Dog owner fights Winnipeg pitbull ban

The City of Winnipeg is cracking down on the owner of a dog whose breed has been banned, telling him to get rid of the dog by Sept. 30 or have it destroyed.

Dog owner fights Winnipeg pitbull ban

CBC News: Winnipeg at 6:00

8 years ago
The City of Winnipeg is cracking down on the owner of an American Staffordshire terrier, telling him to get rid of the dog by Sept. 30 or have it destroyed. 2:10

The City of Winnipeg is cracking down on the owner of a dog whose breed has been banned, telling him to get rid of the dog by Sept. 30 or have it destroyed.

"I'm still shaking, it hurts. I'm not getting rid of him" said a teary Steve Gagnon, who moved here from B.C. last year with his dog, Odie.

The dog is an American Staffordshire terrier, a stocky, muscular breed that comes from the same lineage as the pitbull and falls under the city bylaw ban.

Odie shares a bowl of food with a cat. (Courtesy Steve Gagnon)

Gagnon wasn't aware of the ban when he moved to the city. He bought a license for Odie but his world turned upside down when the pound showed up earlier this summer.

Someone in his area had reported he had a pitbull-like dog.

The city slapped him with a compliance order and the ultimatum to do something about Odie.

Gagnon said he is shocked, calling his dog is as friendly as they come.

Odie lets his best friend, Sparky the chihuahua, walk all over him. (Courtesy Steve Gagnon)

"He's a beautiful animal. He's never bitten a soul," he said. "He's our baby, loyal to a fault [and] a really big suck."

According to the Dog Breed Info website, the American Staffordshire terrier is an "intelligent, happy, outgoing, stable, and confident dog. Gentle and loving toward people, it is a good-natured, amusing, extremely loyal and affectionate family pet.

"It is good with children and adults … this dog wants nothing more than to please its master."

The dog is also "a persistent fighter if provoked," the website states. "Highly protective of his owners and the owner's property, it will fight an enemy to the death if the enemy traps the dog in a corner and threatens its loved ones."

Taking it to court

Now it's Gagnon who's going prepared to defend his dog. He plans to challenge the city in court and "fight for my best friend."

"I don't think any breed of dog should be banned," he said.

Dog bites

Reports of dogs biting humans in Winnipeg:

  • 2008 – 231 bites
  • 2009 – 242
  • 2010 – 241
  • 2011 – 284
  • 2012 – 289

"It's not the dog it's his upbringing. No dogs are born bad, just like no children are born bad."

If he loses, Gagnon said he will uproot his business and move back to B.C.

Bill McDonald, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, agrees the ban should be lifted because any breed can bite. He echoed what Gagnon said about bad owners being responsible for bad dogs.

"Pitbulls were banned in the early '90s probably [in part] because of the crackhouse situation. So you had bad people making bad dogs, in effect to guard their operations," he said.

"But bad people just move to other breeds. For example, a favorite in the last while has been mastiff-boxer crosses."

He notes that the "biggest biting breed in North America" is the family-favourite golden retriever.

The pitbull ban was supposed to reverse the trend of rising dog bites. And while it did for a while, that's not the case anymore.

In fact, dog bites have been on the rise the past five years in Winnipeg.

The City of Winnipeg declined a CBC News request for an interview. In an email, a spokesperson said "the dog breed ban in Winnipeg was instituted by city council after a series of serious attacks on people.

"The purpose of the ban was to reduce the cases of certain breeds biting people. The ban has done this," the email stated.

"Our ultimate goal is public safety and the prevention of dog bite injuries is of paramount concern."