Barbara Kay, Special to Montreal Gazette

Opinion: Pit bulls should be banned

A 55-year old woman has been killed by a pit bull in Pointe-aux-Trembles. That brings to 14 the number of Canadians killed or seriously injured by pit bulls in 2016 so far.

For the pit bull advocacy movement (PBAM), the incident will serve as a rallying cry to put a collective shoulder to the pit-bull laundering wheel.

I can anticipate their arguments, as I have heard and countered them many times.

PBAM will tell you pit bulls are hard to recognize, therefore often misidentified. Nonsense. Indeed, in a pit bull-related case, Ohio’s Supreme Court stated, “Pit bull dogs possess unique and readily identifiable physical and behavioural traits which are capable of recognition both by dog owners of ordinary intelligence and by enforcement personnel.”

PBAM will tell you that the spectacular discrepancy between attacks by pit bull type dogs – six per cent of the breed population – accounting for more than 80 per cent of fatal and disfiguring attacks, is entirely due to “bad owners” rather than to the breed’s genetically inherent trait of impulsive aggression.


The truth, as dog behaviourist Alexandra Semyanova points out, is “These dogs aren’t killers because they have the wrong owners, rather they attract the wrong owners because they are killers.”

PBAM will tell you bans don’t work as the “bite” rate remains constant in spite of bans. Bites are not the issue. It is “maulings, maimings, dismemberments and fatalities” that should concern policy-makers. All diminish significantly in every jurisdiction where a pit bull ban is imposed. In one Atlanta clinic, for example, data revealed that whenever a victim of a dog bite had been in his hospital eight days or more, the culprit was invariably a pit bull.

PBAM will tell you bans are inferior to the “Calgary model” of aggressive licensing, owner education and severe post-bite fines. But the Calgary model didn’t work for Calgary. Dog attacks there went from 58 in 2009 to 201 in 2014, a disproportionate number of them by pit bulls. By contrast, in Ontario, which imposed a pit bull ban in 2005, serious dog-related attacks have decreased by 32 per cent (to 329 from 486), almost entirely because of the radical diminution of the pit bull population.

Forty countries, all doing independent research, ban pit bulls. This is not “racism,” as PBAM contends. Dog breeding produces predictable stereotypes as consumer products. As is the case with all products, prudent public safety policy justifies discriminatory regulation.