Owners, not breeds, are the problem

I have been a proud pit bull and American Staffordshire owner for 10 years now. Our six-year-old dog Pearl is great with children, adults, and other dogs. Never have we seen her bare her teeth, growl, snap, or bite at another dog or a human.

I have been a proud pit bull and American Staffordshire owner for 10 years now. Our six-year-old dog Pearl is great with children, adults, and other dogs. Never have we seen her bare her teeth, growl, snap, or bite at another dog or a human.

I was upset when I read the article printed in the last edition of the Castlegar News.

To quote a former mayor in saying that a bylaw was enacted to discourage ownership of these “dangerous dogs” that will rip apart young grandchildren is, in my opinion, irresponsible. These statements perpetuate a culture of fear and encourage individuals who know little about dog behaviour to be afraid of a specific breed. In actual fact, all dogs both large and small are capable of biting and seriously hurting humans and other animals.

We have had daily walks at Millennium Walkway for 10 years now. There have been numerous instances of dogs approaching both my husband and I, and trying to bite us or our dogs.

All of these dogs have been off-leash despite the numerous signs posted that dogs must be leashed, and importantly, none of these aggressive dogs have been of the pit bull type. When my nephew was 18 months old he was severely bitten outside of a local business by what appeared to be a German shepherd cross.

After we insisted that the dog be euthanized, we found out that it had previously attacked three other individuals.

Motivation for dog bites stem not from the breed, but from various types of aggression, including: territorial ownership, fear, dominance, pain-elicited responses, poor health, and from misreading dogs’ nonverbal communication (Dog Bite Law, 2010). Focusing on a specific breed leaves people with the false impression that they are safe from dog bites if they avoid the breed that gets a bad rap. Truly, the dog bite epidemic results from a variety of factors and a variety of breeds. Breed-specific legislation is not going to lower the incidence of dog bites, nor is it going to discourage individuals from owning their desired breed of choice.

The current bylaw is ineffective as it punishes good owners, encourages many community members to hide their dogs from the city, instills a false and inaccurate sense of security, and actually encourages irresponsible owners to seek out pit bull type dogs for ownership.

Most importantly, “there is no evidence that breed-specific laws, which are costly and difficult to enforce, make communities safer for people or companion animals” (ASPCA, 2011).

If the City of Castlegar would like to protect its citizens, perhaps the focus should be on enforcing responsible ownership. Enforcing leashing, anti-tethering, and spaying/neutering bylaws will be more effective in decreasing dog bites and attacks, rather than charging an “exorbitant fee” for a specific breed.

Last week’s article demonstrated the fact that the current bylaw is discouraging individuals from relocating to Castlegar. I would hope that the city is interested in encouraging newcomers to the Castlegar area to help stimulate the local economy.

I know numerous pit bull owners in the Castlegar area and none of their dogs are dangerous or aggressive, but are in fact beloved pets. Clearly, the financial deterrent has been unsuccessful in deterring ownership of this much loved and misunderstood breed.

I have hope that the City of Castlegar and its current councilors will re-explore this issue and enact bylaws which are based on current research and best practice.

Holly Smee


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