We need to stop believing pit bulls are inherently dangerous
I will never forget back when I was in Grade 6. It was the end of the day and I was waiting to be picked up from school. I stood with my teacher, who wanted to have a chat with my parents, since they were swinging by.
My parents surprised me by bringing along our dog. As usual, she was excited to see me, but was even more excited about all the new people to meet. Her ears perked up and tongue started flopping when my teacher began to pet her, giving her the attention she loved.
“What breed of dog is she?” my teacher asked.
“An American Staffordshire terrier,” my mom told him.
My teacher was surprised to have never heard of the breed before, a reaction we received quite often. Seeing the curiosity on his face, my mom confessed: “It’s a type of pit bull.”
I have never seen fear strike a person’s eyes so quickly. He drew his hand away and backed up at least five metres.
Now there I was, an 11-year-old girl who should have been confused as to why he was scared. But I knew. I knew why he loved my drooly canine before he found out what type of dog she was because of the label pit bulls have been given: “dangerous.”
After a Toronto man was attacked by two pit bulls in 2005, legislation was passed that made it illegal to own, import, or breed a pit bull in Ontario. Owners who already had a pit bull were forced to muzzle and sterilize their dogs.
On Nov. 21, 2019 a bill was introduced to repeal the ban. Bill 147, known as the Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, was sent to committee to be discussed further. Since then, no updates have been made on the matter and, after months of waiting, people of Toronto are calling for a decision. It is about time the ban is lifted.
Pit bulls are very misunderstood and need to be legal again. Bill 147 is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.
What this ban means for large cities like Toronto is that more pit bulls will end up in shelters, often forcing them to be put down. The Toronto Humane Society has continuously expressed support on social media for the legalization of pit bulls. They have taken in many of downtown Toronto’s pit bulls over the years. They made a statement last November saying the repeal “would put an end to the stereotype that has banned pit bulls from our province and caused them so much unnecessary harm.”
This is exactly the problem: people believe there is reason to fear these dogs, when in reality pit bulls are often one of the most affectionate dogs you will meet. In the 19th century, they were literally known as “America’s dog,” because they were so family-oriented and loving.
Information in timeline credited to Bark Post: https://barkpost.com/good/pit-bulls-history-of-americas-dog/
In recent years, it is easy to find a story about someone being attacked by a pit bull. The problem is that these attacks in the news need to put more emphasis on the role of the owner, who are ultimately responsible for training the dogs.
Pet behaviour expert and owner of Absolutely Fetching Dog Training, Tracy Calsavara, says that she does not find pit bulls to be any more aggressive than other breeds of dogs and thinks reckless dog owners need to be held more accountable.
“If a pit bull or any breed of dog has not been socialized at a young age and has had a reckless owner, that would be more of an indicator that the dog may show aggression,” Calsavara says. “But with a responsible owner that teaches their dog to be confident in their environment and trust people and other animals, the chance of aggression is less likely.”
I acknowledge that even if we begin to shift the blame onto the owners rather than the dogs, people will still mistreat their dogs and attacks may still happen. With that being said, there is also no evidence to prove that this ban has even been effective at all.
In 2004, one year before the law was put in place, there were 567 reported dog bites in Toronto. In 2018, there were 669 reported bites. Legal pit bulls in the city have almost vanished, and yet the number of dog bites is still higher than it was before the ban.
Pit bulls were not the type of dog responsible for most attacks in Toronto before the ban was put in place, according to a 2004 staff report. “Data on dog bites and attacks by breed do not necessarily support current popular inclinations to specifically ban pit bulls,” the Toronto staff report reads. “German shepherds account for the highest number of reported bites with pit bulls in second place and Rottweilers in third place.”
I understand that this legislation is just trying to protect citizens from dog attacks. But it has been ineffective and banning one specific type of dog is not going to solve that problem. If more owners did their due diligence and trained their dogs to be as lovable as I know pit bulls to be, then there would no longer be reason to fear them. It is about time we stop blaming innocent dogs and go through with lifting this ban.