August 31, 2006

Pit bull or not?

I've recently run into a couple of situations that highlight an important issue from the Ontario court case.

First, I recognize that there are important considerations in this case other than the ability to visually identify a dog breed. Things such as:

  • Unreasonable (and sometimes warrantless) search and seizure
  • Reverse onus
  • Presumption of guilt
  • Lack of equality and equal protection under the law
  • Lack of reasonable limits and demonstrable justification for such extreme measures
The issue of accurate and reliable identification of the supposed "problem breeds", however, was a significant factor in the constitutional challenge. The inability for average dog owners, for enforcement officers, and for courts to consistently and fairly identify a dog's heritage, even more so in the case of mixed breeds, is the reason why this law can partially be challenged on the argument of vagueness.

During the court case, both sides, as well as the judge, had much discussion about CORE vs. PERIPHERY.

CORE is defined as the specific purebred breeds named in the bill, clauses (b) through (d). In the case of Bill 132, these are: (b) Staffordshire Bull Terrier, (c) American Staffordshire Terrier, and (d) American Pit Bull Terrier. If a person owns a purebred dog of one of these breeds, identifiable through a pedigree with the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, or the American Dog Breeders Association, then that person's dog is part of the CORE. These are also the dogs that, in the case of Bill 132, might be exempted from sterilization and, in certain situations, from the muzzle/leash requirements.

The CORE consists entirely of dogs that the prosecution can legally prove fall into the category of "restricted" or "prohibited" dogs. Our argument was that the core is SO small (incredibly small compared to the number of dogs in Ontario) that the only purpose of including the core was to give a base definition from which authorities can reach out and grab all the other dogs. There is also no proof, whatsoever, that the core is responsible for even a proportionate number of bite incidents compared to their population.

PERIPHERY, on the other hand, is covered by the other two "breed" definitions in Bill 132. Definition (a) is "pit bull terrier" and definition (e) is "a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d)".

Much of the argument was related to the size of the CORE in relation to the size of the PERIPHERY. How many dogs can definitely be identified as "restricted" or "prohibited" (core)? How many dogs are sitting on the edge (periphery) and might or might not be identified, depending on the arbitrary and subjective opinion of the officer or the court? The government lawyers spent a lot of time trying to prove that "pit bull terrier" is such an accepted word, a norm if you will, that everyone knows what it is and what it looks like. If they were successful in this argument, then they could actually throw out clause (e) since clause (a) would cover anything they wanted it to.

OK, enough of the legalese. Back to my stories.

1. The Border Collie

A friend owns a dog that we think is a mixture of Border Collie and something - we don't know what. My guess, off the top of my head, would be Lab or something close. The problem is, when this dog smiles and you happen to be looking at the dog head on, it is easy to imagine that you see a "pit bull" grin. Never mind the fact that, when a Lab smiles, you get the same look.

So, she has been told by a few people, here and there, that her dog might have "pit bull" in it. Petrified, of course, and loving her dog more than life itself, she went out and got a muzzle. Now her dog is always muzzled in public. I had an Animal Services officer friend of mine look at the dog and tell her, point-blank, there is no way her dog would get identified as a "pit bull". But she's too worried about the one wrong person saying the one wrong thing. So she muzzles her dog. The point is, nobody knows. Not her. Not her friends. Not me. Not the Animal Services officer. Nobody.

2. The Terrier Mutt

Another couple owns a definite terrier mutt. Who knows what the heck is in this dog? Maybe some sort of wire-haired terrier, maybe some sort of hound as well. The dog has webbed feet and a nose that will take her two miles in any direction before she looks up. So maybe there is some hound. When they got the dog from the rescue group, they were told that there might be "pit bull" in her. Their only reason for suggesting that was because the dog is grey brindle (remember BRINDLE = PIT BULL). The dog has wire hair going in every direction except the ground and the hair is much longer than your average American Pit Bull Terrier. She's about 50 pounds. The owners are convinced the dog has Plott Hound in her, because of the brindle, the type of hair, and the webbed feet. Whatever the dog is, nobody knows for sure nor can they even muster an educated guess.

This dog was being boarded at another friend's house and I was to pick her up and walk her to the owners' house, a few blocks away. It just so happened that the day I did that (Saturday) was the Taste of the Danforth in Toronto. The Danforth is a road in Toronto, but it's also a Greek neighbourhood, with many Greek businesses and restaurants. Taste of the Danforth is a huge annual celebration of Greek culture and cuisine. Hundreds of thousands of people crowd through a closed off Danforth Avenue, sampling the goods and enjoying the music. Of course, there are also a lot of police there for crowd control, just in case.

I had to walk this dog right along the Danforth, through the crowds, to get from one friend's house to the other. As I was walking, I realized that I was still wearing the "My Ontario Includes Pit Bulls" button because I had been helping at a dog show booth earlier in the day. It suddenly occurred to me that there was no way I could prove the breed of this dog, that my button may attract the attention of a police officer, and that because of the brindle colour of the dog and because of my button, they may assume that she's a "pit bull". It would not be an unreasonable assumption, except that the dog doesn't look anything like any of the purebred dogs mentioned in the law. Not even close. But the colour plus the button could very easily cause someone to assume that the dog is a "pit bull" mix. Of course, she wasn't muzzled.

So, what did I do? For the sake of my friends, for the sake of the dog, and for my own peace of mind walking along the street, I removed my button.

What you have read here, my friends, is what this law does. It creates fear. It creates fear of dogs in the general public mind and it creates fear of authority within the dog owning population. It makes a simple thing like WALKING YOUR DOG a stressful, scary experience.

Read the rest of this article

Neighbour hates neighbour

To the young dog owner in this Winnipeg Sun story, welcome to the world that Ontarians are living in every day! Owners of ANY breed in Ontario should be afraid of losing their dogs because of vindictive or fearful neighbours.

Interesting statement by the city councillor, Gord Steeves:

The pound requires bite victims to sign sworn statements in case judicial action follows. "If we don't, anybody could just phone us and say, 'Joe Blow's dog down the street bit me,' because they don't like Joe Blow. That's not right," he said.
I don't know if that's the policy of every municipal pound here in Ontario, but I highly doubt it.

In Ontario, your dog doesn't have to bite to be taken away. If someone complains that your dog "menaced" them, police can come to your house and, in some cases without a warrant, enter your home (whether or not you are there), seize your dog, and you could face up to $10,000 in fines and up to six months in jail. Your dog does not have to be identified as a "pit bull" for this to happen. And trust me, when they have your dog, getting it back is no easy task!

Strange quote from Tim Dack of Winnipeg Animal Services:
Animal services chief operator Tim Dack said the Labrador was seized for a 10-day quarantine -- a precautionary measure following any such apparent attack -- after his employees found that "a bite has occurred."

The pound's action, however, is not an indication that the girl was left with a clear wound. "There doesn't have to be a mark. There doesn't have to be a scratch," Dack explained. "The biting doesn't have to break the skin or leave a mark. It's the action of biting."
So what the heck does it mean, that "a bite has occurred", if there isn't a mark and there isn't a scratch and the skin wasn't broken? Can you imagine falling off a bike, sustaining no injuries, no skin scrapes, no cuts or bruises, no broken bones, and then suing the bike manufacturer because you fell off?

GIVE ME A BREAK! Everybody needs to relax about dogs. PLEASE.

Although I think it's absolutely wrong and a perfect case of an innocent person being penalized without having broken the law, Ms. Ogal is lucky she only has to pay $200 in pound fees to get her dog back.

She is more fortunate than she realizes. Labrador retreiver mixes are among the types of dogs most commonly misidentified as "pit bulls". If, whether in Winnipeg or here in Ontario, God forbid her dog had been identified as a "pit bull", the only thing she would have received back would have been a box containing her pet's ashes.

And last, but definitely not least, another quote from Councillor Steeves encapsulates much of what is wrong with the way dog legislation is headed.
They are still dogs, but they are also innocent, I think, until proven guilty.
Even though Mr. Steeves is defending this particular dog, the problem is in the assumption that a DOG can be guilty or innocent, or that there is any such thing as morals or conscience or any such human concept within the dog world. This is not about the dog being innocent or guilty.

It is the dog OWNER who has to pay the $200 fine.
It is the dog OWNER who has to spend 10 days without her dog.
It is the dog OWNER who has to go through the stress of being charged and not knowing whether she'll get her dog back.
It is the dog OWNER who has to fight for her rights, even though she did nothing wrong.

It is the dog OWNER who, in this case, is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

It is the dog OWNER whose rights are being trampled on, while the alleged victim can scream obscenities, spray paint someone else's property, make false accusations, and generally make another person's life hell, with impunity.



I've included the entire story below because of the Sun's money-making insistence on requesting fees for archived articles. I don't want this story to disappear, like so many others.

