Pit bull ban would have been replaced by “one free bite”
WINNIPEG, Manitoba––Rejecting both of the leading pet-keeping fads of the past two decades, both often covers for animal fighting and organized crime, the Winnipeg city council by identical 9-7 votes on April 28, 2022 upheld reputedly the oldest pit bull ban in Canada and squelched a proposal to allow backyard chickens.
The Winnipeg city council majority voted down a recommendation from the standing council policy committee on protection, community services, and parks “to remove the prohibition of specific dog breeds from the Responsible Pet Ownership by-law and replace it with a breed-neutral, behavior-based approach,” reported CTV News editorial producers Katherine Dow and Kayla Rosen.
Pit bull ban introduced in 1990
“The changes would have ended breed-specific legislation first introduced back in 1990 after people were badly injured in attacks,” Dow and Rosen said.
“The breed ban covers pit bulls, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and predominant mixes,” Dow and Rosen explained.
Dow and Rosen omitted to mention that the so-called “breed-neutral, behavior-based approach” would have in effect been a “one free bite” law, since it could not be invoked before a pit bull attacked someone.
The ANIMALS 24-7 forty-year breed-specific log of more than 11,350 fatal and disfiguring dog attacks documents that approximately half of the 7,900 pit bull attacks were, according to the pit bull owners, the first known exhibitions of dangerous behavior by the pit bulls who killed or disfigured someone.
Winnipeg Humane Society thinks risk of being barred from “doggy day care” & dog parks might deter pit bull attacks
Transcona city councilor Shawn Nason, “who ran on a platform to end the ban on breed-specific dogs and voted in favor of the changes,” according to Dow and Rosen, joined the Winnipeg Humane Society in pushing a proposal to “regulate [dog] owners’ behaviors with a new ‘at-risk’ category,” said CBC reporter Sam Samson.
“This would flag owners who have recurring behavioral issues with their animals,” Samson continued. “The city does [already] have categories to flag dangerous and exceptionally dangerous pets, but this new category was supposed to be a preventative measure, according to the report” from the standing committee on protection, community services, and parks.
“Anyone who has a pet flagged as ‘at risk’ wouldn’t be allowed to let their dog go to doggy daycare or be in an off-leash area,” Samson detailed earlier, on April 11, 2022.
Full employment for dog trainers
The report also recommended, Samson said, “strengthening the ‘dangerous dog category by making training and harness use mandatory, removing the ability to appeal that label once it’s been handed down, and by giving the city the power to seize, rehome or euthanize any dog whose owner doesn’t follow the rules of that category.”
The city of Winnipeg already has the latter power, while the requirement for training might be seen as a “full employment for dog trainers” measure, chiefly benefitting the trainers who lined up to testify for repealing the pit bull ban.
Mayor wants pit bulls to be an election issue
The Winnipeg pit bull ban “was brought in after a vicious attack on one of our residents,” recalled Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman, who voted to keep the ban. “I, for one, don’t want to be responsible for increasing the number of pit bulls in the City of Winnipeg.
“We’ve heard at committee from veterinarians,” Bowman continued, “including one who was very clear that a bite from a pit bull is very different than a bite from a Chihuahua. They are different bites.
“Dogs do bite,” Bowman acknowledged, “but the bite from a pit bull can be deadly.”
Bowman, however, recommended that the pit bull ban “should be an upcoming election issue. Civic elections will be held across Manitoba on October 26,” Samson mentioned.
The Colorado experience
Voters in Denver, Colorado in November 2020––influenced by a hugely well-funded campaign by pit bull advocates, without organized opposition from attack victims––repealed a pit bull ban that had stood since 1989.
Voters in neighboring Aurora, Colorado, overwhelmingly voted in November 2014 to keep a pit bull ban passed at the same time as the Denver ban, but the Aurora city council repealed the ban in January 2021.
Three weeks to a day later, five-year-old Leonardo Duran of Aurora suffered the first disfiguring pit bull attack in either Aurora or Denver in more than 30 years, inflicted by only the third pit bull rehomed by the Aurora Animal Shelter since the ban was rescinded.
Study found Winnipeg pit bull ban especially effective in protecting children
A 2012 study published by the Journal of Injury Prevention, entitled “Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalizations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba,” by Malathi Raghavan, Patricia J Martens, Dan Chateau, and Charles Burchill, found that in “a total of 16 urban and rural jurisdictions with pit bull bans there was a significant reduction in dog bite injury hospitalization rates from the pre-BSL to post-BSL period.”
The study by Raghavan et al further found that in Winnipeg the dog bite injury hospitalization rate dropped to about a third lower than in Brandon, Manitoba, which did not adopt a pit bull ban.
The study also found that banning pit bulls “appeared more effective in protecting those aged fewer than 20 years” than non-breed-specific dog laws.
Winnipeg pit bull incidents
Pit bulls brought into Winnipeg despite the ban have been involved in several dangerous incidents in recent years.
In January 2021, for example, a purported “service” pit bull was expelled from Winnipeg after four months of hearings and a two-month appeal process.
The pit bull was “accused of roughing-up another animal and disliking Indigenous people,” reported James Snell for the Winnipeg Sun.
That episode erupted four months after an incident at a local motel in which three adult pit bulls and a puppy sent three people, including the owner, to hospitals with injuries that police described as “life-altering.”
Concern about avian flu kills backyard chicken coop proposal
After upholding the Winnipeg pit bull ban, the city council majority “voted 9-7 to completely scrap a two-year pilot project to allow backyard chickens,” Samson of the CBC reported. “Many councilors stated their concerns about avian flu in the province.
“The other option,” Samson said, “was to delay the pilot and come back to it in a year.”
The proposal would have authorized backyard chicken coops in 20 locations, after which the Winnipeg city council would have considered making the authorization of backyard chicken coops standard city policy.
Winnipeg Humane Society opposed backyard chicken coops
“It would be ill-advised for council to support such a proposal since the outbreak was declared just a few months ago,” said Winnipeg Humane Society spokesperson Brittany Semeniuk.
“Semeniuk also had concerns that Winnipeggers may irresponsibly discard chickens once they no longer can produce eggs,” Samson said. She is also concerned there are a limited amount of veterinarians who can treat chickens within or near Winnipeg.”
Apparently not among the stated concerns of the Winnipeg Humane Society is the frequent use of backyard chicken keeping as a cover for breeding gamefowl to be used in cockfighting.
Concluded Samson, “City staff are asking for one more year to consider changes to which exotic animals are and are not allowed within Winnipeg, and how that bylaw could be changed.”