Last night the Burnaby City Council voted unanimously to increase the fines and penalties associated with their breed discriminatory law despite vocal opposition.
Citing an increase in dog bites in recent years, the Council decided to look at their animal control by laws to see what they can do about attacks. A rather flawed report was put together citing pit bulls and German Shepherds as the primary culprits of attacks. A local professor analyzed the numbers behind the report, which claimed that the two groups of dogs were attacking in disproportionate numbers. Among the issues with the report was a question of the premise that attacks have been on the rise in Burnaby. Also noted is the lack of investigation into a rise in population as a possible explanation for the claimed rise in bites. This is not to say that rise in population has to equate a rise in dog related incidents as Calgary has proven year after year but if officials are trying to find the core of an issue, all sides must be evaluated in order to best come up with an ethical and responsible solution.
Another issue is breed identification. Supposedly only 2% of registered dogs are pit bulls. The population of targeted dogs would be underestimated because the reporting is based on the owners ID. Because pit bulls are restricted, some owners may be labeling their dogs as other breeds or mixes, so they would not have to comply with the regulations.
Many people voiced opposition to the potential increase in fines and fees associated with ownership of targeted dogs. Included in these were advocates, dog professionals, lawyers and regular members of the community whose professions are not related to the topic.
The changes raise licensing fees for targeted breeds to $150 per year, fines for unmuzzled targeted dogs was raised to $200 and impoundment fees to $400.
Targeted dogs are defined as: “a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, an American Pit Bull Terrier and any dog generally recognized as a pit bull or pit bull terrier and includes a dog of mixed breed with predominant pit bull or pit bull terrier characteristics.”
Officials were cited data from pro-BDL lobbyists. This data was all based in the United States, not Canada. There was an agenda in the use of the source, seeking data to support their argument, rather than dealing with local data, which presented a weak case.
After the meeting advocate April Fahr was quoted in the news saying, “We also have to ask ourselves, well, six per cent of pit bull bites occurred in Burnaby over the last ten years — what are we doing about that other 94 per cent of bites? What happened here tonight that’s going to prevent those other 94 percent of bites?”
Certainly a question to ponder, and one which officials have roundly ignored.