The original article is at:
http://winnipegsun.com/News/Winnipeg/2006/08/30/1786048-sun.html

or possibly at:
http://winnipegsun.com/News/Winnipeg/2006/08/30/pf-1786048.html


August 30, 2006

Big bucks to spring puppyOwner says bite call was a spite call
By ROSS ROMANIUK, CITY HALL REPORTER

A North End woman is livid after seeing her dog seized and quarantined -- saddling her with a nearly $200 pound bill -- only because someone cried wolf.

At least that's what Shannon Ogal insists happened when a teen girl complained to animal services officials last week that she had been bitten by the eight-month-old Labrador-cross on Manitoba Avenue.

Ogal lost her male pup, Ruffus -- at least temporarily -- last Wednesday when pound employees nabbed it as a result of a confrontation between her and a couple of teens in front of her house the previous evening.

The girls were "drunk or on something," Ogal said, when one of them taunted the animal.

"The next thing you know she screams, 'Your dog bit me!' " Ogal, a 27-year-old hotel desk clerk, told the Sun.

"She made it up. Then she just said she's calling the cops. She didn't show me the bite at all."

Dogcatchers showed up the next day to apprehend Ruffus, despite the owner's insistence there was no such attack or visible injury.

"There was nothing at all," Ogal said. "The worst he would do is maybe lick someone to death."

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE

Animal services chief operator Tim Dack said the Labrador was seized for a 10-day quarantine -- a precautionary measure following any such apparent attack -- after his employees found that "a bite has occurred."

The pound's action, however, is not an indication that the girl was left with a clear wound.

"There doesn't have to be a mark. There doesn't have to be a scratch," Dack explained.

"The biting doesn't have to break the skin or leave a mark. It's the action of biting. People could be just lucky to not get bitten -- they could move their arm just in time, or it could just get their coat instead of them."

The 10-day confiscation, Dack said, protects the public in case the quarantined animal is rabid and costs the pet's owner $18 per day.

Even if Ogal retrieves Ruffus this weekend as she hopes, it will come with a bill of about $180 plus tax.

She wants the pound and police to listen to her argument that the teen complainant is a troublemaker allegedly responsible for a spray-painted slur, "Dead dog & dead bitch," scrawled on her rear shed since the incident.

"She's been harassing me. She drives by, swearing," said Ogal, who also owns Ruffus' mother Attila.

"She said, 'It would be sad if your other dog is taken away, too.'"

Coun. Gord Steeves, head of city hall's protection committee, said he has confidence in the pound's ability to do the right thing.

"But hopefully they'll look at the injury. You don't want a dog picked up unless the dog has actually bitten someone," Steeves (St. Vital) said.

"It's just like a human. They are still dogs, but they are also innocent, I think, until proven guilty."

The pound requires bite victims to sign sworn statements in case judicial action follows.

"If we don't, anybody could just phone us and say, 'Joe Blow's dog down the street bit me,' because they don't like Joe Blow. That's not right," he said.

"I'm not saying people don't lie on statements, but we've never, to my knowledge or my memory, had a case when somebody has lied on a statement for a quarantine of an animal."

Read the rest of this article

August 28, 2006

Dog Owners' rights are disappearing in Ontario

Please read the following articles to understand how Ontario's Bill 132, a piece of legislation that has often been called the "pit bull ban", has much more to do with all dog owners than most people realize.

Note the underlying theme of increasing restrictions on all dog owners with the ultimate aim of ending pet ownership. Note the various violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in order to accomplish this, violations affecting not only owners of certain types of dogs, but owners of all dogs. Your rights are being taken away as you read this and you aren't even aware of it.

One Year Anniversary Vigil in Toronto Ontario

Ontario Labrador Retriever Ban: UPDATE

The Dalton and Michael Awards

Dog Owner? Stand up and SAY SOMETHING!

PUSH THE ROCK UP THE HILL AND WATCH IT ROLL BACK DOWN

Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare in Ontario
Read Bill 132 in its entirety and then read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and see how the fomer violates the latter. According to the Charter of Rights, every person in this country and, in particular, every citizen of this country, has the following rights (italics mine):
Section 1: a guarantee to the rights and freedoms set out in the Charter subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society;

Section 6(1): the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada;

Section 6(2): the right to move to and take up residence in any province and the right to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province;

Section 7: the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice;

Section 8: the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure;

Section 9: the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned;

Section 11(d): the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;

Section 15: the right to be equal before and under the law and the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
Remember, this is not about dogs! This is about your rights, my rights, and the rights of every dog owner in the province. It's about the Liberal government ripping up the Charter of Rights, jumping up and down on it, then throwing it away, and somehow getting the support of a large segment of the population because nobody even recognizes what just happened!

People died and are still dying fighting for our right to be treated fairly and equally. Just because these Charter violations have been nicely packaged into a law about dogs, don't think for one second that it has anything to do with our four-legged friends. Read the list of violations again. Think of them in terms of people, you and me, not in terms of dogs.

Please help fight this discriminatory law. Here's how:
  • Donate to Banned Aid to support the constitutional challenge in the Superior Court of Ontario, the first of its kind in Canada;
     
  • Help the Dog Legislation Council of Canada and others run booths at various events;
     
  • Contact your MPP and let them know why you won't be voting Liberal on October 4, 2007. Even if your MPP is not Liberal, contact them anyway;
     
  • Encourage your friends, family members, coworkers, park members, veterinarians, trainers, and anyone else you meet to get involved, donate, become members of the DLCC or other groups;
     
  • Write to your local newspaper editor and tell them how you feel about this law and why.
And, most importantly, remember that My Dog Votes

Read the rest of this article

One Year Anniversary Vigil in Toronto Ontario

On Sunday, August 27, there was a one year anniversary vigil at Queen's Park in Toronto Ontario. For those of you unfamiliar with the city, Queen's Park is the location of the Provincial Legislature where Bill 132 was hatched and passed.

Here is one attendee's brief summary of the evening.

Turnout was less than expected. I would attribute that to a number of factors, including summer time, thunderstorms all day (although we were fortunate to not be rained upon during the event), and a general lack of desire to attend with a muzzled dog. There also appears to be an apathy among dog owners regarding this law, almost an acceptance of it.

The crowd that did attend was enthusiastic and supportive. Great people. Great dogs. It was nice to see a number of people attending with non-targeted breeds as well, showing that they really get what this law is about.

Some common themes threaded their way through all the speeches:

  1. This is not about dogs. It's about the government being allowed to create laws that violate the constitutional rights of a small group of people (owners of dogs with a certain look). In fact, the constitutional rights of all dog owners are capable of being violated and abused by this law.
     
  2. We are seeing more and more laws targeting and restricting all dog owners and breed-specific legislation is one piece of that. A perfect example is how, amid all the coverage and uproar about the "pit bull" portion of Bill 132, people missed the fact that police may now go into any private residence, regardless of the breed of dog, in some cases without a warrant. They missed the fact that, no matter what breed or mixed breed they own, they may face $10,000 in fines and six months in jail if someone who doesn't like them or doesn't like their dog accuses their dog of having threatened a person, another dog, or a cat!
     
  3. In order to continue this fight, we need people to talk with their friends and get more people to join the organizations that are fighting this. We need bodies and we need money. It is not enough for people to pat us on the back and say what a great job we are doing or that they think the law is stupid. We have to get people to act, with their time, their effort, and their cash. This fight has been and will continue to be expensive and time consuming. Without financial and physical support, we will not be able to continue.
     
  4. As the provincial election date draws near, our focus must change to become more political. The rallying cry of My Dog Votes will draw dog owners of all types together to persuade politicians that the dog-owning public is a huge and powerful force, one that will vote based on how they and their dogs will be treated. The micro-managing laws that are becoming the norm must not be allowed to continue. Breed-specific legislation is just one symptom of a larger problem - the desire to separate dogs from the public, from interactions with people, with other dogs, with children, and ultimately the desire to end dog ownership, particularly in the urban environment. This cannot be accepted or, not too long from now, nobody will be owning dogs, period.
City TV attended. Their coverage of the event, including video, can found here.

To those who did attend, thank you.

Read the rest of this article

August 25, 2006

Ontario Labrador Retriever Ban: UPDATE

On Wednesday, Caveat posted an article describing the potential for a ban on Labrador Retrievers in the province of Ontario, already infamous for its ban on "pit bulls and anything that sort of looks like one".

Today, a further article was posted, providing a much-requested explanation of the first piece.

If you want to really understand how the Ontario ban and others like it are not so much about dogs as they are about journalism, politics, and your rights, the second article is a must-read.

If you care, even one iota, about the future of dog ownership in this country, then don't miss this opportunity to learn.

Read the rest of this article

August 22, 2006

Ontario Ban turns ONE August 29

August 29, 2006, is the one year anniversary of Ontario's amended Dog Owners' Liability Act. We hope you will join us at Queen's Park (Toronto) on Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 7:00 PM.

