Ont. pit bull law criticized
A provincial law banning pit bulls should be struck down because it is too broad and vague, lawyers argued Monday in Ontario Appeal Court.
Lawyer Clayton Ruby told the threejudge panel the definition of pit bull under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act is too vague because it snares dozens of breeds that look like pit bulls but are in fact other breeds, half-breeds or mutts.
“We need to go back to the drawing board,” Ruby said outside court.
“The idea that dogs are dangerous based on their physical appearance is crazy. Most pit bulls are safe, good, quiet pets and banning all of them is overboard.”
Under the provincial law, pit bulls are defined as American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire bull terrier or any dog that looks similar.
Owners are required to have their dogs neutered, muzzled and on a leash in public.
Violators face a maximum penalty of $10,000 and six months in jail.
Ruby won an earlier victory last year when an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down a provision of the pit bull ban which included “pit bull terriers” — in the definition of restricted dogs.
The lower court also struck a provision in the legislation allowing written documents from a veterinarian to be submitted as evidence in the prosecution of dog owners who violate the law.
The court said expert testimony should be heard in person.
In a cross appeal Monday, lawyers for the attorney general argued the legislation is an “entirely proportioned” response to the risk posed by pit bulls.
In a factum filed with the court, they said the constitution does not require an individual assessment of each dog to determine whether it should wear a leash or a muzzle.
They also argued the legislature is not required to meet a “scientific standard of certainty” before it may act to prevent harm.
“Far from being overboard, it is in fact necessary in light of the harm caused by pit bull attacks,” lawyers said in a factum filed with the court.
“Pit bulls are dangerous dogs,” the factum said.
“They inflict very serious and permanent injuries when they attack, often without any warning.”
Ruby said the law should be scrapped and rewritten to target dog owners who train their animals to be vicious.
“It is people who create dangerous dogs,” Ruby said. “We should be attacking those people and stopping that process.”