Ontario Attorney General, Michael Bryant.

A controversial bill to ban pit bulls passed in the Ontario legislature Tuesday, and now requires only royal assent before becoming law.

The legislation prevents people from acquiring a number of breeds of dogs classified as pit bulls, and requires those who already own the dogs to neuter and muzzle their animals.

"Mark my words, Ontario will be safer," Attorney General Michael Bryant, who brought forward the bill, said after it passed.

Similar measures are already in place in Britain, France and Germany. Winnipeg has had such a ban in place for 14 years, and the last pit bull known to be living in the Manitoba capital died in 2004.

Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberals promised the law after a series of high-profile Ontario attacks.


Pit bulls in Ontario must be muzzled under the new law. (CP file photo)

The list of those unhappy with the idea of a ban includes not only dog breeders and the provincial NDP, but the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

The federation supports the bill's tougher fines for irresponsible dog owners, but opposes its concentration on one breed.

The Ottawa-based federation's program director, Sheila McDonald, said Canada just doesn't have the data it needs to determine that pit bulls are the most troublesome breed of dog.

Banning the breed might give people a false sense of security, she suggested.

"Right at this moment, pit bulls are certainly not the only dog that people perhaps should have some concerns about," McDonald said.

"There are other breeds that have been involved in dog incidents, there are other breeds that were developed for fighting-type instincts, and of course there are all kinds of mixes of breeds ... that could result in a very aggressive dog."

Rottweilers, for example, have been blamed for at least two fatal attacks on children across Canada in recent years.

As well, unneutered male dogs of many breeds tend to be more unpredictable, McDonald said.

"[One] huge thing that is extremely lacking in Canada is a database of dog bite incidents. And that has been recommended at several inquests into fatal dog attacks and has never been followed up on."

The law will come into effect by late summer or early fall. Municipalities will be expected to enforce it.