Please see the following note for details or visit Caveat's blog at http://caveat.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2006/8/18/2241927.html

Caveat's site has a well-designed printable flyer (PDF format) for distribution in your neighbourhood. It also provides important details about the law and its violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.



VIGIL INFORMATION:

Still fighting for our rights and our dogs' lives

Bryant's Amendments to the Dog Owners' Liability Act:
Enacted on August 29, 2005

Candlelight Vigil One Year Anniversary
Sunday, August 27th, 2006
7 pm - 10 pm
Queens Park, Toronto, ON


It started with "Pit Bull" types - which breed types will be next?

Candles provided with a donation to the Legal Challenge Fund.

Organized by members of the Banned Aid Coalition.
info@advocatesfortheunderdog.com

Please come and show your support.
Banned "Pit Bull" type dogs must be in compliance with the Dog Owners' Liability Act (leashed/muzzled/sterilized)

The legal challenge continues- we need your support

At the end of EVERY leash there is a VOTER.

Read the rest of this article

The Dalton and Michael Awards

A prestigious British business magazine owned by the Financial Times has named Premier Dalton McGuinty its world "personality of the year."

Praising him as "outgoing and upbeat in that very North American way," the five-year-old publication hails his "infectious enthusiasm" and notes that "should Ontarians run short on energy, they could always plug in to their high-octane leader."

Read the entire article from Foreign Direct Investment magazine

Here's the original Toronto Star article

Here are the responses from the Ontario PC party and the Ontario NDP party

So much did I appreciate the additional awards suggested by the Progressive Conservatives that I am proposing that these additional awards be presented to Michael Bryant, the Attorney General of Ontario and architect of that province's infamous "pit bull" ban.

The Hill's Public Relations Award of the CVMA for enhancing the public image of the veterinary profession because "you can be one, too" according to his new dog legislation.

The CVMA Humane Award for having contributed significantly to the welfare and well-being of animals, particularly by publicly promoting the "humanity" of mass destruction of thousands of dogs and the eventual extinction of three purebred breeds.

The Human Rights Award (or the Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award) for warrantless entries, groundless seizure of private property, and discriminatory imprisonment of Canadian citizens.

The Nobel Prize for Physics for discovering that one type of dog can lock its jaws, despite all scientific and biological evidence to the contrary.

The Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering that a dog may have extra levels of endorphins in its brain because of the way its body is shaped. A second prize was awarded for providing an unlimited supply of healthy, good-tempered dogs to biological research facilities.

The Canadian Journal of Statistics Award for the discovery of new methods of calculations that can produce extremely high and prejudicial numbers from extraordinarily small and unreliable data.

The Lawmaker of the Year Award for creating what is arguably the most vague and uninterpretable law in the country.

The City of Toronto's Outstanding Commitment to Community Safety Award for removing from our streets, our fields, and our family rooms, these unidentifiable, indefinable, mythical monsters with no history of unusual danger to the public.

The Child Safety Award in recognition of the entire Ontario Liberal government's commitment to child safety, as encapsulated so succintly in the Legislature by Tim Peterson (Liberal MPP for Mississauga South) who spouted, "One child attacked, one person killed, are too many for a breed of dog", conveniently ignoring the fact that at least 12 unique breeds have killed people in Canada and over 35 unique breeds have killed people in the United States, also ignoring the fact that virtually every breed on the planet has attacked at least one child.

There is one more award that doesn't exist yet, but should: Mr. Bryant should receive country-wide recognition for violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms not once, not twice, not even three, four, or five times, but SIX times in a single piece of legislation. That must be a record and is certainly worthy of acknowledgment.

Read the rest of this article

August 17, 2006

Have they found the mythical "pit bull"?

Anyone who follows the fight against breed-specific legislation is well aware of one of the main complaints about laws aimed at the most targeted type of dog, the issue being that there is no such thing as a "pit bull".

The argument goes something like this:

First, you take some or all of five or so purebred breeds and you list them.

Then, because there are only a small number of purebred dogs of this type and because the owners of purebred dogs tend to keep hold of them and not let them run around biting people, you add a phrase such as "substantially similar" or "with similar physical characteristics", to include as many dogs as possible in the hopes of catching the few that bite.

The purebred dogs and the many mixed-breed mutts that fit the catch-all phrase can now be referred to by a single identifier: "pit bull".

In addition, we have the media representation and public perception of the dreaded "pit bull" as, essentially, any medium to large sized dog that is even remotely muscular and that has attacked, bitten, nipped, threatened, barked, run loose, charged a fence, played rough, or has, in some person's opinion, caused someone, somewhere, some concern or fear.

Many members of the public have never even seen a purebred dog of the targeted breeds. In Ontario, there are a minute number of these dogs born each year to breeders registered with the CKC, the AKC, the UKC, or the ADBA. If someone has seen a dog he thought was a "pit bull", it is most likely to have been a backyard-bred mutt of unknown lineage. The bigger the dog is, the more muscular the dog is, AND, most importantly, the more out-of-control or aggressive the dog is, the more likely it is that the uneducated, media-misinformed person will identify the dog as a "pit bull".

Eventually, through selective and inflammatory stories in the media, with the help of politicians' carefully crafted sound bites, the phrase "pit bull" begins to represent a mythical creature of legendary strength with a ferocity unrivaled in the animal world. The very words strike terror into the hearts of those who have never seen, touched, played with, or slept with one.

Some of the phrases used by politicians and gobbled up by the media (and eventually the public) are:

  • ticking time bombs
  • inherently dangerous animals
  • terrorizing the neighbourhood
  • 150 pound beast knocking a fence over and charging kids
  • eaten alive from the ankles up
  • we cannot have these animals walking the streets
  • it is a breed apart
  • this is far more "bull" than "pet"
  • locking jaws
  • extra endorphin in the brain
  • bred to kill
  • something has to be done about these dogs
  • afraid of nothing
  • something is wrong with people who own "pit bulls"
  • when they attack, they don't stop
  • assault weapons of the canine world
  • kids are being killed

In Ontario, every one of these phrases has been used by a politician or a reporter, yet not one has ever been backed up by facts or statistics, not even once. Each of these statements was simply launched, heard, and accepted, without question.

I believe, however, that we have finally solved the mystery of the mythical "pit bull". A strange beast has been found, dead, in Turner, Maine. It had been terrorizing the neighbourhood for years, killing pets and frightening residents. On one occasion, a lady even managed to "lock eyes" with the beast for a few seconds.

Here are some of the descriptions from the original article:

  • mysterious creature
  • mauled dogs
  • frightened residents
  • subject of local legend
  • hybrid mutant of something
  • evil, evil looking
  • horrible stench
  • half-rodent, half-dog
  • curled fangs hanging over its lips
  • something out of a Stephen King story
  • this is something I've never seen before ... it's an evil-looking thing
  • chilling monstrous cries
  • eyes that glow in the night
  • killed a Doberman and a Rottweiler
  • mystery monster that roams the woods

Wow, I think it really is the missing "pit bull"! Nobody can define it, but everyone knows one when they see it.

Read the whole story for yourself here (including a picture of the dead beast).

It's a shame that Maine wildlife officials and animal control officers declined to pick up the body and do an autopsy, as well as take measurements and photographs. A brain scan and a physical analysis of the jaw would also have been appropriate.

Enforcement officials across the continent could have used this data to compare to that of confiscated dogs in order to determine if they really are "pit bulls".

Read the rest of this article

August 14, 2006

Animal Rights groups are a danger to you and your pet!

I generally try not to plagiarize hard-working journalists nor duplicate the efforts of other writers. I prefer to link to their articles and let you get your info directly from the horses' mouths, so to speak.

An article in the Magic City Morning Star (Maine), however, caught my attention. In particular, the quotes at the end of the article, quotes from Animal Rights leaders, are worth repeating here.

The original article by Nick Van Duren, Colorado Director for Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States, is a definite must-read. Below, I have included the quotes from the end of his article.

