Friday, February 25, 2011

Could The Tides Be Turning For Ontario Pit Bull Owners?

The City of Oshawa released a pit bull last week despite Ontario’s controversial ban on the breed, a municipal official said Wednesday.

While Deanna Pike got her dog back Feb. 18, after a hearing in which Roxy was ordered kept by the city, pitfalls over pit bulls — including the province outlawing any born since 2005 — left her fearing the four-year-old’s fate.

A hearings officer didn’t address breed issues but unless Roxy is neutered by March 3 and she is spotted again publicly unmuzzled or posing a risk, the city can seek a court’s destruction order, municipal law enforcement manager Kevin Feagan said.

It’s banned under provincial regulations, he said Thursday. “We don’t go kicking down doors searching for pit bulls,” Feagan said. Instead, individual dog’s fates are based on “public safety” issues. Unlicensed, Roxy was seized Jan. 10 outside a store, “abandoned,” without a muzzle and behaving aggressively, he said. “The breed legislation has caused a lot of people heartache,” with many unaware of the ban or specific pitbull limits, animal rights advocate Texie Torok said on Pike’s behalf.

Torok said too many seized dogs look like a pitbull, “and poor owners can’t afford to fight.” Calling Roxy a “boxer-bulldog,” she said Pike got a 2008 spaying order after someone reported it as a pit bull but a growth prevents her neutering. “We’re trying to raise funds to help,” Torok said. About 50 people attended Pike’s pre-hearing rally opposing the seizure and pit bull bans.

Feagan said “she was never told the dog was going to be put down.” He said bylaw officers will monitor compliance with city orders and her promise of a canine expert proving Roxy’s bloodlines. Feagan said several factors led to Roxy’s release. The province “provides municipalities with the ability to act,” but obligations to enforce regulations only exist “to a degree,” he said.

It’s also becoming increasingly expensive to for municipalities to prove a dog’s bloodlines in court, plus taxpayers have to pay the legal and kennel bills while the court debates the issue. “There is a public expectation that a municipality will enforce the conditions,” Feagan said.

In an e-mail, government spokesman Valerie Hopper wrote: “Municipalities are responsible for enforcement of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act and for making decisions on how to apply the legislation in their jurisdiction.” Supporters can e-mail Torok at:
*The Toronto Sun