Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is a hot topic in the media right now. With Quebec proposing their “pit bull ban” for 2017, and other municipalities threatening to do the same, pro and anti-BSL advocates are doing their best to spread awareness.
Recently, we released a three part article on the issues with BSL and breed bans, effective bylaws that can be used in place of BSL, and the cost of BSL for taxpayers. We wanted an expert opinion, so we got in touch with the Montreal SPCA, who are currently involved in the “breed ban war.”
We were fortunate to have an interview with Anita Kapuscinska, representing the Montreal SPCA, to discuss their views on Breed Specific Legislation, as well as share the story of Athena: the pit bull who became the positive face of BSL.
Athena is a model canine citizen, and breed ambassador for pit bull type dogs. Athena came to the Montreal SPCA after being rescued from a puppy mill. She was used as a breeding dog, and had endured years of neglect and abuse before finding her way to her forever home. Her new owner, Odette Lours, works at the Montreal SPCA where she met Athena.
Athena is described as “so sweet,” and a perfect example of how good ownership makes all the difference in a dogs life. Athena often spends her days at the shelter with her mom, and fellow colleagues, sharing her love and kindness with people and animals.
With the recent popularity of breed bans and BSL topics in the media, Odette and her colleagues at the Montreal SPCA were shocked by the use of photos of aggressive looking dogs to portray pit bull type dogs. Most articles displayed dogs with large chains, gaping mouths, and cropped ears, usually snarling or growling. Those, who have spent time with pit bull type dogs, understand that these photos are opportunistic, and usually staged. The average household pit bull type dog is nothing like the ones in the photos used by the media.
They were contacted by the media, who wished to photograph dogs in their care to use for an article addressing Breed Bans. The Montreal SPCA saw this as a perfect opportunity to use sweet Athena to show the media a typical pit bull type dog, and what types of dogs are actually affected by Breed Specific Legislation.
The Montreal SPCA introduced the stations to Athena, as she sets a great example for pit bull type dogs, and portrays the average “family pit bull”.
This is a pit bull type dog that would be target by Breed Specific Legislation.
After the photo was featured in the CBC article, it was then appropriated, and used over a variety of articles discussing Breed Specific Legislation. Athena had become the poster dog for “dangerous dogs” and Breed Bans, showcasing a sweet face that many people wouldn’t normally associate with pit bulls, due to the media’s use of negative propaganda. Staff at the Montreal SPCA were surprised by the popularity of Athena’s photo, but were happy that the public would finally be exposed to a realistic pit bull image.
We all want the same thing: a proper solution to keep society safe from dog attacks.
We spoke with Anita about the Montreal SPCA’s view on Breed Specific Legislation.
The recent media fight regarding BSL has caused the general public to fear and react out of fear. This has blinded us from the actual issue, and that is keeping society safe from dangerous dogs. Banning a breed based on “the shape of its head,” is a knee-jerk reaction to cause a false sense of security.
“Banning breeds based on looks doesn’t keep society safe,” Anita told us “… it is ineffective and costly.”
The Montreal SPCA believes strongly that something does need to be done about dangerous dogs and preventing dog attacks, but Breed Bans are not the answer. They plan to be proactive, and propose alternative measures to BSL, to reduce dog incidents without targeting dogs based on their physical appearance.
“The Montreal SPCA is committed to helping municipal officials to adopt effective legislation that address the root causes of aggression: including the development and enforcement of animal control bylaws which address sterilization, mandatory pet identification, proper education and socialization, effective licensing regulations, and accountability of pet guardianship for an animal’s behavior. Tougher laws need to address animal neglect that very often contributes to canine aggression, regardless of breed or physical appearance.
Effective dangerous dog legislation must be breed neutral and include preventative measures focusing on the root causes of canine aggression and owner responsibility, as well as remedial measures to deal with aggressive dogs based on their actual behavior.” – Anita Kapuscinska
The lack of regulation of “backyard breeding” in Quebec is also a concern for Anita and her colleagues at the Montreal SPCA. The shelter has recently received orphaned puppies, including pit bull types, who were purchased online as young as four weeks old.
“Anyone can breed their dog and sell puppies online. We need regulation of breeding, sale, and adoption,” she said. “Not everyone should be owning a dog. Not everyone should be breeding a dog.”
The recent rise in abandoned puppies raises concerns of overbreeding, neglect, and abuse. These factors often lead to dogs becoming aggressive, due to lack of socialization or training. Anita believes strongly that regulation of breeding and sterilization would reduce the risk of irresponsible owners, and ultimately dog attacks.
Though the ban won’t be affective until January 2017, this fear based reaction is already causing issues within communities. Many pit bull type dogs, or dogs closely resembling pit bull type dogs, are being targeted by vigilante civilians looking to eradicate the breed themselves.
On June 23rd, a family’s six month pit bull was killed by poisoned food thrown onto their balcony. Their one year old pit bull fell ill, but is recovering. Soon after, a boxer in Chateauguay, that resembled a pit bull, was taken from his property, beaten, and burned with cigarettes. Another dog was targeted in Rosemont and fed razor-blade filled meatballs.
These incidents were all targeted attacks by civilians who “fear pit bulls,” based on what their hear in the media.
“People are scared of dogs that they were never scared of before,” said Anita.“They are scared of dogs based on what they’ve been hearing. We have people calling worried about their dogs being harassed on the streets due to public fear.
Anita says she feels for those who are given the wrong information causing fear. Her heart also goes out to the dog owners, who are living with anxiety and fear that their dog may be targeted and attacked based on physical appearance.
“We all agree that something needs to be done without punishing responsible dog owners. The main thing is we all need to come together to find effective solutions to deal with dog aggression. Banning a breed is not going to achieve that goal.”
The Montreal SPCA encourages owners to remain responsible and set a positive example. They also implore advocates to politely stand up for their rights as dog owners, and to educate themselves on the issue.
“We invite the public to continue following our social media page, and website, as we will soon offer additional tools via a website that address the issue of Dangerous Dogs. This site will ensure the public knows how they can take positive steps to address their municipal and provincial officials to address the issue of Dangerous Dogs.” – Anita Kapuscinska
If you, or someone you know is being affected by Breed Specific Legislation, we ask that you research the issue and express your rights. There are many peaceful protests, and opportunities to voice your opinion to the government about the injustice of BSL, and the harm Breed Bans cause to innocent families.
Together, we can find a solution to preventing dog attacks effectively and fairly.