"Anybody who shoots a pit bull running loose is justified"
- Kory Nelson, Assistant City Attorney of Denver, CO, San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, June 27, 2005 (Known all over as Denver's "Dr. Death of Dogs")
"We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. . . One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding."
- Wayne Pacelle, Senior VP of Humane Society of the US, formerly of Friends of Animals and Fund for Animals, Animal People, May, 1993. NOTE: (Wayne Pacelle's initial training was as a PeTA activist. Today he heads HSUS under the guise of "legitimacy". It is the largest and most profitable of the animal Rightist lobbying organizations.
"Pet ownership is an absolutely abysmal situation brought about by human manipulation."
- Ingrid Newkirk, national director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Just Like Us? Harper's, August 1988, p. 50.
"As John Bryant has written in his book Fettered Kingdoms, they [pets] are like slaves, even if well-kept slaves."
- PeTA's Statement on Companion Animals.
"We are not especially 'interested in' animals. Neither of us had ever been inordinately fond of dogs, cats, or horses in the way that many people are. We didn't 'love' animals."
- Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals, 2nd ed. (New York Review of Books, 1990), Preface, p. ii.
"Our goal: to convince people to rescue and adopt instead of buying or selling animals, to disavow the language and concept of animal ownership."
- Eliot Katz, President In Defense of Animals, In Defense of Animals website, 2001
"It is time we demand an end to the misguided and abusive concept of animal ownership. The first step on this long, but just, road would be ending the concept of pet ownership."
- Elliot Katz, President "In Defense of Animals," Spring 1997
"The cat, like the dog, must disappear... We should cut the domestic cat free from our dominance by neutering, neutering, and more neutering, until our pathetic version of the cat ceases to exist."
- John Bryant, Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of A Changing Ethic (Washington, DC: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), 1982, p. 15.
"My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture."
- JP Goodwin, employed at the Humane Society of the US, formerly at Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, as quoted on AR-Views, an animal rights Internet discussion group in 1996.
"Man is the most dangerous, destructive, selfish, and unethical animal on earth."
- Michael W. Fox, Scientific Director and former Vice President, Humane Society of the United States, as quoted in Robert James Bidinotto
"We are not terrorists, but we are a threat. We are a threat both economically and philosophically. Our power is not in the right to vote but the power to stop production. We will break the law and destroy property until we win."
- Dr. Steven Best, speaking at International Animal Rights Gathering 2005. The Telegram (UK) July 17, 2005.
"Arson, property destruction, burglary and theft are 'acceptable crimes' when used for the animal cause."
- Alex Pacheco, Director, PETA
"Our nonviolent tactics are not as effective. We ask nicely for years and get nothing. Someone makes a threat, and it works."
- Ingrid Newkirk, PeTA's founder and president, US News and World Report, April 8, 2002
"I openly hope that it [hoof-and-mouth disease] comes here. It will bring economic harm only for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence. It would be good for animals, good for human health and good for the environment.
- Ingrid Newkirk, PeTA founder and president, ABC News interview April 2, 2001

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August 11, 2006

Muzzle ALL dogs, again?

I wrote an article a while ago in response to a columnist's suggestion to muzzle all dogs over 40 pounds. Now we have a contributor in the Toronto Sun suggesting to muzzle all dogs, period.

Most dog bites are not serious. They result in a little cut, abrasion, or bruising. Very few require medical attention, even less require stitches, and even less result in any permanent damage. Even the bites mentioned below that may have required medical attention were mostly minor.

Most dog bites (approx 85%) happen in the family home, neighbour's home, or relative's home to a child that the dog knows. Muzzling in public would not prevent these bites.

Here are the numbers from my original article, taken even further after I've had time to think about it:

CITY OF TORONTO (approximate numbers):

Number of licensed dogs: 50,000
Estimated total dogs: between 250,000 and 500,000, depending on who's calculating
Number of reported bites in 2004: 1,000
Number of bites requiring medical attention (at least one suture): 120 (estimated from earlier reports)
Number of bites in public: 150 (15% of all bites)
Number of bites in public requiring medical attention: approx 20

So, to possibly, maybe, perhaps prevent 20 somewhat serious bites, somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 dogs would have to be muzzled, every day, twice a day.

No more parks or beaches. No more happy greetings between dogs or to humans on the street. No more proper socialization.

The dogs will become defensive, frustrated, undersocialized, and neurotic. Their walks will be focused on the muzzles, not on their owners or their surroundings. The excitement and enjoyment of their daily outings will be replaced by misery and conflict.

If and when one of those dogs gets loose from their backyard, it will be much more likely to bite than a dog who has met and played with hundreds of children and dogs throughout its life.

To me, this is not a valid tradeoff, especially when 79 people were murdered in Toronto last year and 59 died in car accidents. You want to save lives? Focus on that and leave the dog owners alone!

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From Good Citizen to Criminal at the Stroke of a Pen

One entry to the Toronto Sun's 2006 "guest column" competition got an honourable mention and was printed in the August 11 paper. The newspaper's title for it was "Dog Ban is the Pits".

Here's the full text of the column:

I am an intelligent, well-spoken, middle-aged male. I graduated high school and college at the top of my class. I have a good job as a computer professional, a house in a nice neighbourhood, and a decent car.

I live in Toronto with my wife, my daughter, my 4-year-old grandson, and two dogs.

I obey the law and consider myself to be a good citizen of society. I am not a drug dealer, a gangster, or a hoodlum.

Life would be good, except for one thing.

Thanks to a new Ontario law, I am constantly at risk of being branded a criminal and facing six months in jail.

My two non-purebred dogs appear to be American Pit Bull Terriers, one of North America's oldest, most decorated, and most trusted family breeds.

Does that change the way you think of me? Have I suddenly become a bad person or a second-class citizen?

Does it matter to you that my dogs have Canine Good Neighbour titles and obedience titles or that my older one would have become a therapy dog if not for this law?

Does it make a difference that my dogs will ignore belligerent and aggressive dogs or that a perfect stranger can put their hands into my car windows with no fear of anything other than a good lick?

If a "pit bull attack" happens, it won't be one of my dogs. I don't allow my dogs to run loose and bite.

I don't want to be painted with the same brush as someone who can't figure out that his out-of-control, untrained, unsocialized, alone-in-the-backyard mutt might one day get out and hurt someone.

I have met and worked with enough dangerous dogs in my life, of many different breeds, to know that this law will not make you or your family safer. All it's really doing is making mine miserable.

We cannot enjoy our walks through the woods and on the beach like other dog owners, because my "girls" just keep trying to get their muzzles off. I know of other owners who go out at 2 a.m., just so that their dogs can get some exercise.

They're always looking over their shoulders for police officers because the penalty for what they're doing is the mandatory death of their dog: Average citizens forced by a discriminatory government into becoming criminals.

Forget the breed of my dogs for one moment and imagine that you were targeted this way.

How would you react? Would you stand up and fight or would you lie there quietly and let them kill your dog and thousands like her?

Ontario is killing healthy, well-adjusted dogs at a rate unimaginable two years ago. Not aggressive. No behaviour problems. Not sick. Not injured. Perfectly adoptable. Wrong body.

Newborn puppies are required to be destroyed in this province. I don't use the word "euthanized," which is the mercy killing of sick or injured animals. This is destruction, plain and simple.

Want to help? Look up "Bill 132" on the Internet and help the organizations that are fighting this discrimination. Then, in October 2007, vote this Ontario Liberal government out of office and send them a letter now telling them why. While you're at it, send a copy to the Sun.


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August 09, 2006

10 Tips for Successful Involvement in Canine Legislation

Courtesy of the American Kennel Club and adapted for Canadian content, here are ten tips for successful involvement in canine legislation.

1. Pay attention to the local news.

It is important to follow your local news carefully, watching for the kind of events that may trigger a dog related proposal by your local government. And don't forget to read the public notices section of the local newspaper. It announces legislative meetings, hearings, and details that the main stories might miss.

2. Take advantage of local information sources.

Your city or county courthouse, your public library, the staff or clerk of the local government, and even members of the media are all equipped to answer your legislative questions. Most phone books list numbers of local and government offices, and many governments send free informational materials. Don't be afraid to take your questions to the source.

3. Familiarize yourself with the local legislative process.

What is involved in getting a proposal passed into law in your area? Are public hearings required before the assembly or city council can vote? Are meetings open to the public? Can the mayor veto a bill? etc.

4. Know how you can become involved.

How can you get on the agenda to speak at a hearing? Are there rules for speaking? How far in advance are hearings announced, and where are such announcements posted? What is involved in becoming a member of a special task force or study committee should such an issue arise?

5. Get to know your local officials.

Learn who they are, what they support, when they were elected and when they come up for re-election. What are their personal interests? Do they have any pets? Arrange to meet with them to introduce yourself and your club's interests.

6. Acquaint yourself with your provincial representatives.

Become familiar with their names and interests. Find out who represents your district, and the districts in which your club has members. And don't forget those staff members! They can be valuable contacts, and great sources of information.

7. Find out which committees in your provincial and local government handle canine concerns.

An agriculture committee may deal with kennel regulations or zoning, while a commerce committee may monitor the sale of dogs. Get your name on these committees' mailing lists to receive information about upcoming hearings and agendas.

8. Learn about your federal representatives.

Who are the representatives from your province? On which committees do they serve? What are their interests? What issues do they support? When is the next election, and which of them will be on the ballot?

9. Involve your club.

Encourage club members to take an interest in legislative concerns. Share your legislative news with them regularly, so that they will not be surprised if you suddenly need their help. Organize a phone chain or another efficient form of contact so that you can alert club members easily if an issue arises requiring a rapid response.

