Tag Archives: Breed specific legislation

The Case For Breed Specific Legislation In Montreal

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The Case For Breed Specific Legislation In Montreal

In 2016 on the Toronto beaches, a woman and her pit bull/mastiff cross dog were attacked by a pit bull urged on by a man who wanted to see the two dogs fight. Technically both dogs should have been muzzled under the Dog Owners Liability Act in Ontario. The aggressor took off with his dog leaving the woman to deal with her injuries. (Photo Global News) http://globalnews.ca/news/2796014/toronto-dog-owner-randomly-attacked-by-pit-bull-at-woodbine-beach/

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In the last two years,  nearly 20 people and animals were injured or killed by pit bull type dogs in the province of Quebec.  Pit bull type dogs have inflicted a disproportionate number of serious bites and maulings to people, pets and livestock.  Multiple sources – independent, retrospective and/or longitudinal studies available on National Institute of Health databases, opinions of reconstructive surgeons, epidemiologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, insurance companies, and trauma units all arrive at the same conclusions.

The debates occurring as a result of the BSL legislation passed in Montreal and Quebec might lead the casual observer to conclude that the ban (but apparently not the maulings) is the greatest social problem in the entirety of the province.  In reality, the requirements of the ban are not unreasonable; the Montreal and Quebec legislation still guarantees rights of current pit bull owners provided they adhere to the licensing, muzzling, neuter/spay, and leash regulations. Opponents to Montreal’s BSL regs usually cite the “Calgary Model” as the ideal success story of responsible dog ownership – a model they believe that Montreal councilors should have implemented instead.  Calgary may not have banned pit bulls outright, but the program is not a sweeping success. Even with a potential $10,000 fine, serious dog bites continued to increase in the city.

Rafah Bakour of Calgary in a family photo. She was attacked by a pit bull while walking. The attack is categorized as a Level 5, just below the most severe type — Level 6 — which results in death. Even if the dog owner receives a maximum fine of $10,000 under the Calgary system, that money will not go towards Bakour’s injuries and will not indemnify her.

Before his retirement, Head of Bylaw Services (which includes animal control) Bill Bruce became well known for Calgary’s pet management “success.”  Indeed, there were many positive aspects of the model and pet registration itself was phenomenally successfully relative to registration rates elsewhere.  Bruce however, maintained that in other jurisdictions breed bans did not reduce “the overall number of bites in the community.” If he were actually expecting to reduce bites, Bruce would have to ban all dogs, since all dogs of all sizes and breeds will bite and this fact is not in dispute.  Breed bans cannot stop all bites and are not designed to – the goal is to reduce the most statistically significant bites – maulings and fatalities, while balancing the rights of other people and animal owners for relative safety.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin is referenced in the Calgary SPCA Report in their 6 level bite system.

In 2004, the last full year before BSL was implemented in Ontario, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in the city and 168 reported bites. By comparison, in 2013 there were 501 pit bulls registered in Toronto, and just 13 bites. Yet in Calgary, the numbers show the real failure of the system – dog attacks in Calgary went from 58 in 2009 to 201 in 2014, a disproportionate number of them by pit bulls. Most concerning of all is that the severity of bites has increased – in Calgary in 2014, there were 244 dog bites of a Level 3 severity or higher. This is an increase over 2013, when 198 bites were reported at, or exceeding, Level 3.

Bill Bruce also had a serious conflict of interest while at Bylaw Services – he was an advisor to the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), an American lobby group that is funded by the Animal Farm Foundation, who promote the concept of a pit bull in every home, over and above any other breed of dog. The fact that Bruce was aligned with the NCRC means that pit bulls would very likely receive favourable and preferential treatment over people, other pets, and livestock while he was in charge.

 

Bruce’s successor, Ryan Jeslin, Calgary’s current director of Animal and Bylaw Services had a different view of the animal control model he inherited:

“I’m very concerned about pit bulls and Rottweilers. There’s a history, there’s a reason why places like the city of Toronto have banned them outright,”  After a series of attacks by pit bull type dogs in 2015,  Jeslin went on to say, “The evidence clearly here is about pit bulls. That specific breed has caused real damage over the last five days.”

