Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Puppies Arrive In Regina To Avoid Being Euthanized Due To Ontario's Pit Bull Ban

REGINA — Like all dogs at the Regina Humane Society, Lucky T, Mohawk, Cowlick and Lola are waiting to find homes. But if the three-month-old American Staffordshire terrier (pit bull)-cross puppies understood their circumstances, they might be happy just to have a temporary home in the shelter. On Dec. 3, the puppies arrived in Regina from the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society (KWHS). Because of Ontario's ban on pit bulls and similar dogs, they could not stay in that province. "If we hadn't taken them, they would have been euthanized simply because they are part pit bull," said Regina Humane Society (RHS) spokesman Don Simons.

When the ban was introduced in 2005, several pit bulls from Ontario shelters ended up in Regina, but the four there currently are the only ones to make the trip lately. Since the ban came into effect, shelters across Ontario have worked to transfer dogs out of the province whenever possible. "If we can find someone to take them, that's great because everybody in this entire industry is all about saving lives," said Jamie LaFlamme, operations manager for the KWHS. "We do what we can. We can only hold them for so long, but we got lucky with these four." He didn't know how often other shelters sent pit bull puppies out of province, but said the KWHS does so "a few times a year."

The challenges, he added, involve finding room for the dogs in other shelters and paying to have them spayed or neutered and transported to a new province. The KWHS drew money from its donation fund usually used to pay for animal surgeries to fly the four puppies to Regina. All dogs coming out of Ontario must first pass behavioural tests to make sure they are adoptable. Ontario's ban allowed owners who already had pit bulls to keep their pets (as long as they were spayed or neutered and were leashed and muzzled whenever in public). Any pit bulls that came along after the law was put into effect had to leave the province or be destroyed. The law came into effect after a number of vicious attacks by pit bulls and other such breeds. Pit bulls and American Staffordshires are considered the same dog in Canada, but slightly different in the U.S. Simons said the RHS does not agree with the banning of any dog breed. "If you treat a dog with love and respect and train it, it's not going to be a mean, vicious dog," he said, noting that some municipalities in Saskatchewan have breed bans in effect. "Any dog could be mean; any dog can be gentle." Saskatchewan has legislation that allows for certain restrictions to be made for owners of dogs deemed dangerous.

With the holidays around the corner, the RHS is home to around 70 dogs (it can handle up to 120) and 200 cats (240 can be handled). Some of the cats have already been there for eight months, but the RHS will keep animals as long as they are in good health. And Simons said the holidays can be a good time to bring a pet home. "If your family is ready for a pet, it is a good time because people are home more and can give the pet time," he said. "We just discourage the impulse buying of a puppy and surprising everybody with it on Christmas morning because of all the wrappings and noise and comings and goings. Is it a thought-out gift? Because a pet is for life; it's not for Christmas."