10. Communicate with other groups.

Talk to groups that share your concern for canine welfare. In addition to other dog clubs, local shelters, veterinary societies, or animal owner groups make valuable allies. Remember, there is strength in numbers. Cooperation is often the key to success.

Courtesy and copyright of the American Kennel Club.
Adapted by Steve Barker for Canadian content and application.

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Corporations and your buying power

In an earlier article, I introduced you to Shire, a licensed pet therapy dog working with special needs children in New Brunswick. She has been targeted by the town of Florenceville because she is a Rottweiler.

Her owner is an employee of McCain Foods Canada and moved to Florenceville as part of his job with McCain. McCain has chosen not to intervene to save Shire.

At what point does an employer, or even a corporation with no direct personal interest in an issue, become responsible as a contributing member of society and at what point do we hold them accountable through the use of our purchasing power?

Here is my e-mail to McCain Foods Limited, very short and not so sweet:

Save Shire the Rottweiler in Florenceville or lose:

- my business
- my friends' business
- my co-workers' business
- my clients' business (dog trainer)
- my suppliers' business
- every contact I have around the world

Clear enough?
Here is their response, also short and not so sweet:
Thank you for taking the time to write us regarding your concerns about the Village of Florenceville, the Rottweiler named Shire and your wish for a McCain Foods Canada intervention.

As I hope you can appreciate, McCain Foods Canada views this as public policy issue to be settled between the village council of Florenceville and one of its citizens.

The village council has been duly-elected by the people of Florenceville and therefore should represent the majority interest of its constituents.

We are hopeful that an outcome will be found that works for all interested parties.

Sincerely,

McCain Foods Canada
Because of this response, McCain will no longer be receiving any of my hard-earned cash and I will be following through with the rest of my promise to them. This means that I will no longer be buying any of the following items:
  • McCains frozen fries, drinks and desserts (and pizza)

  • Maple Leaf meats

  • Dempsters breads

  • Oliveri

  • Hygrade (in Quebec)

  • Burns

  • Shopsys

  • Tenderflake

  • Nutriwhip

  • California Goldminer Sourdough

  • Maison Cousin

  • Canada Bread

  • Olafson's

  • POM

  • Ben's

  • Jon-Lin

  • Elio's
So why am I doing this? What does McCain Foods have to do with Shire and her predicament? Why do they have to respond at all?

Well, frankly, they don't. It's entirely up to them and it's their decision to make. It's also entirely up to me where I decide to spend my money and for what reasons. If I don't like something about a company, I don't have to buy from them. Simple, but effective.

There are many Americans who will only buy American-made products because they prefer to see their money remain in the United States. Have the foreign companies done anything wrong or socially unacceptable? No, but those consumers who prefer to buy American are choosing not to spend their money on foreign products because of an underlying political belief that permeates all of their life decisions.

A die-hard believer in animal rights (i.e., no use of animals for any human purpose) may choose not to wear leather or fur. In that case, they believe that the leather and fur companies are actually doing wrong, so it's even easier for them to shun those purchases.

PetSmart decides that "bull-and-terrier" type dogs (American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs) are not welcome at their doggy day camps. Consequently, owners of "bull-and-terrier" dogs (of which there are an estimated five million in North America) AND many owners of other breeds now choose not to shop at PetSmart.

You get the idea. Sometimes, it's obvious. Sometimes, you may need to dig deeper.

You don't even have to disagree with a company's policies in order to decide against buying from them. You may have a choice among three companies. One actively engages in activities that you don't agree with, so that decision is easy. The second stays out of everything, doesn't get involved. The third actively pursues a positive agenda that, in your mind, improves society. If you are serious about encouraging that type of societal involvement from corporations, then you would choose to purchase from number three (and, ideally, you would let all three companies know why).

For example, imagine that your family has been severely affected by cancer and you have decided that you want to support cancer research in whatever way you can. You donate to cancer research foundations, you volunteer, you do as much as you can. Now, in your area, there are three grocery chains from which you can buy your household food. The first sells cigarettes. The second doesn't sell cigarettes, but doesn't actively or publicly promote anything. The third not only doesn't sell cigarettes, but is active in the community promoting cancer research, putting on events to raise money, advertising the same on TV and radio, etc. You will choose the third, even though the second isn't technically doing anything wrong, because you know that at least some of the profits from your purchases are going to help cancer research.

McCain Foods falls into the second category - a company that chooses to do nothing.

First and foremost, unlike many other situations in which we find breed-specific legislation, here we have a small town with a huge employer. There is no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that McCain Foods has influence with town officials in Florenceville. Florenceville is the chosen location not only for McCain Foods Canada, but for the head office of the entire McCain organization worldwide. If it becomes important enough to them, the company will start to make waves.

Second, doing nothing is not always good enough, not even for faceless corporate entities. Sometimes you have to stand up and speak out against things that you think are wrong, even if they're not directly within your particular sphere of interest.

Third, when I see someone doing nothing AFTER the injustice has been pointed out to them and they have been given the opportunity to get involved, then I start feeling like I really don't want to give them my business.

So, am I blaming McCain's? Not really. They're just doing what most companies try to do - avoid rocking the boat. But, since nobody's forcing me to spend my money with them, I'm choosing not to. That's all. It's my own personal decision and I'm not suggesting that anybody else do the same. You make your own choices and I'll make mine. Democracy in action!

Now, if McCain's were to perk up and start knocking some heads together down home in Florenceville, maybe I'd change my mind.

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August 08, 2006

Shire Shunned - Shameful

Shire is a licensed pet therapy dog working with special needs children in New Brunswick.

During her life, Shire has never done anything to cause people to dislike her, be afraid of her, or reject her. On the contrary, she has performed her duties impeccably, despite her own life-and-death struggles with illness.

The town of Florenceville, New Brunswick, believes she needs to die and will kill her if she steps foot in their town.

Animal Control of Florenceville wish to seize her.

The RCMP (national Canadian police) are on the lookout for her.

Why?

Because she's a Rottweiler and Rottweilers are banned in Florenceville. This, despite the fact that the Florenceville town clerk's office told her owners BEFORE they moved that there were no breed bans in the town. This information was repeated to their real estate agent.

McCain Foods, the employer of Shire's owner, refuses to step in and help, even though the reason her owner moved to Florenceville was because of his job with McCain's.

Dog Politics has a complete article on this.

The town councillors in Florenceville don't seem to care if anyone wants to visit their small town, even though it's been made abundantly clear to them that responsible, caring dog owners won't ever step foot in their village.

Unfortunately, McCain's, the major employer in the town, seems to be taking the political non-road by refusing to get involved. Since Florenceville doesn't care that the rest of the world is mad at them, maybe McCain's will.

Online contact for McCain's is:

http://www.mccain.com/mc_contact_form.htm

Regular mail:

McCain Foods Limited
107 Main Street
Florenceville, N.B.
E7L 1B2
Canada

The phone number to reach the main switchboard of the corporate headquarters is 506-392-5541.

Contact info for the village of Florenceville is:

381 Main Street
Florenceville, NB
E7L 3G8

Tel: (506)392-5249
Fax: (506)392-6143

Email: villflor@nbnet.nb.ca

Courtesy of a comment posted on the Dog Politics article, some of McCain's products are:

McCains frozen fries, drinks and desserts (and pizza)
Maple Leaf meats
Dempsters breads
Oliveri
Hygrade (in Quebec)
Burns
Shopsys
Tenderflake
Nutriwhip
California Goldminer Sourdough
Maison Cousin
Canada Bread
Olafson's
POM
Ben's
Jon-Lin
Elio's

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Dog Owner? Stand up and SAY SOMETHING!

Dogs are one of the most micro-managed properties that we own. The obvious others are cars and guns.

In 2005, in Toronto alone, there were 79 homicides. Of those, 52 people were murdered by criminals using guns.

In 2005, in Toronto alone, 59 people died as a result of car accidents and, as of the end of July 2006, we're almost 50% higher than the same time last year. In the Greater Toronto area, 229 people died in traffic accidents in 2005.

In 2005, there were no deaths in the city of Toronto from dog bites. In fact, there were no deaths from dogs in the entire country, period. This year, there have been three throughout the country, higher than the usual one per year, but still a minute number amongst the estimated six million or more dogs in Canada.

Despite this glaringly obvious lack of danger to society from dogs, Canadian dog owners are facing more breed-specific legislation and more restrictive all-breed laws than ever before.

If we actually have a "dog problem", which I don't believe we do, it is absolutely possible to manage it through the proper use of education, enforcement, and prosecution, without having to restrict the freedom of those people who have properly trained and socialized their dogs and whose pets are good citizens of society.