Except for the focus on pit bull type dogs,  there are actually many commonalities between the Montreal/Quebec legislation and recommendations for safer communities proposed by SPCAs:

Key Points in the Montreal and Quebec  Bylaw/Bill

Montreal: By-Law 16-060

“Pit bull-type dog” is defined as being:

  • a dog belonging to the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier race [breed];
  • a dog born of a crossbreeding between one of the races [breeds] mentioned in paragraph (1) and another dog;
  • a dog showing several morphological traits of the races [breeds] and types of crossbreeding listed in paragraphs (1) and (2)

Licenses will be issued for Pit bull-type dogs if the following conditions are met:

No it isn’t “dog racism.” This is a straw man argument. Dogs have historically been bred for different functions desired by man.
Despite the escalation of deaths and maulings, legislators are being bullied by advocacy groups into protecting the “breed” rights as opposed to public safety.
People discriminate against breeds all the time when choosing one type of dog over another.

  • the first application is filed before December 31, 2016
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has been sterilized or a written opinion from a veterinary surgeon establishing that the animal cannot be sterilized;
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies and  proof of follow-ups, as applicable, at the city’s request;
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has a microchip;
  • the applicant provides a certificate of negative search of a criminal record or, in the case of a certificate of positive search of a criminal record, a certificate issued by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal confirming that the applicant has not  been declared guilty, in the five years prior to the date of filing or renewal of the licence application, of an offence under a provision listed in schedule 1 of this by-law;
  • the applicant is 18 years of age or older;
  • the applicant provides a document indicating that:
    • at the date of coming into force of this by-law, the applicant was the owner of the dog referred to in this application;
    • the applicant is a resident of a city borough where, under the by-laws applicable up until the date of coming into force of this by-law, it was possible to obtain a licence to keep a Pit bull-type dog

When outside, the dog guardians must ensure that the dogs are:

  • Muzzled at all times
  • Kept on a leash no longer than 1.25m, except in an exercise area or in an area closed off by a fence at least 2 m high
  • Under the supervision of a person 18 years of age or older
  • Displaying the tag issued by the city with the special licence

Charges for offences range from $300 to $4000.

Quebec Bill 128 – An Act to Promote the Protection of Persons by Establishing a Framework with Regard to Dogs. 

The Bill makes it obligatory for veterinarians to report dog related injuries.Veterinary surgeons are also required to report, to the municipality concerned, any dog that they have reasonable cause to believe constitutes a risk for public health or safety. In cases where a dog has inflicted injury on a person, physicians are required to report the fact to the local municipality concerned without delay, and communicate the seriousness of the injury and, if known, the breed or type of dog that inflicted it. The local municipality may also declare a dog that has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal and inflicted injury potentially dangerous

Dangerous dogs:

In the case of a dog that has bitten or attacked a person and caused death or serious injury, the local municipality must order the dog’s owner or custodian to have the dog euthanized.

Dogs that are deemed to be potentially dangerous:

(1) pit bulls, including American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers;

(2) Rottweilers;

(3) a crossbreed of a dog listed in paragraph 1 or 2 and another dog;

(4) hybrid dogs that are a cross between a dog and a canid other than a dog; and

(5) dogs trained to protect, guard, fight or attack

 

For more detail, please read:

 

Montreal BSL

 

 

Quebec Bill 128

 

 

With a few exceptions, BSL in Montreal satisfies these requirements.  The Quebec Bill 128 also makes it mandatory for veterinarians to report dog bites that are a concern for public safety. Doctors must also report appropriately. And if BSL is too expensive, why are these proposals, many of which require a level of government to administer, considered more cost-effective?

 

The catalyst for the Montreal and Quebec legislation seems to lie with Franklin Junior Frontal’s aptly named dog “Lucifer” – a dog he had owned since puppyhood – a dog who ultimately

Photo and caption from the “Muzzle-Up Project” on Facebook.
“Would you rather kill me than see me like this?
My mum had someone tell her they would rather put a bullet in their dog’s head than put a muzzle on them. That upset my mum a lot. Do I look unhappy? Do I look like I’m lacking anything in life? Wearing a muzzle allows me to experience more of life. It helps me feel more confident, it helps my mum feel less stressed, and allows people to pat and cuddle me without anyone worrying that I might bite them.
Wearing a muzzle doesn’t make a dog a bad dog. It might mean they’ve made a mistake, or they might make a mistake if others don’t listen and push them over their limits. Wearing a muzzle means they have a responsible owner who is committed to preventing accidents and worse case scenarios.
If only people were less ignorant, their dogs could live better lives.”

killed Montreal resident Christiane Vadnais in 2016.  According to his lawyer, Frontal had approached the SPCA in the past  for help in dealing with the dog’s aggression and behavior problems.  Pit bull activists have long questioned whether the dog that killed Vadnais was in fact a pit bull, because it had been registered as a boxer. Despite these claims, a veterinarian confirmed that the dog that attacked and killed the victim was indeed a pit bull and not a boxer.

