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December, 2006 - Nr. 12



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Ontario Human Rights
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by Dave McKague


My Dog Teaches … Law

Hunny: "Throw the ball and I love you forever!"I own a dog. More specifically, I own a Staffordshire Terrier, which falls under the " pit bull" category in Ontario’s recently passed "Dog Owners’ Liability Act".

Especially because I have a "restricted" dog, the public wants me to be responsible with her – and the legislation demands it.

Which brings me to my dilemma; the law as it is written actually makes it impossible for me to be a responsible dog owner.

Let me explain. Happy, well-controlled dogs do not bite people. Dogs that are well treated and socialized with people, children and other dogs do not attack them.

All dogs need enough exercise. And if the law says I must always have Hunny on a leash and muzzled when she is outside, I cannot give her the exercise she needs. (If this 50-plus man had to be attached at all times to my three-year-old dog by a leash, I’m afraid I would just not be able to keep up.)

After living with Hunny for almost three years, I know what makes her happy – lots of play and exercise. Her favourite game is retrieving a tennis ball and dropping it at my feet, which she will seemingly do forever. I have yet to meet another dog that fetches with her focus and determination, sometimes for over an hour without stopping to rest.

Since the passage of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, I have become more selective about where I play with Hunny. I have started avoiding crowded areas, not because of anything she might do, but because of what can potentially be done to her and me. So I have tended to go to sparsely populated parks, industrial lands, and other secluded areas to give Hunny the exercise she requires.

Three times this year, I have been warned by animal control officers for playing off-leash with Hunny in completely isolated areas. The first was on a cold day in January in an unoccupied public park. In the summer, it was on the lawn alongside a building in an industrial area, closed for the weekend. Recently, it was in some hydro fields on the side of a country road.

One was a particularly nasty experience when I was subjected to verbal abuse and overt threats. The other two officers were quite civil, but no matter how polite they may have been, the fact remains that I can be fined up to $10,000 and Hunny can be taken away and destroyed for any offence under this law. And, yes, playing with a " pit bull" in the open air anywhere in Ontario, no matter how isolated, is apparently against the law.

And if you had the thought that I should take my dog to a leash-free park to avoid these problems, I have news for you – also illegal. According to the law, these areas are not leash-free and muzzle-free for Hunny and other " pit bulls".

My life style is almost perfect for having a dog that requires a lot of attention and exercise. My two kids have grown up and are pursuing their own careers and I live alone with my dog. I am self-employed and spend a lot of time on the road doing estimates over a wide area and Hunny accompanies me in my travels. During the day, I can spend a few minutes now and then throwing the ball for her; she doesn’t seem to tire of the game and I don’t tire of watching some of the great catches she makes.

When Hunny and I play ball, we bother no one. That the Ontario government has overtly taken away the right of certain dog owners to exercise their dogs is reprehensible and has created a situation where "play" is driven underground. One of the 30 fundamental rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (created by the United Nations in 1948) is the right to play. I would like that right for Hunny and me, without the threat of death to my loyal and loving companion hanging like the Sword of Damocles above her head.

Visit for more information on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

From the Hannover, Tierarztliche Hochschule, Dissertation, 2003 (English Translation)

The impossibility of exercising dogs unleashed and the use of aversive training methods correspond directly with biting incidents during the intraspecific sub-tests of the temperament-testing. In conclusion, unrestrained exercise with an option of communication with other dogs, and renunciation of aversive training methods, particularly the lead-jerk, are the most powerful options in preventing dog-bites in temperament-testing and every-day-situations while dogs are on a lead.



Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:


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