The city of Calgary, Alberta, has been upheld as a model of effective animal control. Some of their effectiveness in reducing dog bites has been attributed to an aggressive dog licensing policy. Although effective, this is not the sole reason for their success.

Calgary has a few other things that I believe have had a significant effect on their bite statistics:

  1. The city has dedicated education officers. Their city website has bite education information. Their animal control officers are educated and spend time educating others.


  2. The penalties for non-compliance, and particularly for allowing your dog to bite or attack, are very high.


  3. If your dog bites someone, it's very difficult to get your dog back. You have to pay high fines and you have to comply with detailed and expensive management requirements, such as an enclosure in your yard, spay/neuter, microchip, etc.


  4. Calgary has over 300 leash-free parks. Toronto, a city two and a half times the size, has 30. Off-leash parks, although definitely not for every dog or every owner, provide opportunities for dogs to interact with other dogs in an unrestrictive environment where dogs have the option of flight rather than just fight. Dogs learn bite inhibition and doggie manners through puppy play and this is extended into adult life through off-leash parks.
Here are some examples of current dog laws throughout Canada:

- mandatory city licence tag
- mandatory rabies tag
- mandatory microchip
- leash no longer than 2 metres (6.6 feet)
- maximum two or three dogs in a house
- length of tethers/chains and length of time tethered/chained
- prohibit tethers/chains
- fully fenced backyard if off leash
- walked by someone 16 or older
- not allowed within one metre of a person or a pet of a person who does not give consent
- not allowed within one metre of wild birds or animals
- not allowed in restaurants (or even on their patios)
- not allowed in stores
- no dogs over a certain size (condos especially, but also in some cities in the United States)
- no "threatening/menacing behaviour" or "apparent attitude of attack" towards people or animals

Here are some examples of the restrictions required by breed-specific laws in this country and in the U.S.:

- size-specific or breed-specific bans or restrictions
- muzzling and leashing in public
- muzzling and leashing in cars
- extra-short leash lengths
- automatic dangerous or vicious dog designation, without any bite history
- banning from city parks and beaches where other breeds are allowed
- banning from leash-free parks where other breeds are allowed
- banning completely from jurisdiction (although sometimes existing dogs are allowed to stay)
- special (i.e., more expensive) licensing and jurisdiction-wide registry
- special tags identifying the dog as a restricted dog
- mandatory microchipping and photograph
- mandatory insurance (often one million dollars) for each individual dog on the premises
- mandatory signage indicating the presence of the dog on the owner's property
- mandatory secure enclosures (in some cases, mandatory chaining)
- mandatory spay/neuter (to eventually eliminate the breed entirely)
- higher fines and/or jail time if a restricted breed bites or menaces
- fines and/or jail time for any infraction of any provision regarding restricted breeds
- age limit for walking the dog in public
- persons with criminal records not allowed to own a restricted breed
- ability of law enforcement to stop owners on the street just to check the dog's status
- ability of law enforcement to seize dogs without proof of wrongdoing
- ability of law enforcement to enter an owner's home, with or without a warrant, to investigate and/or seize a dog

Instead of all these micro-managing laws, whose authors must have tried to imagine every possible disaster that a dog could create, why not try the following?

You are responsible for all of your dog's actions, period. You are financially responsible for any damage, pain, or injury your dog may cause. If your dog bites, you're responsible for medical bills and for pain and suffering caused. Prior to its complete rewrite by the Ontario Liberals (which they termed an "amendment"), the Ontario Dog Owners' Liability Act already held dog owners financially responsible for damage or injury caused by their dog. Properly applied and prosecuted, it would have done its job well.

To expand on this approach, if your dog bites seriously, you should be charged with criminally causing bodily harm. In other words, your dog is an extension of your body. Anything your dog does is as if you did it. You should be charged with the same offence as if you personally had injured the person. Criminal charges should be laid if the injuries are serious or fatal or if you were negligent.

Your dog should be subject to the same trespassing, noise, and cleanliness bylaws that you are. We don't need dog-specific laws to deal with these issues. Repeated offences should result in more serious charges being laid. The charges of "public mischief" and "being a common nuisance" could be used.

Proper education lets people know what's expected of them, how to accomplish it, and what the penalties are for non-compliance. High penalties, combined with education, strongly encourage owner responsibility and accountability.

These invasive, meddling, picky little by-laws were created because of the occasional irresponsible owner, not because there were hoards of dogs roaming the streets, pooping on front lawns, and attacking children. These laws appear to have been created by dog-haters, or at least by people who don't have a clue what owning a dog is really about, and they certainly seem designed to make it as difficult, expensive, and unpleasant as possible to own a dog, especially ones that look a certain way.

Micro-management encourages underground circumvention of the law. We don't need individual, specific, hand-holding bylaws that remove any enjoyment responsible owners may get from their pet. We need consequences for people who allow their pets to hurt other people, interfere with other people's enjoyment of life, and damage other people's property. People need to become afraid to be careless with their dogs.

There is no "dog problem" in this city, in this province, in this country. Lawmakers are creating a dog problem by restricting every freedom that used to be the norm for dog owners. By taking every possible opportunity to reduce the interaction of dogs with other dogs, with children, and with life in general, they are causing these dogs to become undersocialized, neurotic, and defensive. Then, when the dogs do, inevitably, interact with someone, somewhere, they're not emotionally stable enough to handle it.

One of my favourite lines is from a book called "Dogs Bite, But Balloons And Slippers Are More Dangerous" by Janis Bradley. I have to paraphrase it because I don't have the book in front of me. She says, "Dogs almost never kill. They rarely bite and, when they do, they hardly ever injure, and when they do, it's seldom serious."

Her point is that the vast majority of dog bites in this country, even the ones that are reported, result in such minor injuries that, if it weren't a dog that had caused it, we would stick a band-aid on it and get on with our lives. Instead, an injury that is actually the equivalent of a minor kitchen knife cut becomes one more notch in a stack of unreliable statistics, which eventually are used to prove the danger of one particular breed or even of dogs in general.

This comment is absolutely not intended to trivialize those deaths or serious injuries that occasionally do happen. The point is that dog bites or attacks do not happen at anything close to the regularity or severity that is insinuated by the media, promoted by the politicians, and believed by the general TV-viewing, newspaper-reading public. The true frequency and nature of dog bites does not justify the intense scrunity and management that is being applied today.

If we applied today's laws to dogs of lore, Lassie would not be allowed to run loose to save her young master countless times and Petie from Our Gang would probably be dead (or at least muzzled) and he certainly would not be allowed to hang out with a bunch of five and six year olds.

Let's encourage our politicians to give us back our freedom. Approximately half of the people in this country own dogs or live with them. That is bigger than any other demographic and our lawmakers need to be made aware of this.

Once dog owners realize the power that they have, they will vote according to how politicians are willing to treat them as dog owners. Dogs are family members to many and politicians are going to learn, the easy way or the hard way, that MY DOG VOTES!

Visit http://www.mydogvotes.com/ to see how an increasing number of dog owners are fighting back.

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August 03, 2006

Deaths from injury in USA 2002

The National Safety Council published a report showing the odds of dying by various types of injury in the USA in 2002. I have sorted it by the number of deaths for each type of injury and excluded the odds columns for ease of viewing. Note the deaths from being bitten or struck by a dog, almost at the bottom (18).

Source: National Safety Council http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm

Data below is for 2002. NSC's current page shows data for 2003.


 Deaths   Description

164,112   Total Deaths by Injury

  17,108   Intentional Self-Harm - Intentional self-harm by firearm

  16,337   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Car occupant

  14,128   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Other land transport accidents

  11,829   Assault - Assault by firearm

   8,264   Unintentional Injuries - Narcotics and psychodysleptics [hallucinogens] n.e.c.

   7,889   Unintentional Falls - Other and unspecified fall

   7,596   Unintentional Injuries - Accidental exposure to other and unspecified factors and sequelae

   6,884   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified drugs, medicaments, and biologicals

   6,462   Intentional Self-Harm - Intentional self-harm by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation

   6,091   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Pedestrian

   5,486   Intentional Self-Harm - Intentional self-poisoning

   4,286   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of pick-up truck or van

   3,735   Assault - Other and unspecified means and sequelae

   3,610   Unintentional Falls - Other fall on same level

   3,336   Undetermined Intent - Poisoning

   3,215   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Motorcycle rider

   2,940   Unintentional Injuries - Inhalation and ingestion of other objects causing obstruction of respiratory tract

   2,843   Complications of medical and surgical care and sequelae

   2,599   Intentional Self-Harm - Other and unspecified means and sequelae

   2,533   Unintentional Injuries - Uncontrolled fire in building or structure

   2,074   Assault - Assault by sharp object

   1,598   Unintentional Falls - Fall on and from stairs and steps

   1,325   Unintentional Injuries - Drowning and submersion while in or falling into natural water

   1,134   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified drowning and submersion

   1,024   Unintentional Injuries - Antiepileptic, sedative-hypnotic, antiparkinsonism, and psychotropic drugs n.e.c.