Public health decisions are not always made on the basis of the number of people negatively impacted.  The population in question can be large as the inhabitants of several continents (as in the case of a pandemic) or as small as a few individuals.   For instance, over 2 million baby cribs were recalled in 2009 after “only” 4 infant deaths.  BSL demands a phase-out of breeding and importation, and the dogs must be on a short leash and muzzled when appearing in public. These are reasonable, logical and ethical measures and not entirely dissimilar from what the Montreal SPCA has proposed as an “alternative” to BSL.

People who care about dogs won’t care that they can’t import or breed more pit bulls.  They can go to the shelter, Petfinder, or many other rescues on Facebook and choose to help a dog that is sitting on death row, which is far more ethical than breeding or importing (and ultimately euthanizing) more prohibited dogs into the province.

Accused of second degree murder, this Hamilton, Ontario resident who is a self-acknowledged former dog fighter, is shown with a pit bull, a banned dog in Ontario. Under Montreal’s BSL by-law, anyone convicted of a criminal offence within the 5 year period preceeding the license application would not be granted a license for a pit bull type dog. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/hamilton-man-facing-murder-charge-held-in-custody-1.3510601
The accused was also quoted about pit bulls in this 2013 article – http://m.thespec.com/news-story/4026540-a-breed-apart-banned-pit-bulls-are-still-around

 

Fact-Checking The Fact-Checkers On Breed Specific Legislation – How Snopes Left Out Crucial Information

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Fact-Checking The Fact-Checkers On Breed Specific Legislation – How Snopes Left Out Crucial Information

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

You might not be aware that Snopes is one of the oldest websites around, and one of the original ways skeptics would meet online and discuss their skepticism way before social media existed. It ran on Usenet, which was rather like a hybrid of email and a web forum. Snopes is usually pretty reliable in its debunking so long as the writers are not called upon to make a determination about a website that is beyond their expertise or is highly nuanced. But they don’t always nail their arguments and they don’t get a pass just because they’re Snopes – they are not immune to being critiqued.

In October, Snopes author Brooke Binkowski disputed the effectiveness of Breed Specific Legislation in the US and Canada. Binkowski exhorted Snopes readers to accept that her “deep research” is the result of rational objective examination – something she vigorously defends on her professional Facebook page, yet it hardly begins with any sort of “null hypothesis” about BSL.  Her credibility in this particular piece of writing is called in question both by her use of source materials and her unfiltered admonishment of posters who disagree with her as “mentally ill” or “paranoid” on her Facebook page.  Ms. Binkowski relied heavily on the debunked pit bull propaganda mill, the National Canine Research Council and her conclusions are at odds with many other published studies.

Unpacking the Problems With the Snopes Article

1. The Use Of Questionable Sources Or Debunked Source Material

Ms. Binkowski didn’t expand her search or chose to ignore many other published studies in the US National Institute of Health database and elsewhere, and cited several source documents in her analysis that were later debunked.

Binkowski relied upon the work of the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), the same group referenced by the Ordre des médecins vétérinaire du Québec (OMVQ) when appealing Montreal’s BSL legislation earlier this year.

It was subsequently revealed by La Presse journalist Marie-Claude Malboeuf that five of the roughly 50 studies cited in the report by the OMVQ were financed by American pit bull lobbyists (the NCRC) and that the data they used was problematic. At the same time, the Order of Veterinarians listed four recent medical studies on the gravity of injuries suffered from dog attacks, but downplayed the role of pit bulls. La Presse reported that the OMVQ report also emphasized that shelters are concerned for “their structure and already precarious financial health” if the Montreal bylaw were to proceed. However, these concerns should never supercede those of public health.  Public policy is not always based solely on the frequency of an event.  For example, a recall of children’s car seats or faulty ignition switches in vehicles may be based in a small number of deaths over a years’ long period.

