Originally written for Data Journalism: JOUR4208 at Carleton University
Ottawa 311 received 75 calls about Pit Bulls from January-August 2017 compared to 85 during the same months in 2016, according to an analysis of data from the city.
Pit Bulls, and other similar breeds, have been prohibited in Ontario since 2005 due to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Residents are not allowed to own, breed, or sell bull-type dogs. But there’s been speculation in Ottawa as to whether or not the ban is really worth it.
Roger Chapman, Ottawa’s bylaw chief, said in an interview with Metro News last year that it’s too costly to enforce the breed ban. Especially because only around 2 per cent of Ottawa’s annual dog bites are from pit bulls, according to Chapman.
From January-August this year, 369 311 calls were about dog bites, but only 75 calls fell into the specific Pit Bull category, which also includes simple sightings of the breed. Groups advocating for an end to the BSL use that fact, among others, to fight the ban.
Sit With Me is an Ottawa based rescue that currently has multiple pit bulls in its care, all of which can only be adopted by someone living outside of Ontario.
Ashley Ladouceur from Sit With Me, says that the issue of the BSL is near and dear to her heart. It poses many issues for the rescue, and for dog owners everywhere, Ladouceur says.
“It’s a very poorly applied bandaid for a much larger problem,” Ladeouceur says.
About half of the dogs at Sit With Me right now are pit bull type breeds, and none of them can be adopted into Ottawa, or neighbouring Montreal due to BSL.
“It’s not effective in any way,” Ladeouceur says, “It’s just one of those things that politicians do to appease people who scream about dog bites.”
Those trained in canine behaviour don’t really see a point to BSL, either.
Julie Ott is the owner of Canine Foundations, a mobile behaviour consulting and dog obedience company. Ott is the Head Behaviour Consultant, specializing in dog aggression.
“It’s not increasing public safety,” Ott says of the BSL, “It’s a huge strain on our legal system and it’s not effective in achieving its goal.”
Located in the GTA, Ott says that the most common dogs she sees when dealing with aggression are not pit bulls.
“I see a lot of Mastiffs and livestock guardians,” Ott says.
Not only that, but she thinks Pit Bulls get a bad rep.
“They’re one of the most friendly out of the guardian breeds,” Ott says.
When the BSL was first introduced in Ontario, more than 10 years ago, many dogs were abandoned.
“We saw a lot of pit bulls being dumped,” Ott says, “Tied to doors and left behind. Shelters were full of them.”
And then different large breeds starting cropping up.
“There’s been an influx of larger, more unstable breeds since the ban has gone through,” Ott says, “Dogs that are nowhere near as human-friendly as the pit bull!”
It’s all about socialization, Ott says. Introducing dogs of all breeds to urban environments, along with other dogs, people, and children is the key to having a friendly, safe companion.
“That is what brings down the number of bite incidents,” Ott says, “Not banning breeds, but educating people on how to interact with dogs.”