There's no such thing as a dangerous dog breed, says P.E.I. veterinarian
'It's going to be a disaster in Montreal if it's enacted, for the pit bulls that live there'
Rather than identifying specific dog breeds as dangerous, a Charlottetown veterinarian suggests that individual dogs must be evaluated on their behaviour.
The deadly mauling of a Quebec woman by a dog in June and a subsequent controversial ban on pit bulls in Montreal — which has since been suspended — have had Canadians talking about whether whether certain breeds are more dangerous than others.
The topic is up for discussion Tuesday evening in Charlottetown at a community workshop entitled Dangerous Dogs: Legislation and Education.
"You really can't pinpoint a particular breed," said Dr. Alice Crook, who will lead the discussion. She's the co-ordinator at the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown.
"A dangerous dog is one that's shown by its behaviour that it's dangerous in some way," she adds — those behaviours include unprovoked biting or aggression and inappropriate reactions to situations.
'Going to be a disaster'
Studies have shown, Crook explained, that breed is only one factor in dog bites — other factors are often unsupervised children under age 5 and lack of understanding of dog behaviour.
"It's a shame to put all the efforts into targeting a particular breed, that may actually penalize those dogs that may be excellent canine citizens," Crook said.
While Ontario has had breed-specific legislation that bans bit bull-type dogs for about a decade, and Montreal is pursuing similar legislation, Crook said there is is no such breed as a pit bull. They are generally Staffordshire terriers, boxers and similar-looking breeds.
"So that gets pretty vague," she said, pointing out it can be a problem for those who must identify which dogs fall into the description.
"It's going to be a disaster in Montreal if it's enacted, for the pit bulls that live there," Crook added.
In P.E.I. a section of the Dog Act allows the Humane Society to investigate complaints of dog bites, but there is no dangerous dog legislation — something Crook would like to see developed. Once dogs are identified as dangerous, they would be restricted by measures such as a muzzle, a short leash or restriction to the owner's property and even euthanasia.
Good education is important too, Crook emphasized.
"Dogs need to be properly socialized and properly trained to be good citizens," she said, noting exposure to a variety of people and different situations is beneficial.
The workshop will be held at the Atlantic Vet College in Lecture Theatre A Tuesday at 7 p.m. The P.E.I. Humane Society will also talk about its efforts to deal with dogs that bite. Everybody is welcome and admission is free.
Crook hopes concerned citizens, politicians and bureaucrats will participate in the workshop, and of course dog owners — especially those with pit bull-type dogs.
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With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.