The 5-part La Presse investigation, now translated into English, also shows that the OMVQ report cited studies that gave the impression of being “scientific and objective” when in fact they had been funded by the not-at-all objective American pit bull lobby.  To get an expert opinion of the OVMQ report, Malboeuf gave it to McGill University professor emeritus Dr. Barry Pless, a professor of Paediatrics, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics, and the Director of the Injury Prevention Program at Montreal Children’s Hospital among other achievements.  Said Pless“doing studies that are primarily intended to prevent the adoption of laws, without declaring conflicts of interest, is the strategy employed by the gun lobby and the tobacco lobby.”

The Order’s President now says he recognizes those studies should have been excluded or properly nuanced.  The use of paid-for research by the OMVQ represents a lack of scientific rigeur and transparency on their part, and at worst, is a serious conflict of interest.

La Presse spells out the players of the American Pit Bull Lobby. They divide it into 5 levels and explain the often overlapping relationships:

Five Levels of the Pit Bull Lobby

  • Level 1: The financing source. Animal Farm Foundation (AFF), owned by Jane Berkey. The company’s motto is: “Securing equal treatment and opportunity for pit bull dogs.” AFF devotes itself entirely to fighting pit bull regulations. “After inheriting a fortune from her father, Jane Berkey, who also owns a literary agency, turned over at least $6 million to her group, $2.85 million in 2013, according to government records. She pays 9 employees (one of whom, the director, makes more than $100,000 a year) and finances numerous groups that share her philosophy,” La Presse reports.
  • Level 2: The researchers. “To produce studies, AFF bought a private research body in 2007. The acquisition was kept secret until the victims’ group Dogsbite discovered this during litigation. The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) was created by a veterinary technician, Karen Delise. Neither an academic researcher nor a veterinarian, she self proclaims as the ‘greatest national expert on deaths caused by dog bites,’” La Presse reports. NCRC co-authors and finances studies, like the ones cited by the OMVQ, which chiefly attempt to show pit bulls cannot be identified.
  • Level 3: Publication. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). “The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes NCRC studies in its journal. On its own website it proposes sample letters [for readers to write] contesting any law aimed at pit bulls. Moreover, its site has a link to AFF,” La Presse reports. The journalist even points out the AVMA’s notice on the embargoed 2000 fatal dog attack study, which falsely and fraudulently states: “In contrast to what has been reported in the news media, the data contained within this report CANNOT be used to infer any breed-specific risk for dog bite fatalities.”
  • Level 4: The political lobby. Best Friends Animal Society. Their senior legislative analyst, Ledy VanKavage, drafts state-level bills to eliminate local pit bull ordinances (state preemption laws) and is also a board member of AFF. VanKavage boasts on Best Friends’ corporate website that she commissioned an ex-economist from the tobacco industry, John Dunham, to create a fiscal calculator designed to advise governments on the cost of breed banning. Dunham’s sham BSL calculator, financed by the NCRC, over exaggerates these costs by nearly two orders of magnitude.
  • Level 5: The distributors. The animal care industry. “All the lobby studies are abundantly distributed by animal-based companies like shelters, breeders, trainers, etc. In Montreal, they are [distributed] by, amongst others, the SPCA, whose mission is to avoid euthanizing dogs and whose two most senior executives are themselves owners of pit bulls,” states La Presse. “On social media, pit bull owners deploy these studies relentlessly and accuse all their opponents of ignorance,” La Presse reports. More aggressive ones have even threatened the mayor of Québec City with death.

The methodology and conclusions behind the NCRC’s study “Preventable Factors Associated with Dog Bite-Related Fatalities” was also called into question by two members of the Department of Comparative Pathobiology at Purdue University, in a letter to the editor of the AVMA journals, published July 1, 2014:

“For instance, where the NCRC clearly knew what breeds were involved, they did not disclose same.  They also classified dogs as “resident” or “family” dogs without explaining what that meant.  They did not state how much time a dog had to be kept outside in order for it to be considered a “resident” dog. How was it possible for the researchers to determine, by any means, what the dog’s status was? The assumption is that when the NCRC knew what breeds were involved in fatalities they simply declined to disclose that information, and invented new characterizations (resident vs family dog) in an attempt to further confound the findings and minimize the number of fatalities caused by dogs that were actually determined to be “pit bulls.”

