The Current

Stop targeting pit bulls! Evidence shows bans don't work, say critics

To some, pit bull dogs are beloved pets. But to others, they are violent, snarling menaces. And Montreal has come down on the side of those who believe pit bulls must be banned for the sake of public safety. But does banning specific breeds really work?
Critics say a ban on pit bulls don't work but Kitchener, Ont. mayor says there have been fewer dog incidents since the ban was imposed. (Ildar Sagdejev/flickr cc)

Read story transcript

On Sept. 27, Montreal passed a bylaw that bans new ownership of pit bulls — and current owners of the dogs will need special permits and face new restrictions. 

The ban comes a few months after a Montreal woman died in her backyard after being mauled by what was thought to be a pit bull. Members of Christiane Vadnais's family say they're getting blowback from angry dog owners. 

Some are celebrating the ban but many have decried the move, including the SPCA and the singer-songwriter Cindy Lauper who posted a message of opposition on her Facebook page.

Several other jurisdictions in Canada also ban pit bulls. In Kitchener, Ont., pit bulls have been banned since the late 1990s when a spate of attacks prompted the city to react.   

"In terms of the pit bull attacks, they've gone down significantly," Kitchener mayor Berry Vrbanovic tells The Current's Friday host Laura Lynch.

He says this is the kind of issue that "every community needs to determine for themselves based on their experiences" and says Kitchener does have a dangerous dog bylaw in place as well to address dogs that bite on a regular basis —a committee puts conditions on these dogs.
Author Bronwen Dickey says 25 years of evidence shows dog bans don't work. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Writer Bronwen Dickey has been watching the controversy over pit bulls closely and has written a book, Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon. Dickey tells Lynch that the owners need to be part of reducing attacks, not banning breeds.

"What we know from the literature, and from over you know 25 years of studies of animal behaviour is that the biggest factor in dog bites — especially serious dog bite injuries and even fatalities — have to do with how the dogs are cared for and controlled by their humans."

Dickey argues that humans have not learned any of the lessons needed to contribute to a reduction in bites.

"For instance in places like Hungary where they've instituted a responsible ownership bylaw that really zeroes in on problematic owners, they saw a huge reduction in dog bites."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

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