BC pitbull advocates argue data does not support a ban on breed

When April Fahr decided to adopt a certified rescue pitbull three years ago, she wasn’t expecting to become an advocate.

But she tired of the pejoratives and prejudices shown to pitbulls. Now as a board member of HugABull, a B.C. volunteer group that rescues pitbulls from pounds and advocates on their behalf, she’s trying to change the tone of conversation to prevent a ban from being enacted against the animals.

“You watch the news and it lends a perception that there’s an epidemic of pitbull attacks,� she said.

“But who’s actually calling for a ban? It’s a few victims and Miss Universe Canada.�

Last month, two different attacks on small children by pitbulls prompted the families of the children to call for breed-specific legislation in B.C. Similar laws have been enacted in Ontario, the city of Winnipeg and a variety of states and countries, often coming after traumatic attacks.

Not surprisingly, there’s been a backlash to the idea by pitbull lovers. An online petition currently has 900 signatures against a pitbull ban, and HugABull will be hosting an event at Vancity Theatre next month that will feature animal experts and professors speaking against legislation.

Fahr, and many like her, believe the problem doesn’t reside with the dogs, but with the types of people that often raise them.

“These attacks are terrible, but there’s nothing to suggest there’s a breed epidemic,� she argued. “Let’s look at why children are getting bit. We know there’s risks with how dogs are raised, we know that dogs running loose are likely to cause damage. Those are established by science, by data. Banning breeds is not the answer.

“We have very little information on bite stats, but what we do have doesn’t suggest pitbulls are taught biters,� she said.

The group has been requesting data on dog bites from municipalities in the Lower Mainland, although only Burnaby and Vancouver have responded to date. In Burnaby, 37 bites were reported in 2011, with only one identified as from a pitbull. In Vancouver, there were a total of 132 attacks, but the city doesn’t keep data on breeds.

“If you extrapolate that to the rest of the province, we must be talking about dozens of bites every week,� said Fahr. “If only a fraction of them are severe, there are hundreds of serious dog bites that we don’t hear about in the media.

“If every story you heard about muggings prominently reported the perpetrator had blue eyes, you would start to think people with blue eyes were the problem.�

The SPCA is also against a pitbull ban, arguing there simply isn’t conclusive data that breed-specific legislation reduces violence.

“The reason we don’t promote [a pitbull ban] is it’s proven not to be effective. There’s so many factors and root causes to dog violence,� said B.C. spokesperson Lorie Chortyk.

She said that if pitbulls were banned, people who train dogs for aggression in unsafe environments would just move on to Rottweilers or similar breeds.

“It’s easy to pass legislation, but the problem is still out there. We really need to look at legislation around licensing breeders, so we’re not putting animals in the hands of people that will turn them into weapons.�



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