The NCRC reported that “Most DBRFs were characterized by coincident, preventable factors; breed was not one of these.”  Since their report provided no data to support the conclusion, the Purdue University professors questioned the findings of the NCRC report since it conflicted with other studies that showed a correlation between the passage of BSL and a reduction in dog bite injuries. The Purdue professors were also not fooled by the statement that “dog bite-fatalities are exceedingly rare” either.

At several points in the NCRC narrative it is reiterated that child safety education and practices were one of the key factors in preventing dog bites.  There is no doubt that this is an important consideration for parents, and there is really no downside to educational efforts. But a study in the Cochrane Report on the effect of the role of education in preventing dog bite injuries in children and adolescents concluded that, due to a lack of evidence, education should not be the only public health strategy to reduce dog bites and their dramatic consequences.  (The Cochrane Report articles combine the results of research papers, while pointing out weaknesses in experimental design or quality – very useful for contradicting the standard pseudoscience retort. The Cochrane Report gives weight to properly designed studies and less to weaker ones.)

The naming of the “National Canine Research Council” itself may also be an attempt to capitalize on the legitimacy of the National Research Council, an American non-profit NGO that shapes policies, informs public opinion, and advances the pursuit of science.  Capitalizing on the name association with other more established groups appears to be standard operating procedure for the NCRC,  who also  purchased (or had purchased on their behalf) the top-level domain “dogsbite.com” for $11,000 to try to capture some of the bandwidth of the legitimate group Dogsbite.org.   (Dogsbite.com redirects to the website of the NCRC and this “cybersquatting” resulted in a domain name dispute) Both DNASalePrice and NameBio confirm this spend.  Why would self-described professional “think tank” researchers have a need  to cybersquat on an established internet domain?  Can they not generate enough traffic to their website through the legitimacy of their own “research?”

 

2. Omission Of Studies That Support BSL And Implicate Pit Bull Phenotypes In Serious Dog Attacks

A review of the Pubmed database provides the following evidence-based studies that suggest that a majority of dog bite hospitalizations are attributed to pit bull phenotypes, often after analyses of decades worth of data.  Had Ms. Binkowski included these in her analysis, I believe she would have been compelled to revisit her conclusion in Snopes:

Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalisations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba

Ocular Trauma From Dog Bites: Characterization, Associations, and Treatment Patterns at a Regional Level I Trauma Center Over 11 Years

Morbidity of pediatric dog bites: A case series at a level one pediatric trauma center

Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998

Fatal dog attacks, 1989-1994

Dog bite-related fatalities: a 15 year review of Kentucky Medical Examiner cases

Fatal dog attacks in Canada, 1990 – 2007  (Includes references to bite incidents that immediately preceded the implementation of BSL in Ontario)

Mortality,  Mauling,  and Maiming by Vicious Dogs

Dog Bites in Urban Children

Dog Bites of the Head and Neck

Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog bite injury

Periorbital trauma from pit bull terrier attacks

Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution

I can’t explain why articles and studies that favoured pit bulls featured so predominantly in Ms. Binkowski’s research, but somehow she did not locate or decided not to include information freely available using  in-depth knowledge tools for reporters, such as Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search, the Pubmed open-access library, Social Science Research Network, or the Cochrane Report.  Unless of course she intended to come up with an hypothesis and then set to work proving it right.  But without confirmation bias, many theories would fall apart.

 

3.  Failure To Distinguish Between Dog Bites Vs. Maulings

Ms. Binkowski is not the first reporter/journalist to fail to make a distinction between a dog bite and a mauling. While a bite by the oft-mentioned scapegoat the chihuahua may require stitches, a bite from a pit bull type dog will more than likely require that, plus plastic reconstructive surgery or oral/maxillofacial surgery in order to make the victim “whole” again. Most dogs respect protocols in behaviour when they fight, which includes a lot of posturing and growling, and usually very little biting – if there is biting most dogs practice bite inhibition – they bite once and then release, possibly not even puncturing the skin, retreating to protect themselves. There is almost never a fight to the death between most breeds of dogs.

