Don't Punish Responsible Dog Owners

Responsible dog owners will share the brunt of whatever restrictive measures that result, but these are not the people who need lessons in taking responsibility seriously.

By Letter to the Editor
Published January 10, 2007

On December 27, 2006 the Hamilton Spectator reported a terrible attack on Christmas day of a toddler in a downtown Hamilton park by two young Rottweiler dogs who had escaped their pens.

Ontario's Dog Owner's Liability Act (DOLA) and Bill 132, which amends it to restrict ownership of pit bulls, were not able to prevent this horrible attack. Responsible dog owners will share the brunt of whatever restrictive measures that result, but these are not the people who need lessons in taking responsibility seriously.

The only thing that would have prevented this attack was the clear understanding that these dogs should have been unable to escape their yard, or better yet, be inside the home with their owners learning how to behave around people.

I can see a lot of fallout from this incident and most of it makes no sense.

Why extend the Pit Bull and related breeds ban? Did the leash-and-muzzle aspect of the law avert this attack? No. It doesn't matter how many breeds you ban, all it takes is one owner who doesn't take the responsibility seriously to have another tragedy.

One problem with DOLA is that it puts "menace" in the eye of the beholder. The bigger the dog, the easier it is to see "threatening behaviour" in the dog simply observing you as you pass by. The more you fear or dislike dogs, the more possible it is to see threat where there is none.

If today you include Rottweilers, tomorrow German Shepherds and Dobermans. So what happens when a mixed breed dog or another breed attacks? This ultimately means banning all large/medium dogs, which works fine until a Welsh Corgi or a Scots Terrier bites somebody.

Is a legal, leashed, friendly dog in a park with its owner going to have a similar incident? No. Even the most dog-fearful person must know that not all dogs are waiting for a chance to attack children.

Due to this horrible attack, I worry that City parks may be declared "out of bounds" to all dogs and owners. I'm already personally aware that no matter if you obey all rules and regulations to the letter, owners walking leashed, licensed, friendly dogs are still seen as interlopers and intruders in their own local parks.

This horrible incident happened because somebody didn't take their responsibility seriously, not because everyone who owns a dog is equally culpable, or because all dogs want to attack children.

I hope that when City Council and Mayor Fred Eisenberger decide policy on this, as I'm sure they will, they make intelligent decision based on facts and not fearmongering. I also hope that they will not sign off more of our under-sized park spaces to groups who may be supportive of fear mongering for their own ends.

Doris Shields

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By cynic (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2007 at 16:24:48

Intelligent decision? This will never happen in hamilton as long as the likes of Mr. gillis and other pencil pusing administrators are allowed to decide the fate of the animals in hamilton. they have closed the only city run facility are expected to licence cats to facilitate killing strays, and began killing pit bulls even before the ban was enacted. Those two rottweilers should not be dead. They were young neglected "puppies" not even two years of age. They should have been removed from that home and saved from further abuse and neglect. but know, we slap the wrist of the 'respnsible" owners and kill the dogs. as if this will teach anything but that an animals life is worth nothing.

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By Lori Craft (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2007 at 16:40:48

Great article! Hopefully it opens some ears and eyes!

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By D.S. (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2007 at 16:46:25

You are so right, cynic. The one case of the Pit pup that was euthanized that i have heard about -She did nothing to merit death. She shoulder pinned an adult dog in a dog park. This was not aggresive behaviour. No biting, no grabbing. or nipping involved. It was either play behaviour, or a dog-type request for the older dog to turn the play level down a notch. (Why would anybody take a pup that they had just adopted to a leash-free area? You have to know your dog well, before you try that out.)

I'm really fed up with this idea of 'The rights of people vs. the rights of dogs' Who do they think owns the dog(s)? Dog in themselves have no rights. But people do have a right to be safe from idiots who won't keep their dogs from running at large & hurting people.

People (dog owners) have no rights specific to owning dogs either, but no one should be persecuted/prosecuted over what somebody else did. Do these folks think this means that people who own dogs should have Less rights, because that is what is often seems to come down to? We are diminished as people because we own a dog.

