Archived Letter – 299

Here in Onscario, BSL has been a fact of life for pitbull owners for the past six years. Banned dogs living in the province at the time the legislation came into effect were allowed to stay but must be muzzled, leashed and neutered. After the ban came into effect, no dogs were allowed into the province by any means, for any reason. Even temporarily. Yet it happens. Every day illegal “fugitives” come to light, at risk of being seized and euthanized. Rescues are permitted to place these dogs, young and innocent into foster homes until they are able to be shipped out of province. But this is a systematic plan of extinction. As I watch my girl get older, and show her age more every day, it began to occur to me that she may be the only pitbull I get the opportunity to own. All of our attempts thus far to have BSL repealed in the province have been unsuccessful. Not that I’m giving up, no. But just a thought of “what if”. Right now, as of 2011, all of the legal dogs in the province are 6 years old or older. So in another few years, once Buddy has gone, they will be older than that. Of course, I may be able to adopt a senior at that point, but what I have in mind is a dog started right from puppyhood, to work with and compete in a sport, get his CGN, register with St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog program. But the way things look right now, with the Liberals getting re-elected in the province, we still have a lot of work to do to get this ban over turned. And in the meantime, I stumbled upon a fugitive of my very own. A 6 month old “substantially similar” pitbull type dog. (Right now there are fewer than 500 registered banned dogs in the entire country, so in every sense that matters except legally, he is a mutt). Enzo is practically perfect in every way. He is intelligent, and lovable. Tenacious and clever, sassy and soft all at the same time. He responds quickly and accurately to clicker training. He walks beautifully on a leash. He loves people. He is fearless but not aggressive. Assertive but not problematic. Entirely, he is my perfect puppy. Except that he can’t stay. Well, that isn’t true. He could stay but if the wrong person saw him, a neighbour complained, a scuffle should happen, it wont be me that’s punished. Sure, I’ll get a fine maybe. But Enzo will be killed. (I say killed here, not euthanized, intentionally. Euthanized means “good death” and there is nothing good about euthanizing innocent dogs simply because of ignorance, media bias or government scapegoating.) So he wont stay. I will send him to safety on the other side of the country, away from people who try to kill him. But I wont send him off quietly. I will send him off kicking and screaming and fighting and educating and arguing. I will send him off, all the while attempting to create a situation where I could keep him. I will send him off reluctantly, angrily, sadly. But I am determined not to let this issue fade from public attention. So I will write letters, post on facebook, twitter and any other media outlet available to me. I will speak wherever I have the opportunity. I will try to convince the government that responsible dog ownership comes from education, not legislation. I will try to present logical arguments that make it obvious to everyone how ineffective breed specific legislation is. I will use Enzo as an example of how irresponsible owners, like the people who bred or imported Enzo, ignore the law, and how responsible owners, like myself who follow the legislation regardless of how assinine it is, are left to clean up the mess. I will post his pictures, his innocent little face hopefully searing into the conscience of the politicians who condemn him. I will use facts, intelligent arguments and reasonable, yet passionate discussion to keep this matter in the public mind. I will remind people how much these dogs were revered not long ago. I will remind them of Sgt. Stubby and Petey and countless other dogs, nanny dogs, family pets, heroes. And to the people who think this is a “pitbull” issue, I will show them that it is, in fact, much bigger. It is a dog issue, and beyond that, a constitutional issue. It’s the fact that based on the government’s need for a scapegoat coninciding with a sensationalized media report meant that almost instantly, family pets became criminals. It’s the fact that you were no longer innocent until proven guilty, but in fact, become guilty and unable to prove yourself innocent. It’s the fact that this law is arbitrary and subjective. It gives too much power to untrained officers. It creates a definition of something, when one cannot possibly be given. For what is a “pitbull”? It is any dog with a short coat, square head, whippy tail. So, regardless of the election results, I will not be silenced. I will fight for Enzo, for Buddy, for Lennox, for Brittany and Rambo, and for all of the other victims of human ignorance. And while putting Enzo on a place will damn near kill me, it will eventually serve to make me stronger.

Allison Rice