Protect dogs and the public

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In a recent Town of Athabasca Council meeting, Councillor Verhaeghe correctly brought forward a concern from Dr. Smith concerning a dog attack.

The public should be protected from attacks from dog in an effective manner, and this is where emotions and opinions run amuck.

It is very easy to blame breeds such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Bull Mastiffs and so on for the attacks and propose limits on their ownership, freedom and handling. But before any of this is done lessons from other jurisdictions should be heeded. Many other jurisdictions have attempted Breed Specific Bans and many have since repealed them or have had them overturned by the courts.

Sometimes the results are not at all what was expected.

Ontario instituted a ban on Pit Bulls (and similar breeds) and while the number of bites from Pit Bulls has gone down, reports of bites from other breeds of dogs have gone up.

In other areas, the increase on workload required to prove that an animal is a certain breed and therefore covered by the ban, has led to greatly increased enforcement costs. The most accurate testing methods are DNA based and while it is doable to ensure that local dogs are tested by their owners, what about dogs in the surround areas, travelling with visitors or people moving into town. Should we just post a sign at town limits stating “WE DO NOT LIKE DOGS”?

As an owner of a business that offers products to caring pet owners, it greatly concerns me when conversations start about ineffective blanket bans/restrictions. I am all for protecting people and their pets in an effective manner.

Programs that have worked are ones focused on education of ALL dog owners, resulting in fewer attacks and resulting visits to hospitals.

Another aspect to enforcement is a large fine for unprovoked attacks on people or other animals. This would shift focus onto proper dog ownership and away from hoping that Breed Specific Bans/Restrictions work.

As this item moves forward through council and the public domain, my hope is we all focus on what it trying to be accomplished; increased safety for everyone and their pets and please leave dramatic and drastic approaches out of the discussion.

Steve Splinter

Tracker’s Pet Supply

Athabasca, AB

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