More owner responsibility written into laws that actually can be enforced seems fair to me. Breed banning,& muzzles in public actively prevent people from training & raising puppys to become friendly, confident, respectful adult dogs. It encourages the keeping of 'back yard' dogs, chained dogs, & dogs that have no idea how to behave around children, or the elderly.
(People who train & foster service dog pups do not put them in the back yard/basement/or on a chain for 6 months! If you want a dog that knows how to behave well in public, obedience train it early & then get it out there, into the real world on a leash, Show it how to behave & what a joy it is to be among people of all ages.)

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By Stacey (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2007 at 18:17:30

I sat next to a total stranger in a restaurant two nights ago and struck up a conversation with him. The conversation lasted two hours. I will probly never see this man again (unless we happen to stop by the same place again.) He turned out to be the owner of the "pit bull" who rescued a 4 year old from drowning at a beach. He keeps the newpaper clipping in his wallet. The conversation was deep. All of it about "pit bulls" and dogs in general. I own a Doberman from European working lineage. Cop quality lineage.

Why...because they are (to me) the most noble, loving loyal breed out there, as are other working group dogs. Owning a working group dog requires a LOT of responsibility on the part of the owner. A lot of socialization, a lot of obedience training (REAL obedience training) and exposure to EVERYTHING life has to offer like crowds, kids, elderly & their walking aids & breathing devices, noises, other dogs, and most importantly people who are irresponsible with their dogs who you encounter EVERY day. Those rotties were NOT owned by responsible people. Dogs should be put outside to relieve themselves and that's it. Exercise should be allowed by means of training in a classroom environment or on a leash and leash-free parks (IF the dog is socialized and able to go to leash-free parks). The mind has to be stimulated as much as the body by means of obedience training. One hour of obedience training in classroom environment is more tiring than 2 hours of running in a park for my dog. If all this is started from the tender age of 8-12 weeks I believe 99.9% of dogs will be safe in any environment at any time. There are very few exceptions however those are the ones who have to be extra responsible. I train my Doberman 4 nights a week. I have done so since she was 13 weeks old. Discipline by means of a 6 foot training lead & a collar blended evenly with praise and encouragement is all it takes to have a good K9 citizen. I have a CKC recognized title called the "CGN" Canine Good Neighbor on my dogs registered papers. It now officially appears after her registered name. EVERY large breed or working group dog owner should get this title whether they own a registered dog or not. It is a temperament and obedience test. It is more than a CKC title. It certifies YOU and your dog as exactly what the name suggests ;….. K9 good neighbor. My dog does nursing home visitations and though never left alone, is trusted to play with the smallest child and I don’t even have children…except her.
Breed bans and the generalization of it all scares me. My dog is a very good dog yet I've been discriminated against several times while out minding my own business with my dog. What if that persons fear of my innocent dog makes them feel they need to report me for no good reason? Then what? I have to fear that my CGN titled dog is in danger because someone was afraid of her from across the street? My heart breaks for dogs of the "pit bull" persuasion as well as other working group dogs out there who have lost their lives because our government is ignorant and uneducated and feels the need to make blanket rules for the minority. Bill 132 is going to kill a lot of dogs, upset a lot of responsible owners and lead to other breeds being banned which will repeat the entire vicious circle again and again until we end up like a communist country where no dogs are allowed. Personally I’m sick of our government ruling for the minority and taking more and more freedoms away from law biding responsible people who FAR outweigh the number of irresponsible. I’m tired of the minority whining to get their way and the government ruling in their favor regarding more than just the “pit bull” issue. In all situations where banning is considered, why don’t they just punish the wrong doers and leave the innocent alone? Where are the rights and freedoms Canada is known for giving to it’s citizens? How are we a free country if we can’t own a certain breed of dog, or gun, or listen to a certain singer? Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Dogs don’t kill people, irresponsible people in charge of the lives of those dogs kill people. Rap singers don’t cause teenagers to kill people, the people in charge of raising those teenagers don’t instill morals and guidance and discipline into those teenagers LONG before they become teenagers. Why? Because the government has ruled in favor of the minority. The minority being; Abusive parents, mauled people by dogs (turned bad by irresponsible owners), messed kids (from lack of discipline) that hurt others “ because a song persuaded them to” and same for those who shoot people. All this banning started long before the dogs and it’s snowballing into a mess. It all started when the government decided to start ruling for the minority and creating blanket rules for everyone as knee jerk reactions to the most severe cases of irresponsibility. Innocent people and now dogs suffer because of it. So much deeper than just breed banning.

