'Not going to stop': Pit bull advocates want Ontario ban repealed

Advocates for pit bulls in Ottawa say they will continue to fight the Ontario provincial government to change a law that bans pit bulls.

Advocates rally on Parliament Hill against provincial legislation

Dog owners gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday to protest Ontario's ban on pit bulls. (Radio-Canada)

Advocates for pit bulls in Ottawa say they will continue to fight the Ontario provincial government to change a law that bans pit bulls. 

The legislation bans the pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier and any dog that has an appearance or physical characteristics substantially similar to any of those dogs because of the damage their bites can inflict.

People gathered at Parliament Hill Saturday, which was National Pit Bull Awareness Day, with the hope that other cities will follow Ottawa's lead.

The city does not enforce the provincial ban on pit bulls, but prefers to enforce its own bylaw, which requires owners to register their dogs and use leashes.

It also includes provisions on how to deal with aggressive dogs of all breeds.

Ottawa Citizens against Breed Specific Legislation wants dogs to be treated based on their behaviour, not their breed. (Radio-Canada)

"I will come back as often as I need to until people understand that all dogs should be treated as an individual," said Alix Packard, founder of Ottawa Citizens against Breed Specific Legislation. 

Group calling for change

Packard said she believes public safety isn't enhanced by having laws that target certain breeds.

Her group wants the law to be based on the behaviour of a dog, not its appearance. 

I'm not going to stop trying to fight for a breed of dog that I love.— Alix Packard, Ottawa Citizens against Breed Specific Legislation

"I'm not going to stop trying to fight for a breed of dog that I love because if this breed is taken off of the list, then what breed is going to be next?" Packard said.

"It has to be a breed neutral responsible ownership focus."

Sarah Magnan, who was at the rally Saturday, has been rescuing dogs for six years from shelters at her farm and says she's never experienced an aggression issue with pit bull breeds. 

Packard said politicians her group reached out to have been supportive of the group's ideas — and now the group wants action. 

Alix Packard is the founder of Ottawa Citizens Against Breed Specific Legislation. (Radio-Canada)

"You promised us that you would help us," Packard said. "You said that you understand that our dogs are just like every other dog, why aren't you helping us? Why hasn't anything been started yet?"

NDP MPP starting talks

Ontario's attorney general did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

When asked in July about the legislation, a spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney was being briefed on a number of files related to her new roles.

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre Joel Harden said he has begun discussions with members of government and other parties to encourage some collaboration around repealing the breed-specific ban and is hopeful it can happen. 

"If there's no evidence to suggest pit bulls are any more violent than any other dog, this is something all of us, all politicians, should be able to get behind," Harden said.

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

With files from Radio-Canada's Roxane Leouzon