Pitbulls have hit the headlines again, although not for what we normally hear about them. Advocates are working on their behalf to have the local ban on them lifted. And I pledge my support to these efforts to reverse this wholly unnecessary and blatantly racist by-law.
In a city that reeled when slapped with the title of racist, we have, on our books, a by-law that is not just racist, but requires city employees to engage in racial profiling. To have a law that makes ownership of a pitbull type dog (and yes, the dog does not have to actually be a pitbull, it just has to be "a dog which has the appearance and physical characteristics predominantly conforming to the standards of the Canadian Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club for any of the following breeds': American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier".)
So, it doesn't have to be a pitbull, it just has to look like one. Do you have a Rottweiler/Lab cross? If a veterinarian thinks it looks like a pitbull, it is illegal (not many vets are show dog judges, so I am confused as to why it would be a vet that decides if it conforms to show standards). It also means you could have a full bred pitbull that doesn't look like it should, and it would be legal. So the bylaw isn't based on the actions of the animal, just their appearance. A life sentence for "looking tough".
I have been very vocal over the last two decades about the by-laws regarding "responsible" pet ownership in Winnipeg. I am all for it. What I am against is the city not allowing responsible people to own the pet of their choice. The current bylaw has nothing to do with responsible pet ownership, but to try to prevent irresponsible pet ownership. Which means responsible people are not allowed to own pets that are of no danger to anyone, as long as they are kept responsibly.
Does the city want to keep track of these breeds? Is that the concern? Then let the owners have the option of licensing the dog appropriately. Allow responsible people to act responsibly. There is a surcharge for intact dogs on their license, which is to penalize the chance of litters caused by irresponsible breeding. Allow responsible bully owners the same opportunity.
The issue most people have with the bully ban is that we have, in the bylaw, provisions for dangerous dogs, regardless of its breed . From Chihuahuas to Great Danes, including Bully breeds, if you have a dog deemed dangerous, or that has proven to be a danger to the public, the city has laws on the books to address the situation. So why do we need a breed specific ban? When any dangerous dog can be dealt with accordingly?
It's fear. The same fear that has fueled racial tensions in humans. Of course, these fears have a grain of truth to them, and yes, these animals can be abused and put into situations where they are a danger to us, but they are not the only breeds used this way. And, because some can be treated irresponsibly, why should that condemn the vast majority that are wonderful, gentle, loyal pets when treated "responsibly". We don't ban all cars because some use them irresponsibly, or because they have the ability to be abused and cause harm. And, because of this ban, we cannot rescue these breeds from their abusers, and give them a normal life that they should be allowed as a living being.
Bully breeds are widely used in police enforcement, and there are thousands of hero dogs out there that would not be allowed into the city. Therapy dogs, PTSD dogs, search and rescue, these are but a few of the jobs these breeds hold down all over the world. Some of the most lovely dogs I have ever met fall under this ban. It is wildly unfair that because a few bad men who do bad things to these breeds for illegal purposes, their entire race is condemned.
That doesn't seem logical to me, especially in a city dealing with a reputation for being racist. We have a dangerous dog provision, we don't need a breed specific law.