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Ontario’s pit bull ban turns entire breed into public enemy

Photo by Marianne Bortolin

Stephanie Hurtubise would have been the proud owner of a canine companion named Django this summer, had it not been for a provincial law based on “myths and false evidence.”

It’s a law that was enacted nearly a decade ago, when the Ontario government put a ban on the ownership, breeding, and selling of pit bulls, which was incorporated into the Dog Owner’s Liability Act in 2005 for the purpose of improving public safety.

As a result of this ban, Hurtubise decided against adopting Django, not wanting to live under the constant threat of the dog being euthanized by one outside complaint. Because of this, she had to watch as Django was sent to live with another family in Quebec.

“They are not the demon beasts the authorities make them out to be,” said Stephanie Hurtubise, a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa. “They are animals that, under numerous unfortunate circumstances, were wrongfully targeted by a society begging for an enemy to blame.”

Pit bulls, the first and foremost on a blacklist of dogs that have become victims of our irrational fears and ill-placed judgments, have certainly earned a reputation they don’t deserve.

This particular breed has long been under public scrutiny. Most recently in Ottawa, they were thrown into public debate again after a 14-month-old girl was attacked by a pit bull in April, resulting in the loss of most of her nose. For some, the attack reinforced their pre-existing prejudices toward the dogs.

Although dog owners in Ottawa are legally bound by Ontario’s pit bull policy, according to a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, authorities are reluctant to enforce it unless a pit bull poses a visible threat.

It’s easy to see why. For one, it’s extremely difficult and impractical to identify pit bulls, since they are not a recognized breed and can only be identified by veterinary experts. Moreover, those who don’t have knee-jerk reactions to certain news stories should see that any dog, regardless of breed, can be a trustworthy and endearing companion if they are raised properly. A dog’s temperament is entirely dependent upon the actions of its owner.

Unfortunately, the reputation of pit bulls has suffered at the hands of their owners. They became the dog of choice for gangs and drug dealers, who started using them to guard stash houses and participate in dog fighting rings in the ‘80s.

However, just as traits can be bred into a species, they can also be bred out. Under the guidedance of loving and nurturing owners, pit bulls can be as gentle and cuddly as any other breed of dog. Many dog lovers are looking to debunk the myths and misconceptions surrounding the breed by posting Youtube videos of their children playing with the family pit bull to show how calm and lovable they can be. Unfortunately, those are memories Hurtubise and Django aren’t allowed to share.

“I’ve experienced more aggressive behaviour from my shih tzus and Yorkshire terriers than I have from a pit bull,” she said. “This law needs to be lifted so we can all meet a Django of our own, and learn how beautiful these dogs really are.”