-homing.

This story would be equally as tragic if the dogs in question were pit bulls, and indeed there are similar seizures happening all over Ontario. This story, however, truly illustrates the arbitrary nature of the "pit bull" label when paperwork, veterinarian testimonials, and parentage isn't enough to return good dogs to good homes.

Our hearts go out to Jersey and Rambo, who sit today in the concrete kennel of the shelter system while their warm beds at home are empty. And let's not forget that while the legal battles wage on, it is taxpayer money that pays for their upkeep, and valuable shelter space that cannot be allotted to a truly homeless animal.

We can only hope that they are able to return home soon, and this provides a little more momentum to the tide of public opinion against BSL.

A little more food for thought about visual identification issues:

Visual Identification of Pit Bull Mixes vs. DNA testing
National Canine Research Council

Spot the Pit Bull
Can you spot a pit bull amongst 24 other short haired, stocky breeds?