Today pitbulls are back in the news. Not a nasty mauling this time, but a constitutional challenge to the current pitbull ban in Ontario. The dog generating headlines today was born after the ban took effect, meaning that since it was caught by the authorities it will be put down.
Granted, the owner could have been a little smarter by not letting the dog escape in the first place, and also perhaps by picking a better name than “Rambo“. Something like “Buttercup” or “Daisy” would be more advisable for a dog whose breed has a serious image problem. After all, part of being a responsible dog owner, which most pitbull owners insist they are, involves not letting the dog get loose. Ever.
However, that doesn’t make the law itself any less stupid. A blanket ban on any breed is senseless, particularly when it can include “a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics substantially similar to any of those dogs” – when “those dogs” include not just pitbulls, but also any sort of Staffordshire Terrier and any old mutt that might have similar traits.
Funny thing about breeds and bans. When I was a kid in the 70s the breed everyone was hysterical about was the Doberman Pinscher. I knew several children who’d been badly mauled by Dobermans. My mother’s dog was viciously attacked by a poodle – the ‘standard’ poodle is actually a large dog, and can be pretty ill-tempered. Not exactly a breed that generates media hysteria however.
A lot of high profile attacks seem to involve one of two things: a vicious dog that the owner has not secured properly, or a child that is too young to be left alone near any animal.
In England the law – Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 – is even more draconian as it includes not just pitbulls, but also a couple of lesser known ‘fighting dogs’ such as the Argentine Dogo. Over there, Rottweilers seem to generate the most headlines and there are continued calls to add them to the list of breeds to be banned.
Meanwhile in Ontario, Rottweilers seem perfectly uncontroversial. And like any blanket prohibition, rather than single out reckless people, even law-abiding, responsible dog owners are turned into criminals.
I’ve argued this before, and I’ll argue it again. There shouldn’t be prohibitions on everybody because of the stupidity of a few individuals.