Friday, February 26, 2010

A bad law...

and one more reason to repeal it.

While a minority of irresponsible dog owners pose a serious danger to both the public and to their own pets, that does not make the dog owner's liability act of 2005 anything other than an unconscionably vague, disruptive, expensive and harmful law. The government could, and should, have addressed this issue with laws punishing the behaviour and aggressive propensities of dangerous dogs.

Not everyone understands the bond that families develop with their pets; if you do not, please take my word for it that losing a pet can devastate a child, a senior, and in many cases an adolescent or an adult. The power to take away a dog implies the power to inflict significant trauma on a family, and it does not do to confer that power lightly. Clauses in the Animals for Research Act that allow a pound to transfer or sell dogs seized under this section to research facilities have the potential to compound this problem: how would you like to explain to a six year old that the municipal authorities have seized her pet for animal research?

Therefore, a pit bull ban which, like Ontario's, includes the phrase
A dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics substantially similar to any of those dogs [pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier]
places more trust in the capabilities and probity of the enforcers of the law than any statute or regulation ought to. So far, where this law has inflicted trauma on families, the problem appears to arise out of nothing more sinister than misguided zeal on the part of animal control officials. But a law this vague lends itself to horrendous misuse. A politician guilty of serious malfeasance could tell critics or anyone else he or she wanted to manipulate, that if they did not shut up and/or cooperate, their pets will start looking very like pit bulls to municipal staff. Any law that vaguely and casually grants significant powers with wide discretion lends itself to abuse, and a corollary to Murphy's Law states that if a thing lends itself to abuse, someone will sooner or later abuse it.

The time has come to repeal or significantly narrow this law before it does any more harm.


Allison MacDuffee said...

Excellent article, John. One only has to think of the recent alleged behaviour of the refugee judge (who made advances to a female applicant) to see how officials or politicians can misapply a law. Banning all the dogs in a breed is wrong. I have met vicious miniature schnauzers and pussycat pitbulls.

Anonymous said...

I agree Allison. I have a scar on my nose from a 17 lbs Lhasa Apso but was the owner of a wonderful large breed dog. There are only bad owners not bad dogs.