An animal rights activist says there's a balance to strike between public safety and compassion in the case of a biting dog.
Dog Owners Liability Act
- In Ontario the Dog Owners Liability Act concerns dogs considered to be dangerous.
- The act prohibits ownership of certain breeds of dogs (such as pitbulls).
- When a dog is deemed dangerous, it can be found an offence, and the court can make an order about what happens to the dog, and what action the owner has to take (such as kill the dog, make the dog wear a muzzle, fines, etc.)
- Animals are considered property under the law.
- The act allows for a dog to be seized, but it isn't really clear about how the dog could be "rehabilitated" and given to a new owner, if the old owner wasn't providing a good home.
The executive director of Animal Justice Canada said Ontario legislation allows a judge to decide how an aggressive animal should be dealt with.
"We're of the view that euthanasia should always be a last resort," Nick Wright said.
"And in a compassionate society like Canada, we need to take every step we can prior to euthanasia to try to address the public safety concern, without having to kill the animal."
Wright added that any dog attack is tragic, especially when a child is involved, but "oftentimes this tragedy is compounded when a dog is unnecessarily killed ... It could be that the owner is the problem."
Wright said the judge may choose other actions, such as requiring the dog to be muzzled, but said the law should put more emphasis on alternatives to destroying the animal.
A judge should consider what's in the public's best interest, while trying not to have the dog put down unnecessarily, he said, adding the owner’s ability to constrain or look after the dog would likely come into play.
"We certainly know, with dogs, there are all sorts of options available prior to euthanasia [such as] implementing restrictions ... taking a dog away from its owner, properly training the dog [or] giving him or her to a new owner," Wright said.