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Pit Bull Bans and Other Issues Facing Ontario’s Shelters
Guest Editorial: Views from the humane world

When it comes to animals, every region in Canada has its own issues. The Lincoln County Humane Society, near Niagara Falls, Ontario, is no exception. At our shelter, we deal with Pit Bull bans, an underpopulation of dogs and an overpopulation of cats. Every year, more than 5,000 animals come through our shelter’s doors, and we strive to be proactive in our approach to these important animal issues, despite some hurdles.

As an inspector for the Ontario SPCA, I operate under the province’s laws; among those laws is a ban on Pit Bulls — throughout Ontario, the “P” word prevails. Pit Bulls have been outlawed since 2005, and as a result, hundreds of these misunderstood dogs have died needlessly. Ontario politicians couldn’t identify a Pit Bull in a photo lineup when they imposed the ban, but that didn’t stop them from making the decision to put them on death row after a few high-profile dogbite cases.

I’ve worked for the Lincoln County Humane Society for more than 20 years and have met some terrific Pit Bulls. To spare their lives and ensure their futures, we have flown a number of these dogs across Canada in the past five years, transporting them to provinces that haven’t forbidden them. Still, evidence shows that bites have not decreased in Ontario since this breed was banned. Another prime example of how breed-specific legislation does not work can be seen in the Netherlands. There, the ban was rescinded after it was also discovered that it didn’t decrease the number of dog bites. That’s because Pit Bulls are not the problem. Rather, culpability lies with negligent dog owners, who bear responsibility for causing an entire breed to pay for the actions of a few dogs.

This ineffective policy will likely result in other breeds being prohibited and killed. However, when you’re a politician trying to win votes, how much is a dog’s life worth?

Population numbers are another concern. Unlike many regions, we don’t have an overpopulation crisis with dogs. The Lincoln County Humane Society rescues dogs from Ontario First Nations reserves, northern Ontario, Louisiana, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. We help dogs where we can, particularly those from areas with high euthanasia rates, such as the southern U.S. We also cooperate with agencies in these regions, including Boudreaux’s Animal Rescue Krewe (B.A.R.K.) in Louisiana. B.A.R.K. works tirelessly, rescuing dogs and driving them more than a thousand miles to be rehomed by us in Canada. Over the past several years, many, many wonderful pets have been saved by these efforts.

I only wish our cat overpopulation crisis was equally nonexistent. Feline euthanasia numbers are high, and we are responding to this situation in several ways. We are completing construction of a new, $1.3 million spay/neuter clinic, made possible by federal and provincial grants. We are also working hard to raise $1.6 million to equip our clinic and hire more staff.

Go to lchsrescueus.ca to see how we plan to make Lincoln County a community with no more homeless pets.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 65: Jun/Aug 2011
Kevin Strooband is the executive director of the Lincoln County Humane Society in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, and an inspector with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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