walkom: pit bull ban was "unforgivable" dishonesty, it should be repealed

Thank you, Thomas Walkom! You are a voice of reason in a sea of media ignorance.

Read this column to learn the truth behind Ontario's breed-specific legislation.
Thanks to the efforts of MPPs from all three parties, Ontarians are being given a chance — a chance — to see a patently bad law buried.

That law is the province-wide ban on pit bulls, a statute enacted seven years ago on the basis of much demagoguery and virtually no evidence.

The ban’s origins were fear and opportunism. The fear — particularly in Toronto — stemmed from a particularly vicious pit-bull attack that left a 25-year-old man with extensive injuries.

The opportunism was that of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, which sensed in the public outrage surrounding this attack a chance to polish its fading image.

At the time, debate over the ban was hot and furious. Honest people took different sides.

Many parents welcomed any move that might keep young children safe.

Conversely, many dog lovers were outraged by the ban’s arbitrary nature.

But what made the government’s handling of this bill unforgivable was its dishonesty.

It cited as evidence for its move a U.S. study claiming that pit bulls, while representing only 1 per cent of the dog population, were responsible for between 48 and 56 per cent of all dog bites.

Under scrutiny, however, that claim collapsed. The statistics, a government spokesman acknowledged, came from an obscure Washington state pet owners’ magazine that had looked at just 59 cases.

Otherwise, the government had nothing. Serious organizations that had investigated dog bites — including the Canada Safety Council, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control — concluded that so called breed bans didn’t work.

The reason? No one dog breed is particularly vicious. What counts, expert after expert told the government, is how dogs are trained.

Moreover, the government was told, the dog-bite threat itself is overstated. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that far more children are injured playing baseball.

Riding on a wave of fear, however, the government persevered. . . .

In normal times, private members’ bills rarely manage to reach the third reading stage required to make them law. According to published reports, even this bill commanded the support of only three Liberals, including Toronto MPP Mike Colle.

Still, we can hope. The ban is particularly unpopular in rural areas, where the Liberals need seats if they are to regain a majority. Perhaps the government that chose to pass this travesty seven years ago will see reason.
I'll send this to my MPP along with my letter.

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