DOG OWNERS' RIGHTS IN CANADA

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California

Important note:

 

Despite having one of the best dangerous dog laws in the country, despite having had success with their existing legislation in reduction of dog bites and in prosecution of offenders, and despite a massive public outcry, California implemented breed specific legislation in 2006. The new legislation allows individual municipalities to decide if they want to create mandatory spay/neuter laws by breed, thus encouraging the eventual extinction of certain breeds.

 

The legislation listed below is still in place and is still considered to be a fair and effective method of dealing with dangerous dogs.  Unfortunately, owners whose dogs are not dangerous and have never exhibited dangerous behaviour are now targeted by the new legislation.

 

A dog is designated as a potentially dangerous dog

  • If there are two or more occurrences of threatening behaviour which require a defensive action by a person
  • If there is an unprovoked, but less than serious, bite
  • If there are two or more occurrences of injuring or killing domestic animal OFF THE OWNER'S PROPERTY
  • The dog must be kept in a secure enclosure or inside
  • The dog must be on leash when off property under care of adult
  • The dog can be removed from the dangerous dog list after 3 years or after adequate training and rehabilitation

A dog is designated as a vicious dog

  • If it is a potentially dangerous dog and continues its dangerous behaviour
  • If it causes serious injury or death to a human being
  • It can be destroyed
  • Its owner can be prevented from owning a dog again for 3 years

In September 1998, 11-year-old Cody Fox was attacked by a pack of anywhere from 8 to 18 dogs while walking past his neighbour's house. He was rushed to hospital with severe bite wounds all over his face and body, particularly on his arm, which was amputated. Police investigated the home of the dogs' owner and found a blood-smeared, torn, life-size human replica hanging on the property, indicating that the dogs were being trained to attack humans. Animal Control officers responded to the residence and snared 15 dogs, including pit bulls, Rottweilers, and bulldogs.

 

Cody's Law was passed in August 1999, which provided for felony charges with imprisonment of up to one year and fines of up to $10,000 if a dog that was trained to fight, attack, or kill causes substantial injury.

 


Illinois

In 2001, 9-year-old Ryan Armstrong was attacked by a Rottweiler, losing part of his thumb and suffering chest wounds that came close to puncturing his lung. The owner was fined $200 under existing laws.

 

Ryan's father, Jeff, lobbied for stricter vicious dog laws and harsher penalties.  The result in August 2003 was Ryan Armstrong's Law, a carefully thought out and clearly defined piece of legislation dealing with dog behaviour and owner responsibility.

  • A dog is dangerous if it presents a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to a person or companion animal.
  • A dog is vicious if, without justification, it causes serious injury or death or has been found dangerous 3 times.
  • Important: all designations must be approved in a court of law and the prosecution must prove their case that the dog is dangerous or vicious.
  • Penalties range from misdemeanours to felonies, depending on the severity of the bite and whether it is a repeat offence.
  • The law also provides strict penalties and liabilities if a dog bites again after being declared dangerous or vicious.

 


Calgary - SUCCESS

  • 960,000 people – 21 Animal Control Officers (compared to Toronto with 2 million people and TWO ACO’s)
  • 6 full time and 3 part time animal health technicians – all certified
  • 91,000 dogs registered with the city – estimated 90% compliance rate vs. 20% country average and 10% New York
  • Lowest euthanasia rate in North America (Canada and U.S.)
  • 5,500 dogs impounded – 180 were euthanized (30 were pit bulls)
  • 86% return rate of dogs to owners
  • 5 dogs deemed vicious in the entire city
  • Annual dog bites have dropped to 1/4 since this approach has been taken
  • CALGARY PAYS FOR ITS ENTIRE ANIMAL CONTROL DEPARTMENT THROUGH ITS LICENSING AND FINES REVENUE!!