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By D.S. (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2007 at 01:10:13

I hear you Stacey. I have a blk. bulky English type Lab., & an Akita, possibly crossed with Great Dane. The Akita has done Therapy Dog, (visiting seniors with St. John Ambulance) done Meet the Breed days with both Oakville, Burlington Humane Societys & PetSmart. This involved meeting all kinds of people, & dogs for 6 straight hours. He also has his Canine Good Citizenship certificate, as well as a long & extensive obedience course.

He has been a good friend to a Downs Syndrome child. He has saved my family & a number of other people from certain serious injurys when a team of heavy horses bolted at a fair.
He has been attacked by off leash dogs on at least 4 occassions, & has either flipped or pinned them. No biting, or bared teeth. Just a flip or a pin to stop the attack. He has been punched full force in the face by a 10 year old boy, for no good reason, & didn't react except to look a little sad. (I reacted!)

I am completely astonished at the number of people who feel that large dogs should be contained in a back yard 24/7, or on a chain. They think that this is proactive, & the best idea in preventing dog bites & attacks!? (Isn't this the same kind situation that has caused so many attacks & bites?)

I've spent the last 10 years studying dog bite prevention, & the relationship of breed specific legislation to it's results. (BSL is generally useless in preventing bites & attacks) How 'delighful' it is to have somebody who's never read, or researched the subject at all tell me that, "Dogs like that don't belong in towns or on the street." Or perhaps they just try to walk me & the dogs off the sidewalk into the street...It's nicer yet to be told that, "You don't care about the victims, you just care about dogs!" (If I didn't care about the victims, I wouldn't have spent a decade researching this, & the other 1/2 training my dogs to act intelligently around people!)

Every breeder of large & Working Group dogs, & every trainer worth his/her salt will tell new owners the same thing. "Socialize, socialize, socialize", as soon as possible for a confident, calm, & friendly adult dog. Every thing, every noise, every situation that your dog will have to experience in life should be experienced by the time the dog is about 9 months old.

I realize that a large dog can frighten some people, & if someone appears fearful, just quickly get out of their way. What I can't do is shrink the dogs. And after spending years training with, & enjoying life with them both, I'm not prepared to 'get rid of them' for the convenience of somebody who would dislike them, no matter if they were big & well behaved or tiny holy terrors. A pet is a friend, family member & a lifetime committment, not a fashion accessory, or a weapon.

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By donna (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2007 at 16:54:01

i have 2 rottweiller and have had them living in hamilton for the past 8 years. i have recently had an incident with an uneducated dog owner who out of complete fear tossed her little cocker spaniel pup at my dog, she thought my dog was going to attck her because he went over to her in a field to see her little pup . my rottweillers have been well socialized with other dogs and people. this women single handedly killered her spaniel with her own stupidity. now she has written to the spectator with an outlandish story about my vicious rottweiller grabbing her dog from her arms and on and on. and i can't help agreeing with CYNIC, i have for the first time had to deal with animal control (jim gillis), and animal control employee kandice jones. i hope to god no one ever has to go through the bias, and unprofessional manner of these people. they no nothing about large breed dogs, and are against anyone who has them. they have turned this isolated incident into a three ring circus. and the victim is my poor rottweiller. the 2 animal control officers i have delt with are the most ignorant people i have ever come accross. this article has been interesting to read.
keep it up

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By Dale (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2014 at 16:27:26 in reply to Comment 10816

Just to give you some hope, Hamilton Police caught a Malamute and a Wolf Hybrid. Neither dog was licensed but these two police leashed these dogs and walked around the neighbourhood looking for the owner. I knew the owner and held the dogs for him until he got home. We just need the right people in positions of authority when it comes to animals, the police men loved dogs plain and simple. People judge breeds too quickly and are uneducated in dogs.

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By Dale (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2014 at 16:23:31

Why don't them make a law that to own a dog, you must get papers from a professional dog trainer organization, saying your dog has been through the courses and meets a minimum. Once passed you get a tag for your dog like the rabies or such and if caught you get a hefty fine. After three strikes you get your dog taken. Anyone who gets a dog should train it, for societies benefit but also for the dogs. breeders need to have higher standards to who they give dogs too, and owner need to be teaching dogs!

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