Winnipeg proposes ending ban on pit bulls, introducing rules for doggy daycares
Sweeping changes to bylaw would ban guard dogs, reduce the number of exotic animals allowed
The City of Winnipeg is considering sweeping changes to its pet ownership bylaw, including ending a decades-long ban on pit bulls.
"It would be a huge relief to no longer be worried about people perceiving her as a dangerous dog or worried about people potentially reporting her as an illegal breed," said Hannah Beatty, who owns a four-year-old rescue dog named Juno.
The dog is listed on paper as being a bulldog mix but Beatty said she's always wondered if the dog has pit bull terrier genes.
Beatty, 24, has avoided getting the dog's genealogy tested out of fear Juno could be labelled an American pit bull terrier — one of three breeds currently outlawed in Winnipeg's Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw.
The City of Winnipeg, which outlawed pit bulls in 1990 after a series of violent attacks, is asking for feedback on sweeping changes to its pet bylaw that would remove breed-specific bans and instead treat dogs based on their behaviour.
American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and mixes where those breeds are predominant are currently prohibited.
"If we want Winnipeg to be safer, we need to target irresponsible owners," said Jane Olijnek, the founder of End Breed Specific Legislation Manitoba. She has been fighting to end breed-specific legislation for over a decade.
"Targeting breeds does nothing to improve desired safety outcomes."
Olijnek said there have been several attacks by other breeds that aren't banned in recent years.
"This has been an archaic law that's been targeting dogs unfairly in Winnipeg for 31 years."
The proposed changes to the bylaw would also ban outdoor 24/7 guard dogs, prohibit dogs and cats from being left alone in cars when certain temperatures are reached and require breeders to have permits.
Another change to the bylaws would introduce rules for doggy daycares, which have made headlines following incidents that left beloved four-legged friends dead.
Other proposed changes would expand the list of exotic animals that are prohibited and require owners to spay or neuter their pets, with some exceptions.
The proposal also raises the possibility of a ban on feeding wildlife like deer and raccoons, to reduce conflict between people and wildlife in the city.
Reptiles unfairly targeted: association
But the proposed changes are already facing opposition from CanHerp, an association of reptile and amphibian keepers.
Grant Crossman, the association's executive director, said the list of allowed exotic animals under the proposed changes would exclude the vast majority of specialty pets.
He says during the COVID-19 pandemic, many families turned to pet retailers to find animals for comfort and companionship.
"The consideration that Winnipeg is negotiating the banning of many of these specialty pets during these times adds to the mental and emotional breaking point of many Winnipeg families," he said in an email.
The city's general manager of animal services said the proposed changes are meant to balance public safety and animal welfare.
"We're trying to make Winnipeg more humane and more safe for both people and animals," said Leland Gordon, who encourages Winnipeggers to weigh in on the proposals through the city's website.
"I think the majority of Winnipeggers will be proud of the work that our team is doing and we look forward to working with the community on these ideas."
If the proposed changes are approved by city council, the amendments would come into force next year.
With files from Faith Fundal