Friday, November 5, 2010

Dog Lovers Say Ontario's Ban Of Cesar Millan's Pit Bull A Shame

The penchant for keeping dogs as pets has reached an all time high in North America. Unfortunately, dogs are just as likely as people to have psychological problems, and when a gifted animal behavioural specialist comes along, pet owners are thrilled.
One such specialist is Cesar Millan, a man capable of forming special bonds with dogs, with an apparently magic ability to guide dogs out of misbehaviour such as barking too much, aggression, destroying the house, and many other problems that plague pet owners. Cesar Millan, aka the dog whisperer, has a huge franchise hinged on his gift for taming the beastly dog. He not only has a television show, he has written several books, offers a newsletter and has an online community. Many people have been wowed by Millan's apparent ease in taming the apparently unmanageable dog, often without much more than a firm word and a look. And Millan's current Canadian tour has been eagerly anticipated by his Canadian fans. As one Montreal-based fan wrote,
"... My husband and I can't wait to see your show tonight in Montreal. We've watched your TV program since 2004, along with our rottweiler named Zeus. We are also looking forward to meeting you after for the Q&A's tonight."
Millan began his Canadian tour to eleven cities across the country on October 26. He's just completed the Ontario leg of the tour, which saw appearances in Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Toronto. Part of Millan's presentation uses dogs to demonstrate tips and techniques. Millan likes to use his 'ambassador for pit bulls,' Junior -- who is a pit bull. However, after a request to grant Junior an exemption to Ontario's pit bull ban was denied by the Attorney General, a fur-flying flap has resulted. Millan had requested the exemption from Chris Bentley in August. The Times Colonist reported Bentley explained his refusal for the exemption by saying
“We have a piece of legislation and it applies to all. We don’t amend it on the fly. We respect the law and we expect the law applies equally to all.”
Chicago Now blogger Steve Dale pointed out that the Ontario legislation has exemptions which allow pit bulls into the province for dog shows and flyball tournaments. Dale said he disagreed with Millan's ideas on training, but said
"... I am grateful to Cesar for telling the truth about Pit Bulls. Some of his favorite dogs have been Pits, and he's not afraid to say so. Pits have traveled with Cesar, and graced the cover of his books."
Dale noted
"... Millan has already spoken extensively against breed-specific bans. Millan believes breed-specific legislation is discriminatory and misplaced, as do many opponents of the bans. He says aggressive dogs are the result of bad owners."
Dale was not mistaken. Pit bulls are allowed into Ontario under specifically outlined situations, such as for dog shows and flyball tournaments. But in spite of those exemptions, the The Dog Owners' Liability Act and Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 also emphatically states under the heading, 'Importing Pit Bulls,'
"It is against the law to bring pit bulls into Ontario, even for a short visit."
Junior has accompanied Millan for some of his Canadian shows, reported the Canadian Press. However, Junior will not be going to Winnipeg, which also has a pit bull ban. According to the Winnipeg Sun, the person who lobbied to bring Millan to Winnipeg said
“It’s really unfortunate that this had to happen. I think there’s a preconceived notion about pit bulls, but it is the human that can essentially make or break a dog.”
One Ontario MPP, Cheri DiNovo has opposed Ontario's new legislation that bans pit bulls since the legislation was introduced then enacted. DiNovo tried to help Millan bring Junior, a certified therapy dog, to Ontario, telling the Canadian Press
"It's significant that Cesar Millan, the foremost dog trainer in the world, has had two generations of pit bulls that he's used as his example of well-trained, happy, responsive dogs."
However, Bentley refused to allow an exception for Junior, saying
"I really respect the work of Cesar Millan, the work that he does. You know why we brought in the pit bull legislation. It was to protect people and protect dogs — protect other people's pets."
The Globe & Mail reported the Ontario Conservative Party leader, Tim Hudak waded into the dog fight too, saying refusing the exemption would "be pretty embarrassing" for Ontario. DiNovo has introduced legislation that would see Ontario's new dog responsibility law amended to get rid of all breed-related references. A Facebook group, Lift the Ontario Bitbull ban, urges people to sign a petition supporting the amendment to the legislation. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies states breed bans do not work, and notes that restricting ownership of "dangerous dogs" has not reduced the number of dog bites.
"Dangerous dogs can exist in every breed and breed cross. This behaviour can be attributed to the lack of appropriate training and socialization, inappropriate breed choice for owner’s lifestyle, failure to spay or neuter and mistreatment on behalf of the owner or person interacting with the dog."
Earlier this year, the Toronto Humane Society (THS) released the results of a study the organization had conducted on breed-specific dog bites. Reported in The Star, the THS said a review of reported dog bites since the new law was introduced showed a minimal reduction. The agency concluded
"It is clear that the new law has not worked. It has not reduced the number of dog bites and increased public safety. All it does is punishing one breed of dogs.”
Pitbull attacks continue to make leading headlines. A recent attack by a pitbull on a four year old in Las Cruces, USA has resulted in the dog being euthanized reported the Las Cruces Sun News.

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