     864   Unintentional Injuries - Struck by or striking against object

     819   Unintentional Injuries - Inhalation and ingestion of food causing obstruction of respiratory tract

     785   Unintentional Falls - Fall involving bed, chair, other furniture

     776   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of all-terrain or other off-road motor vehicle

     767   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Pedalcyclist

     766   Unintentional Falls - Other fall from one level to another

     762   Unintentional Injuries - Firearms discharge

     691   Unintentional Injuries - Gases and vapours

     657   Undetermined Intent - Other and unspecified means and sequelae

     653   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Air and space transport accidents

     652   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with machinery

     646   Unintentional Falls - Fall on same level from slipping, tripping, and stumbling

     646   Unintentional Injuries - Exposure to excessive natural cold

     636   Unintentional Injuries - Drowning and submersion while in or falling into swimming-pool

     618   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Unspecified transport accident

     557   Unintentional Falls - Fall from out of or through building or structure

     509   Unintentional Injuries - Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed

     507   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified threats to breathing

     456   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of heavy transport vehicle

     413   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Drowning,

     406   Unintentional Falls - Fall on and from ladder or scaffolding

     369   Unintentional Injuries - Inhalation of gastric contents

     355   Unintentional Injuries - Alcohol

     352   Unintentional Injuries - Drowning and submersion while in or falling into bath-tub

     350   Unintentional Injuries - Exposure to excessive natural heat

     322   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified electric current

     320   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified smoke fire and flames

     300   Legal Intervention - Firearm discharge

     297   Unintentional Injuries - Other accidental hanging and strangulation

     259   Undetermined Intent - Drowning and submersion

     243   Undetermined Intent - Firearm discharge

     222   Unintentional Injuries - Nonopioid analgesics, antipyretics, and antirheumatics

     204   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Other water transport accidents

     149   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of special agricultural vehicle

     137   Unintentional Injuries - Explosion of other materials

     133   Undetermined Intent - Hanging, strangulation, and suffocation

     128   Unintentional Injuries - Overexertion, travel and privation

     118   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Animal rider or occupant of animal-drawn vehicle

     115   Unintentional Injuries - Caught between objects

     110   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified chemicals and noxious substances

     109   Unintentional Injuries - Electric transmission lines

     105   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with sharp objects

     104   Unintentional Injuries - Ignition or melting of other clothing and apparel

     103   Undetermined Intent - Falling, jumping, or pushed from a high place

      99   Undetermined Intent - Exposure to smoke, fire, and flames

      75   Unintentional Injuries - Bitten or struck by other mammals,

      71   Unintentional Injuries - Ignition of highly flammable material

      67   Legal Intervention - Legal execution

      66   Unintentional Injuries - Lightning

      63   Unintentional Injuries - Cataclysmic storm

      62   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified heat and hot substances

      57   Unintentional Injuries - Threat to breathing due to cave-in, falling earth and other substances

      54   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with hornets, wasps and bees

      54   Unintentional Injuries - Exposure to other and unspecified forces of nature

      53   Unintentional Injuries - Uncontrolled fire not in building or structure

      43   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Bus occupant

      40   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with hot tap-water

      37   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified inanimate mechanical forces

      35   Unintentional Injuries - Controlled fire in building or structure

      32   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of special construction vehicle

      31   Unintentional Injuries - Earthquake and other earth movements

      30   Unintentional Injuries - Controlled fire not in building or structure

      28   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of railway train or railway vehicle

      27   Unintentional Injuries - Explosion and rupture of pressurized devices

      26   Unintentional Injuries - Struck by or against another person

      23   Unintentional Injuries - Foreign body entering through skin or natural orifice

      21   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of three-wheeled motor vehicle

      20   Operations of war and sequelae

      19   Unintentional Injuries - Confined to or trapped in a low-oxygen environment

      18   Unintentional Injuries - Bitten or struck by dog

      17   Legal Intervention - Other and unspecified means and sequelae

      15   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of special industrial vehicle

      13   Unintentional Injuries - Bitten or stung by nonvenomous insect and other arthropods

      13   Unintentional Injuries - High and low air pressure and changes in air pressure

      13   Unintentional Injuries - Ignition or melting of nightwear

      12   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified animate mechanical forces

      12   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Other specified transport accidents

      10   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with venomous spiders

      10   Unintentional Injuries - Excessive heat or cold of man-made origin

       9   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with other and unspecified venomous animal or plant

       9   Unintentional Injuries - Flood

       5   Unintentional Injuries - Fireworks discharge

       4   Unintentional Transport Accidents - Occupant of streetcar

       3   Unintentional Injuries - Contact with venomous snakes and lizards

       0   Unintentional Injuries - Bitten or crushed by other reptiles

       0   Unintentional Injuries - Other and unspecified man-made environmental factors

       0   Unintentional Injuries - Radiation


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August 01, 2006

The Media - Friend, Foe, or Impartial Watchdog?

Yesterday, in response to my various articles that have analyzed, dissected, and attacked news reports and opinion columns in the media, a friend asked me, "Why do you care what words the media uses? Why do you pick on certain phrases?"

A good question deserves a good answer.

Never, ever forget that, with the exception of the rare individual who makes unpopular decisions because they're the right thing to do, most politicians allow public opinion to guide their policies. This is truer today than ever before in the history of our Canadian governments, federal and provincial. The masters of this are, without a doubt, the members of the government of Ontario. Putting aside the dog issue for the moment, it seems that their entire reign of micromanagement and interference has been guided by what they perceived to be public opinion at the time.

The following quotations echo this sentiment:

In government offices which are sensitive to the vehemence and passion of mass sentiment public men have no sure tenure. They are in effect perpetual office seekers, always on trial for their political lives, always required to court their restless constituents.
-- Walter Lippmann, U.S. journalist, The Public Philosophy, ch. 2, sct. 4 (1955)

Government is being founded on opinion, the opinion of the public, even when it is wrong, ought to be respected to a certain degree.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter, February 9, 1791, to Nicholas Lewis

Englishmen never will be slaves: they are free to do whatever the Government and public opinion allow them to do.
-- George Bernard Shaw, The Devil, in Man and Superman, act 3 (1903)

Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much.
-- Abraham Lincoln, speech at a Republican banquet, Chicago, Illinois, Dec. 10, 1856
So, if our political leaders are making decisions based on public opinion, then fiascos like the committee hearings on Bill 132 in Ontario become less puzzling. It was clear, at the end of those hearings, when the clause-by-clause voting began, that the government never had any intention of changing their position, regardless of the facts or expertise presented. In the end, their entire membership voted the party line.

If this is truly the case, if our leaders are leading based on public sentiment, then what the populace believes becomes of paramount importance. This comes back to Abraham Lincoln's statement that "whoever can change public opinion can change the government".

How does the average member of the public learn about current events? By virtue of the fact that the events are current, the only immediate source of information is the mainstream media. History can be rewritten, revised, and updated as more is learned. Historical texts, journals, and documentation can be combined over time to produce a more rounded, truthful, and clear picture of reality, although even the accuracy of history is subject to the historians. Current news is much more susceptible to the whims and biases of journalists, their editors, and the media corporations.

"If it bleeds, it leads." As an editor of a newspaper or TV newsroom, when picking and choosing from hundreds of possible leads and stories, why would you not choose the exciting, the violent, the titillating, the attractive? You can tell the truth through the media in a dozen different ways. Why not pick the "truths" that will sell the best? They're still true. You can't be accused of falsifying anything. You just picked certain stories and ran with them. Nothing wrong with that!

Or is there?

In a conversation prior to the Ontario ban, a local Toronto television personality told me that there is a news ticker in their newsroom that constantly displays tiny fragments, headlines, of news stories from around the world. This person said that this ticker regularly lists dog bites or attacks on its screen. The only way these stories make it to the news hour is if someone almost dies OR if it says "pit bull".

Now, keep in mind, what they are telling us during that news hour is the TRUTH. Yes, a "pit bull" (or at least a dog that fits the government's general description) did bite this person or that dog. The media organization and its editors cannot be accused of not telling us the truth. They don't even really have to sensationalize anything with inflammatory words. The phrase "pit bull" and recycled video of humane society dogs lunging at the kennel bars are good enough.

So, where's the problem? Aren't they telling us the truth? Don't they have a responsibility to inform the public? The public has a right to know.

Absolutely one hundred percent right. The public has a right to know. But, the public should have a right to know the WHOLE truth, not just the one-sided or myopic view of a single journalist or editor. A media organization that wants to properly inform the public should include not only the "pit bull" incident, but also the other three or four dog bites that happened in the same community on the same day, and they should receive the same coverage appropriate to their severity. This happens very rarely and, when it does, it's usually because there is one person in that media organization that pushes for those additional stories to be told.