Reducing dog bites overall is not something that BSL or the Dog Owners Liability Act in Ontario has ever set out to accomplish, indeed, it would be impossible.  No law that seeks to protect the public can ever eliminate all risks.  The aims of the DOLA were to reduce serious maulings and fatalities by banning or muzzling the breeds statistically most likely to be responsible. But any law that is enforced will be effective and mandatory muzzling, required in Ontario for pit bull phenotypes, would have prevented the following recent attacks if only it were consistently observed and applied:

A dog was shot dead by police after it grabbed a child by the throat and inflicted several bites during an attack (May 2016)

Two dogs were shot and killed after they attacked a man and woman in Ottawa’s east end. “The dogs were going in, they were biting, they were shaking the person. The person on the ground was very bloodied…[The dogs] were just relentless,” (August 2016)

Toronto Police shot and killed a pit bull “when it attacked a shih tzu and held the small dog down with a “locked-jaw grip,” police said. The policeman was hitting the dog so hard with his baton that it flung out of his hands but the pit bull would not let go. Police shot the dog twice in the leg and when it still didn’t release the shih tzu, they shot it in the head.” (September 2014)

 

4. Accusations That BSL Is Really A Form Of Covert Racism

pit-bull-lovers-quotes

Some of the most offensive and racially-derived posts come from pit bull aficionados themselves. Repeated references are often made to minorities as being comparable to dogs, as if the pit bull advocacy movement really believes their challenges are comparable to that of minority groups. At the same time, they often diminish or mock dog bite victims. Source 1 – https://heatherclemenceau.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/shana-expresses-her-disgust. and Source 2 – https://heatherclemenceau.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/jacqueline-tries-to-help.jpg

Binkowski mentions “racial parameters” in dogs when what she really means are morphological characteristics (because there are no races of dogs).  For a long time now, the pit bull advocacy movement has attempted to parlay BSL and discernment towards pit bull dogs as “canine racism” or overt racism.  With the Snopes article and a recent Washington Post article that echoed that theme, they’ve now carried that forward and attempted to show that BSL has been implemented to keep “undesireables” at bay. The cries of “racism” are further evidence that the pit bull advocacy movement are desperate to shift the blame for BSL on the cities or towns who express objections to bully breeds.  The goal is to further the cause of pit bulls as a social justice issue (while simultaneously ignoring victim issues).  Accusations of racism are intended to shame and squelch dissent and reasonable debate.

Looking into the data on breed bans turns up an interesting finding: each region that has enacted breed-specific legislation of some sort appears to have also experienced significant, if not dramatic demographic changes over a relatively short period of time.”  ~ Brooke Binkowski

The most recent available online Statscan report (2011) reveals that 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a member of a visible minority group in Canada. They represented 19.1% of the total

Fifth wave immigration since the 1970s has changed from the european demographic to that of visible minorities from the developing world. This was largely influenced in 1976 when the Immigration Act was revised and this continued to be official government policy. There was no sudden and singular immigration policy or event that triggered Ontario's 2005 Dog Owner's Liability Act as is suggested in the Snopes article.

Fifth wave immigration since the 1970s has changed from the European demographic to that of visible minorities from the developing world. This was largely influenced in 1976 when the Immigration Act was revised and this continued to be official government policy. There was no sudden and singular immigration policy or event that triggered Ontario’s 2005 Dog Owner’s Liability Act as is suggested in the Snopes article.

population. Of these visible minorities, 30.9% were born in Canada and 65.1% were born outside the country and came to live in Canada as immigrants. The vast majority of the foreign-born population lived in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta.  Since the 1960s, our immigration has steadily increased, but there is no single event that can accurately be described as a “significant, if not dramatic demographic change.”  Creating BSL as a means to racially oppress 20% of the Canadian population, only some of whom might actually own a pit bull type dog, is just laughable. Binkowski no doubt assumed that the overt racism seen across mainstream America during the current electoral process could also be (mis)applied to Canada with broad strokes.

The real reason for implementing BSL in Ontario was due to a number of serious bites immediately preceding 2005 (the year it became effective). Dog attacks were also the reason the First Nations community of Membertou in Cape Breton implemented a pit bull ban immediately after a pit bull attacked an elder and her grandchild, which coincided with “several other instances of close calls.”

