4.20.2009

"more time fact checking and less time fear mongering"

If I had as much success in my writing career as I do with my letters to newspapers... I won't even finish that sentence. It's too awesome to contemplate.

A few days ago in the Globe and Mail, it was reported that civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby, representing a dog owner fighting Ontario's hysteria-based pit bull ban, has filed for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The lawyer for a pit-bull owner fighting Ontario's ban on the dogs is hoping the Supreme Court of Canada will reverse a decision allowing the law to stand.

Civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby has filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of Toronto dog owner Catherine Cochrane asking for a review of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision last October that upholds the province's ban.

"It's important to take every step we can against breed-specific legislation which assumes that it's the nature of the breed that creates danger when in fact it's the owners who create danger," Mr. Ruby said yesterday.

"There are some people who want dangerous dogs. If you ban one breed, they'll be quickly on to another."

The Appeal Court concluded in October that pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable dogs that have the potential to attack without warning.

Mr. Ruby is challenging that ruling, arguing the court failed to focus on whether the law was too broad and was also wrong in upholding a provision that allows veterinarians to determine whether the dog is in fact a pit bull. He said that provision unfairly reverses the presumption of innocence.

"We're raising constitutional issues," Mr. Ruby said. "We think the law is too vague. The whole definition of what's a pit bull leaves it open to huge doubt, and that's contrary to our constitutional guarantees."

The following day, I was appalled to see this letter full of lies in the G&M.
Pit bulls have been bred since the 19th century for the capacity and desire to fight to the kill (Reversal Of Pit Bull Ruling Sought - April 17). They are described as having higher levels of L-tyrosine, the neurotransmitter that mediates aggression, and endorphins, a natural pain killer, thought to play a role in why their attacks continue despite physical attempts by bystanders to stop them.

The "threat display" - posturing, baring of the teeth, play biting etc. - has been largely bred out; they can change virtually without warning from their generally peaceful and affectionate demeanour into killing machines. Socialization has little to do with it, just as it has little to do with a Labrador's retrieving behaviour or a hound's hunting instincts.

Irwin Silverman, Toronto

I headed straight to the computer with steam coming out of my ears. My response appears in the newspaper today. The words in brackets were edited out.
[Letter writer Irwin Silverman perpetuates false, harmful myths about the group of breeds the public calls "pit bulls" - actually several different types of dogs, and many mixed breeds.]

If "socialization has little to do" with pit bulls' behaviour, why do dogs raised in a proper family environment make such excellent pets, while dogs abused and trained to fight sometimes become dangerous (Keep Teeth In The Pit Bull Law - letters, April 18)? I say "sometimes," because many abused dogs still won't fight, and are further tortured or killed by their vicious trainers.

A pit bull's strength, courage and loyalty can be turned against it by humans for cruelty and profit. Those people should be punished, not their canine victims.

Laura Kaminker, Mississauga

Dharma Seeker wrote this excellent letter, which she shared with me.
I was disappointed to read Irwin Silverman's letter (Keep teeth in Pit Bull law, April 18). Mr. Silverman has clearly bought into the myths and paranoia surrounding "pit bull" type dogs. They do not have lock jaw, they are not immune to pain, and the certainly have not had "warning signs" bred out of them. Experts agree that no dog, regardless of breed, attacks without warning. Attacks occur when owners have overlooked or ignored warning signs.

Mr. Silverman speaks to the origins of the "pit bull". There is no denying they were bred to fight other dogs centuries ago, (as were the Boston Terrier and the Sharpei), they were never bred to be aggressive toward people. In fact at the turn of the century the "pit bull" was the most popular family pet in America, prized for its intelligence, loyalty and devotion to its owner. In England, the Staffordshire Terrier is called the "nanny dog" due to its affection for children and tendency to watch over and protect them. Staffordshire Terriers, "nanny dogs", are included in the "pit bull ban".

The OSPCA, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Ontario Health and Safety Board have all publicly denounced breed specific legislation. All over the world including Europe and some states in the US, breed bans are being scrapped because they don't work. They don't keep people safe.

Pit Bull type dogs have passed the American Temperament Test Society's test with flying colours, scoring higher than Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Great Danes, to name a few. "Pit Bulls" are loving, devoted pets in the hands of responsible, devoted owners. It's an owner's responsibility to keep a dog under control at all times. Dogs aren't dangerous, irresponsible owners are. If the Michael Vick case showed us anything, it's that these dogs need our protection. They need us to be vigilant, and keep them safe. If people like Mr. Silverman spent more time fact checking and less time fear mongering these wonderful animals might just have a chance at the great lives they deserve.

"DS", Burlington, Ontario

Many, many thanks to my friend Dharma Seeker for this informative and impassioned defense of bully boys.

For more truth-telling about these great dogs, see Bad Rap. One of the best links on that site is Happy Endings, but have your tissues handy.

For great information on the breed-specific legislation, see Understand-A-Bull.

1 comment:

redsock said...

DS: Great letter. I wish there was a way to get it to this idiot.

... at the turn of the century the "pit bull" was the most popular family pet in America, prized for its intelligence, loyalty and devotion to its owner.

I could not help but hear this in the typical dog show announcer voice.