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Open Letter: Decision to Ban in Ontario Wrong-headed

Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Attorney-General Bryant,

Your decision to ban pit bulls in Ontario is clearly wrong-headed. Your decision to use the “Winnipeg definition” of a pit bull, which includes Canadian Kennel Club-registered Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers, is mind-boggling.

I know what a fan you are of using American statistics, so I thought I would pass some along to you.

I've just finished reading a book entitled "Fatal Dog Attacks," by Karen Delise (published by Anubis, 2002). It's a study of all of the fatal dog attacks in the U.S. between 1965 and 2001. The total number of victims is 431. A total of 37 breeds/types of dogs have killed a person in those years in the States. Included in the list of breeds/types which have killed are such unlikely candidates as the Westie, the Irish Setter, the Sainte Bernard, the benevolent Newfoundland, the Brittany Spaniel, the Airedale and even a Pomeranian-cross. Each of these have killed once. The cute Dachsund - yes, the weiner dog - has killed three times.

How many times have Staffordshire Bull Terriers killed?


There is no recorded case in America in these years of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier killing a person. To my knowledge, there is no recorded case of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier killing someone in North America ever.

Mr. Bryant, you are banning a "vicious breed" that simply isn't vicious. That's not my opinion. It's a documented fact.

I read a transcript of your October 15th press conference. Answering questions, you were quite emphatic that Bull Terriers would be exempt from the ban. (We finally agreee on something.) I would be curious, though, to hear your reason for giving Bull Terriers a pass while still including Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the ban. Neither is responsible for killing someone in the period of time I have previously mentioned (although a Bull Terrier did kill one person in the 1940s).

As for the American Staffordshire Terrier, the other CKC dog affected by the Winnipeg definition, it has killed twice - a third less often than the cute "weiner" dog.

The errors in your proposed legislation are legion. The two recognizable breeds you are targeting – CKC-registered Staffies and Amstaffs – are demonstrably not vicious. And the other type of dog, so-called pit bulls, is an unrecognizable mish-mash of mixed breeds. You say the onus will be on owners to prove their dog isn’t a pit bull? By that logic, every single owner of a mixed breed dog is a potential victim of your legislation. In your Ontario, people will own their dogs at the whim of the government. That won’t fly in a free country.

Mr. Bryant, you will probably succeed in getting your fellow MPs to pass this legislation.

But don’t think for a second that your ban will succeed. It will be very expensive and nearly impossible to enforce. It will do nothing long-term to curb dog attacks and almost nothing in the short term as well. Most importantly, it won’t stand up to serious scrutiny in a court of law. The experts have spoken, from veterinarians to the Canada Safety Council, and they are overwhelmingly against you.

Perhaps you thought you could push this through and the only people who would object would be “lowlife” pit bull owners. If so, what a grave mistake you’ve made. This ban is an attack on dog lovers from all walks of life – all ages, all educational levels and all incomes. We are organizing. We have ample resources. You will be challenged in court and you will lose.

Do yourself and your party a favor, Mr. Bryant, and cancel the ban. You are about to be the author of a monumental failure.


Eric Sparling
Guelph, Ontario

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