From the Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act:

In nonfatal aggressive incidents, the pit bull did rank highest in 2000 and 2001 (2.84 bite incidents per 100 licensed dogs of this breed type) in 1 Canadian municipality (Edmonton, Alberta). Other breeds that followed in this municipality included the rottweiler (1.60 bite incidents per 100 licensed), Akita (1.52), mastiff (1.47), Dalmatian (1.40), and Great Dane (1.21).”

In 2004, the last full year before the ban, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in Toronto and 168 reported bites. In 2013 there were 501 pit bulls registered in the city, and just 13 bites, according to a Toronto Star investigation.

The Ottawa Citizen has reported that:

“Most of the dogs Ottawa bylaw officers have sought to have destroyed as dangerous have been pit bulls, according to statistics released by the city. The city has initiated 10 prosecutions against owners who allegedly let their dogs bite another person or pet since the Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act was passed in 2005. Seven of the dogs were pit bull types.”

 

5. Snopes Conclusion At-Odds With Competing Debunkers

politifact-imageFinally, Binkowski’s conclusion about BSL is at odds with that of rival fact-checking website Politifact, who found the statement that pit bulls were inordinantly dangerous to be “mostly true.”

“The past studies and research we’ve reviewed shows pit bulls are among the most aggressive dogs. Some breeds, however, have been shown to be more aggressive in each report.  However, the widely held perception is that they are dangerous, which was Boyer’s over-arching point. An Associated Press poll done in October found of the dog owners who would support breed bans, 85 percent would outlaw pit bulls.”

6.  Snopes Conclusion Not Researched In Accordance With The International Fact-Checking Network Declaration It Signed

Snopes,  as a signatory, clearly did not use the same standard of care for this article as they normally do  for every other fact check. There is a built-in bias if the writer of the article does indeed own a pit bull as has been suggested on social media sites – is this Binkowski posting about pit bulls on Live Journal in 2012?  If so,  it’s very illustrative of a pre-existing bias. Snopes needs to follow the code and recall this article.

 

Summation

It’s very tiring to read of shady attempts to distort the facts. Common sense would tell you that bans on breed restrictions have everything to do with the safety of the public at large and nothing to do with the race, class and ethnicity of the people who own those dogs since the law is applied to everyone.   It is also morally bereft to claim that it’s OK to patch up people after-the-fact when an attack has a chance to be prevented in the first place. Making a person “whole” again after an attack isn’t nearly as positive as preventing the attack altogether. BSL cannot prevent all dog attacks but it is designed to prevent the worst sort of maulings by dogs with the greatest propensity to commit them.

Binkowski cites the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the American Bar Association, AVMA,  HSUS, the ASPCA, and the Toronto Humane Society, among other lesser known references and publications.  In addition to those aforementioned groups, Best Friends, the AKC, Bad Rap, Pit Bull Rescue Central, and various other Humane Societies are all lobbying partners of professional pit bull advocacy.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is a professional group; sometimes its journal publishes articles with scientific intent. Other times it publishes articles that are intended to protect financial interests of its members — and in those cases, its “peer review” is done by hand-picked “peers” who will reject anything that doesn’t support a purely political position the AVMA or other self-interested groups are protecting.  None of these groups or the NCRC/Animal Farm Foundation are qualified to comment on the effectiveness of BSL or the impact to society of dog bites, which are a public health issue and are the purview of epidemiologists and those holding Masters of Public Health degrees or similar educational achievements.

Perhaps non-science writers can be forgiven for not understanding what constitutes a scientific study or the “peer review” process and what a “peer-reviewed journal” is. There are plenty of impartial, scientific journals out there, whose peer review process is to guard scientific integrity. However, there are also as many journals founded and funded by an industry or a professional group, whose peer-review is intended to protect the interests of that industry or group.

 

Still, Snopes is pretty accurate and I’ll continue to rely on them for myths, email rumours, and urban legends.  Snopes’ accuracy is not a foregone conclusion with more complex issues such as the efficacy of BSL or vaccine conspiracies (they recently declared that Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein was not an anti-vaxxer, but I believe that the truth is less obvious).  Journalists should examine the full scope of the available evidence, whether they agree with it or not.  Avoiding biases in journalism is an important component of rationalism.  Merely repeating the propaganda does not challenge views or compel people to face facts.