Calgary - REASONS FOR SUCCESS

  • Zero-tolerance leash laws
  • Zero-tolerance city dog licence laws
  • High-profile public education campaigns
  • First offence fines range from $100 for loose dog to $250 for no tags or not cleaning up – increase by $250 after first offence
  • $500,000+ in fines last year
  • Dogs deemed vicious will only be returned to owner if:
    • $251 vicious dog tag
    • Microchipped or tattooed ($100)
    • Spayed/neutered ($200 - $300)
    • Build outdoor kennel if outside – must be inspected by city
    • Total $1,000 cost is prohibitive – most vicious dogs euthanized
  • Vicious dog loose fine - $1,000 first offence
  • No volunteers around any dog unless technician deems it adoptable

 


Winnipeg

Winnipeg introduced a ban on pit bulls in 1990, the first in Canada.  At the time, pit bulls were third on the list of biting breeds in the city.  The breed with the highest bites had more than three times as many bites as the pit bull the year before the ban was implemented.

 

Despite the Ontario Attorney General's claims to the contrary, Winnipeg's own bite statistics show that dog bites did not go down significantly after the ban and other breeds clearly replaced the pit bull in the bite statistics.

 

In 2002 (twelve years later), there was a concerted effort by the city to license dogs and educate owners, at which point the bites by ALL BREEDS dropped by 28% and remained down.

 

Winnipeg still continues with its breed specific legislation targeting "pit bulls", despite their own Animal Services manager's statements that their major bite problem is now with an entirely unrelated breed.  Winnipeg is listed here as an example of how BSL does not reduce bites and how a proper licensing and education program does.

 


New Brunswick

In May of this year, Kelly Lamrock, a Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly, introduced BILL 55. He has clearly stated that he introduced the bill out of frustration with the province's inaction on the recommendations from the James Waddell inquest.

 

The bill placed significant restrictions on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Rottweiler, and the Akita. The restrictions included the following:

  • The owner must be age of majority.
  • The province must be notified of address changes.
  • The owner must have one million dollars liability insurance.
  • The law automatically assumes that the owner knows the dog is dangerous, based solely on the breed of the dog. Therefore there is absolute liability by owner, even if the dog had shown no previous aggressive behaviour.
  • The dog must be muzzled in public, enclosed in a pen or muzzled and tethered when outside the house.
  • The dog must not live with a child who is protected under Family Services Act (i.e., fostered).
  • Nobody may own more than two restricted dogs.
  • If the dog is considered a threat, it may be seized immediately.

The Dog Legislation Council of Canada, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club, and other groups met with Kelly Lamrock and also made two days of presentations to the legislature, during which the politicians made real effort to listen carefully to the arguments. On November 18 of this year, Kelly Lamrock made the following statement:

I introduced the Restricted Dogs Act to try to address issues that arose out of the tragic death of James Waddell, issues that were not being addressed by government. I think it is important to note that the vast majority of presenters before the committee agreed that status quo was not an option.

 

Coming into this there were basic principles that had to be part of any legislation. It had to be province-wide, owners of dogs who attacked had to be held liable and there had to be tough penalties for negligent owners. These principles were supported by the presenters.

 

Now that these hearings have concluded, I would like to announce that I will be preparing a new Dog Owner Responsibility Act that will address the issues raised out of the death of James Waddell, will incorporate the basic principles of the previous act and will include many of the changes proposed by the many, many groups and individuals who participated in this consultation process.

The new Dog Owner Responsibility Act will incorporate the following changes:

  • Tough penalties for negligent owners
  • Elimination of “First Bite Free” rule
  • Removal of dogs from negligent owners
  • Person with repeat conviction or attacks loses right to own dog
  • Law applies to all dogs and dog owners
  • Mandatory licensing
  • Make leash / muzzle requirements consistent with veterinary standards
  • Tougher licensing and codes for breeders
  • Identify targets for increased education and enforcement

 


Other Cities

There are numerous cities in Ontario that have considered Breed Specific Legislation and have rejected it in favour of stricter licensing and leash laws and harsher penalties for irresponsibility. Some of these cites are:

  • Cambridge
  • Ingersoll
  • Mariposa
  • Mississauga
  • Ottawa
  • Peterborough
  • Thunder Bay
  • Timmins
  • Toronto

The elected officials in many of these cities were directly influenced by presentations made during public input and by letters and packages provided to them by experts and interested organizations.

 

They listened to the experts.     

 

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