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The Ontario Dog Owners' Liability Act Exposed

Most dog owners are aware that, in August 2005, with much fanfare, a "pit bull" ban was enacted by the government of Ontario, Canada. Dog owners whose dogs may fall under the vague definition of "pit bull" now face the spectre of mandatory destruction of their dogs, as well as jail time for the owners, for infractions such as not having their dog on a leash, not spaying or neutering, bringing a dog into Ontario, or allowing puppies to be born in the province.


The government (the Liberal Party of Ontario) was, however, much quieter about other parts of this legislation that are not breed-specific. Thus, many owners of non-targeted dogs appeared quite comfortable allowing this law to pass unchallenged, unaware of its far-reaching implications and its effect on the rights and freedoms of all dog owners.


Why should the average Canadian dog owner be concerned about this legislation and why are many owners of non-targeted dogs supporting this legal challenge?


See: Why is the Dog Owners' Liability Act unconstitutional?


In the portions of the legislation that apply to ALL dogs, there is no differentiation between a severe attack, a puppy nip, and the new offence of "being a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals". Offences against domestic animals are now included on the same level as offences against humans. Every offence carries the same possible penalties, including fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to six months. These penalties apply to owners of ALL dogs and to VISITORS as well as residents.


Regardless of the breed or mix of your dog, you are subject to the possibility of public search and seizure, as well as entry into a private residence to seize your dog. Any accusation made against you, by any person, does not have to true or proven in order for your dog to be confiscated and for you to be charged. This applies to owners of ALL dogs and to VISITORS as well as residents.


Dog owners, citizens of this country, may no longer move freely in and out of Canada nor from province to province. Citizens, regardless of the breed or mix of dog that they own, may now be subject to public search and seizure, warrantless entry into private homes, and arbitrary detention and imprisonment. Citizens now find themselves in a situation where they are required to prove their innocence, rather than the prosecution being required to prove their guilt.


Dog owners of all breeds no longer have equal protection under the law. They now have less legal rights than gang members and drug dealers.


A person accused of owning a "pit bull" must prove that their dog is not one. A mixed breed dog, or even a purebred dog of another breed, may fit the definition of being "substantially similar" to the listed breeds. Thus, in many cases, because of an inability to prove the breed of their dog, an accused person is automatically guilty, simply by virtue of being charged. If a dog is identified as a "pit bull" and the owner is convicted, the law requires the destruction of the dog, including dogs that have never bitten or threatened anyone and including newborn puppies.


Penalties for owning an illegal dog, or for failing to muzzle, leash, and sterilize a legal dog, include fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to six months, as well as the mandatory destruction of the dog. Bringing a prohibited dog into Ontario for any reason other than to attend an authorized dog show carries the same penalties. These penalties apply to VISITORS as well as residents.


There are at least 24 unique purebred dog breeds that could fall under this legislation's definition of "pit bull", as well as countless mixed breed dogs of many shapes and sizes.


Some breeds that have already been identified BY AUTHORITIES in Ontario as "pit bulls" include:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Dogo Argentino / Mastiff mix
  • Great Dane / Dalmatian mix
  • Great Dane / Whippet mix
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Husky or Border Collie mixed with Lab
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever / Boxer mix
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Various mixes of Boxer or Lab with something else


If the judge in the constitutional challenge finds that this law is valid, she will not only be justifying a war on owners of "pit bulls". She will be validating all breed-specific legislation throughout the country. That decision will authorize and support the choice of any jurisdiction to target the owner of any type of dog.


A quick review of municipal dog laws in Canada shows that there are at least SIXTEEN purebred breeds currently targeted by breed-specific legislation, as well as mixed breeds and dogs with physical similarities. All of the laws require muzzling and most require mandatory spay/neuter, exorbitant liability insurance and licence fees, draconian penalties for minor infractions, and significant financial hardship for the owners in order to comply. Many have complete bans and most require destruction of the dog for any infraction by the owner.


A study of dog laws in the United States estimates that there are between FORTY-FIVE and FIFTY-SIX unique breeds targeted in that country. Restrictions and penalties are similar to Canada.


Dog owners should not only be concerned but should be petrified about this type of far-reaching and all-encompassing legislation. It is obvious that this type of legislation is NOT about one or two breeds of dogs.


If the legal challenge is successful, governments across Canada will be discouraged from creating arbitrary, discriminatory, and unfair laws against dog owners. Communities will be forced to consider dog owners as a large block of voters who will NOT sit back and watch their freedoms and their right to enjoy their pets be stripped away.


Success means that you won't be the next person to face imprisonment simply because of the physical appearance of your dog. You won't be forced to muzzle or sterilize your dog because of the way it looks. The authorities won't be able to enter your home and seize your dog simply because your neighbour doesn't like you. You won't be forced to prove the breed of your dog in order to keep it alive. You will continue to have the choice to buy, adopt, or rescue any breed you wish, instead of having the government decide which breed is right for you!


Most members of Banned Aid do NOT own breeds targeted and banned by the Ontario government. They simply recognize the danger of allowing a government to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for political expediency.

The cost for the constitutional challenge has exceeded $300,000 and is expected to grow, particularly in the event of an appeal from either side.


The Banned Aid Coalition is fighting for you and your dog(s). All members are volunteers. Most materials and supplies are donated by supportive organizations or by the volunteers themselves. Every penny raised goes to fund the legal challenge.

Every dog owner in this country needs to stand up and be counted, BEFORE they come for YOUR dog!


Please make your cheque payable to Ruby and Edwardh and mail it to:


Ruby & Edwardh

11 Prince Arthur Ave.

Toronto, Ont.

M5R 1B2


IMPORTANT: Please indicate on the envelope and on the cheque memo line that the money is for the BANNED AID LEGAL FUND.


If you would prefer to donate online using PayPal, simply go to the DLCC Donation Page at


For those of you who have already helped, the dogs of Ontario and the rest of Canada thank you!


Updated September 26, 2007


This website is not affiliated with any organization.  The opinions expressed on this page and on this website are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of any organization for which the author may work or volunteer.

Back to Previous Page Copyright 2008 Steve Barker