In Western civilization, media is power. In fact, in almost any country throughout the world, especially since the advent of television and even more so since the explosion of the Internet, significant change to government policy and to governments themselves has come about as a result of public attention and pressure. This public interest, and indeed even the public's opinion, can be created and changed by a constant barrage of media coverage. The media does not even have to verbalize an opinion. All they have to do is keep feeding (without satisfying) that public desire for titillation. The constant images, catch phrases, and repetition do the rest.

If these stories consistently and frequently present only a fragment of reality, a snippet of the whole picture, then public opinion is formed based on fallacy, on fantasy, not on reality. And remember, according to Abraham Lincoln, public opinion is what will eventually change the government (or at least their policies).

But, you say, we have multiple news organizations available to view and read. Surely, with all that competition and various versions of the "truth", we can receive the real picture, the whole story. Maybe, but not likely. Pick any given day and look at the news stories being presented on the major selection of TV stations or newspapers. They're often the same. The only major difference between one organization and the next is their in-depth features, their investigative reports, their "columns". The news stories are almost identical, usually differing only in accuracy and length.

A perfect example of this is the media coverage of the Bill 132 committee hearings in Ontario. There were four days of hearings, two of them in Toronto. During that time, there was an incredible amount of information, statistics, passion, and suggestions given to the committee members. None of it was covered by the mainstream media. But, when it was time for Michael Bryant, the Attorney General of Ontario, to speak, every station was there. The lights were blazing. The microphones were stacked in front of him. He, by the very nature of his position in government, had the advantage, the public eye. It didn't matter that most of what he said was misinformed, incorrect, scientifically disproved, and statistically invalid. He was the one who ended up on the evening news and he was the person that the public saw and believed.

So, what are the questions that self-respecting consumers of mainstream journalism must ask themselves?

What is being reported?
Am I getting the whole story?
How is it being reported?
What words is the reporter using?
Am I being unconsciously influenced by those words?

And how do people who know the truth ensure that the rest of the public gets to hear, see, or read it?

First, we must have our facts straight. We must find out what really happened in the incidents that are in the news and we must be aware of the stories that are not being reported. We must not present half-truths on our side. We must be blameless.

Second, we must ensure that the media organizations are constantly aware of the truth. This can be accomplished through personal contacts, through letters to the editor, and through incident reporting to the newsrooms. If the media believes that there is strong enough public interest in these additional stories, they will cover them. They can become our friend, as Eric Sparling reminds us in his advice on how to write a letter to a newspaper editor. Remember his mantra: "The media is my friend. The media is my friend."

Third, we must hold the media accountable. When they use inflammatory language, we must complain. When they fail to run comparable stories to maintain fair and balanced coverage, we must insist that they do so. This must be done respectfully, but firmly and consistently. Each major organization has an ombudsman, an internal critic, to which anyone can send a letter. Beyond that, Ontario has a press council that will review the conduct of newspapers. Canada has a broadcast standards council to oversee television and radio stations. In addition, the CRTC regulates broadcasting services and, in that capacity, can suspend or revoke a station's licence and can obtain court orders to force a station to cease certain activities. Included in those activities is any comment that is likely to expose an individual or group to hatred or contempt or any comment that is considered false or misleading news.

Finally, the Internet is a powerful tool. Blogs have reached the stage where news organizations will read them for information and comment. Web pages, when promoted correctly and presented rationally and logically, can become sources of truth. It is, however, important to remember that most people in this country do not get their news and editorial information from the Internet and, even among those who do, the major media corporations are still the primary source of information.

Be aware of what you read or see and how it is being presented. Understand how small changes in wording can have a huge impact on what the reader believes about the story. Be careful of words that can be widely interpreted, such as "vicious", "lunged", "ripped", etc. Become critical of how words can be used to marginalize and dehumanize dog owners.

Dog Politics ran an article comparing the Eight Stages of Genocide (courtesy of Genocide Watch) to the stages of breed bans. The intention of that article was never to equate human genocide with killing dogs, but rather to do a reasoned analysis of the methods used to promote and implement these types of discriminatory laws. The similarities are astounding.

I don't intend to repeat the same analysis here, but I will list the eight stages and a brief comment about each. For each stage, I will note HOW this is accomplished through the media or, in some cases, by the media's willingness to remain blind and ignorant.
  1. Classification: Categorize the targeted group into us vs. them. This is accomplished by public statements highlighting the differences. In our case, "pit bulls" are different, dangerous, unpredictable, whereas as "regular dogs" are not. In addition, "pit bull" owners can be classified as gang members, drug dealers, thugs, dogfighters, etc. The media is required for this.
     

  2. Symbolization: Give the targeted group a name or symbol. With "pit bulls", this is accomplished through the use of the phrase "pit bull", even though there is no such breed, and through the use of carefully selected violent images. The media is required for this.
     

  3. Dehumanization: By dehumanizing the targeted group and equating them with "wild beasts", the protagonists are able to remove any public compassion towards the group. This extends from the dogs, which are "decaninized" (i.e., different from other dogs, possibly less doggy and more like wild animals), to their owners, who become different from other people. This encourages and validates vigilantism and hatred. The media is required for this.
     

  4. Organization: The state creates an organized public campaign against the targeted group. The media can be involved in this campaign, even unwittingly, by blindly reporting the state's propaganda. The media does not have to consider whether the public statements are even true. All they have to do is cover the story.
     

  5. Polarization: Extremists drive the groups apart. On the one side, the state uses extreme examples and inflammatory stories, even though they are no more frequent or horrific than many other incidents not involving the targeted group. On the other side, the targeted group reacts strongly, sometimes violently, often giving the state even more ammunition with which to sway public opinion. An example of this is Peter Worthington's publication of excerpts from letters to the editor. At first glance, it appears that he was doing the right thing, giving both sides equal space. But, when you know what was originally written, you realize that he took quotes out of context and picked and chose specific sentences from the original letters in order to make the writers appear extremist or less knowledgeable. So, instead of logic and reason allowing each side to consider the other's viewpoints and perhaps bringing them closer together, Worthington's meddling caused further polarization and classification, furthering the "us and them" agenda. Clearly, the media is involved in this step.
     

  6. Preparation: This involves identification (special pit bull licences, insurance, muzzling, microchipping) and separation (not allowed in public parks, not allowed outside of home without a muzzle, etc). Members of targeted groups are forced to wear identifying symbols (special tags, muzzles, property signs). It is at this point that the "round up" occurs. This is also where one neighbour will inform on another. It is at this point that the media backs off. The damage has been done. Order has been restored. No need to rock the boat now. Let the government get on with their job of protecting us and we'll sit in the background and wait for the next attack, the next story.
     

  7. Extermination: The terminology of "extermination" (rather than murder) is validated by the previous classification, dehumanization, and polarization. They are different and must be eradicated. In canine terms, the politicians consistently and deliberately use the word "euthanasia" (soft death) and present mass killing as a "kind alternative" to abuse, starvation, fighting, or shelter life. Because of the prior efforts to differentiate these dogs from others, these owners from others, this mass killing is not only tolerated by the public, but is seen as a "necessary evil for the greater good", ultimately even a good thing. As in the denial that follows, the media must be willing to ignore these mass killings in order for them to continue unchallenged.
     

  8. Denial: Much of the killing of dogs is done behind closed doors. Articles such as Kelley Benham's Kennel Trash, showing the reality of mass destruction of dogs, are rare. I believe that the only reason this journalist was allowed in to that facility was because everyone, from the Sheriff on down, didn't believe in breed-specific legislation and didn't believe that all of those dogs should have been killed. In a normal scenario, jobs are threatened, mouths and doors are closed, documents are vague or non-existent, and, unless the owner challenges the city or province in court, the dogs die quickly, quietly, and facelessly. Often, dogs of a certain look are quickly labelled by shelter managers as aggressive or sick, when their behaviour and health is no worse than other dogs in the same shelter. When they are killed, the documentation shows that they were killed because they were aggressive or sick, when the reality is they were killed because of what they were. Obtaining proof after the fact, finding accurate historical records, sometimes even finding records by breed or at all, can be difficult or impossible. So the politicians go back in front of the cameras and tell everyone how great things are going, how the public is now safe and protected when, in reality, there is no proof. The media must be complicit in this cover-up. They must be willing to turn a blind eye, close their ears, and ignore.

Remember, all of this starts with classification, symbolization, and dehumanization. None of these require any money, any organization, any effort. All that is required is words. The right words, at the right time, spoken by the right person, and repeated over and over again, become a mantra that average news consumers start believing simply because it's in their face, all the time. Do it often enough and dramatically enough and they'll start repeating it to themselves and then to their friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, until it becomes "fact".

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© Copyright 2007 Steve Barker