Leonidus the pit bull has been man’s best friend and service dog to Jared Mercieca, an Ontarian with a hearing impairment, for several months. So when the dog was put on death row by bylaw officials in Oshawa, Ont., it was up to Mercieca to be dog’s best friend and flee with Leo to Calgary where the pit bull’s life would be spared. “He has always notified me who is on the property, who is at the door, who has pulled into the driveway — he’s my ears,” said Mercieca, adding Leo will even find a vibrating cell phone that his master can’t hear due to his disability.
Back in November, Mercieca took Leo for a walk in Oshawa and stopped at a local skate park to let the dog have a drink of water. He removed Leo’s muzzle — which pit bull-type dogs in Ontario must wear — momentarily, but as he was putting it back on he was approached by bylaw officers who began enquiring about the dog. New legislation in 2005 made all pit bull breeds illegal in Ontario, meaning only those born prior to the change were allowed to remain pets and even then they must be muzzled and neutered, said Calgary’s bylaw boss Bill Bruce. Because Leo was not muzzled or neutered when they saw him, the bylaw officers showed up at Mercieca’s home the next day with papers for him to sign. Mercieca said they led him to believe the papers were have to have the dog neutered, when in fact they signed ownership of the dog away and approved a kill order.
He then joined forces with dog advocate Jacqueline Davidson, who used to live in Ontario and moved to Calgary in 2008 because of the more lenient animal legislation here. Davidson began an online petition to save Leo that garnered more than 3,000 names worldwide in 28 hours.= She helped raise money for Mercieca and Leo move to Calgary, and on Saturday the pair arrived and met her face-to-face after a two-month battle for Leo’s life. Davidson, who suffers from panic disorder and has a pit bull service dog herself, said the breed is very nurturing. “They’re loyal and they won’t leave someone that’s disabled in trouble,” she said, adding she does not support any legislation judging dogs by their breed. “It’s not fair, these dogs are not disposable.”
Bill Bruce said pit bulls are actually among the most loyal pets and “would go through fire” for the people they love.
He said in contrast to the Ontario laws that would have seen Leo put to death, legislation here only punishes aggressive dogs, regardless of their breed. “Ours are all behaviour-specific laws, theirs is breed-specific legislation,” he said, adding Leo is welcome in Calgary. “If a dog has done nothing wrong, then we have no issues.”
*The Calgary Sun