by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Defending the pit bulls: the ones that don’t wear lipstick
I am in contempt of court. Literally. Two years ago, as the older of my beloved dogs reached the end of her life and needed my constant attention, I got a preliminary questionnaire on my eligibility for jury duty. No way. I did everything I could to convince them I was not suited to serve, and had that not worked, I’d have paid the substantial fine rather than leave my dog. There are reasons why one can be excused from jury duty, but caring for loved ones who are not human is not one of them. Fortunately, I was successful in convincing them that I’d make a lousy juror.
That said, even if they had chosen me to serve, I would not have done so. That is because even though I cannot think of a better system, I don’t support our Canadian justice system (and from what I know of it, I feel the same about the American one). It is clumsy, awkward, costly, hierarchal, and adversarial, and has ruined lives of many innocent people, while allowing bad guys to continue being bad. I don’t mind presenting my views, or hearing others, but I do not want to be judgmental when the stakes are so high, and I don’t believe that I, any lawyer, or any judge is infallible, or close enough to it to judge others. And this is just personal, but I also detest ceremony, stupid uniforms (not only our judges, but our lawyers wear absurd robes), or deference.
In short, I’m a cranky old contrarian and I don’t want to participate in something for which I have such strongly negative feelings. It has allowed too much that is too bad to happen (and that includes when, as is the case in the U.S., the justice system fails to even try to dispense, which happened when some Guantanamo Bay prisoners were incarcerated for more than a decade without even the pretense of a trial ... but that’s another issue.)
And on June 11, my dislike of courts bubbled over big time when the Supreme Court of Canada, no less, stated it would not hear a bid to ban Ontario’s ban on pit bulls.
In March 2005, Ontario’s then Attorney General, Michael Bryant, decided to ban “put bulls” in Ontario. He, and remember that this was then the guy responsible for “justice” in the province, was mandated to hold public hearings. But then he proceeded to absolutely ignore any and all evidence in opposition to the ban. From his statements one has to wonder what planet he was on when the evidence was given. I strongly urge you to read this summary of the man’s appallingly arrogant bias, not to mention ignorance.
More than 45 expert organizations spoke against the ban (of which half a dozen represented either breeders or animal rights activists) to no avail. Like them, my objection is not to the idea of protecting people from aggressive dogs. My objection was nicely summarized by a woman whose own beloved child was killed by a dog. She said, “Please, let’s not look at banning specific breeds of dogs. Let’s look at banning the irresponsible, dangerous owners who either train their dogs to attack or don’t train them in good behaviour. Put them in jail. Fine them as you would a drunk driver. Make our society aware that if their dog attacks, there will be serious consequences, not months and years of lawyers battling in the legal system. That’s what happened to us and that’s just not right.”
Here in Canada, husky, shepherd, and Rottweiler type dogs are responsible for 65% of all deaths of people from dog attacks.
One of the most idiotic parts of the legislation is that its definition of “pit bull” is broad enough to include any of a large number of short-haired, more or less broad-nosed dogs that belong to other breeds, or are half-breeds. The law defines a “pit bull” as a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American Staffordshire Bull terrier, or any dog that looks similar.
Go to www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html and see if you can pick out which dogs are now illegal in Ontario. It’s absurd. If you have one of these dogs, pit bull or not, you must have your dog neutered, and cannot take that dog out in public unless it is muzzled and on a leash. Violations can bring a maximum of a ten thousand dollar fine and six months in jail. On the other hand, if you have a vicious, snarling, cruelly abused junkyard canine monster weighing three times what a bull terrier weighs and with a hate on for anything human, not to worry.
Clayton Ruby knows how absurd the ban is; he’s the lawyer who unsuccessfully fought the ban every inch of the way. He’s one of Canada’s best known criminal lawyers, which is fair indication of his ability to think with cold, clear logic. You don’t reach successful status otherwise.
A three person panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal re-affirmed the ban in October, 2008. At the time Ruby said, “We continue to believe that the definition of `pit bull’ is overly broad and vague. The evidence clearly demonstrates that the definition captures dogs that pose no threat to any person or animal.” In short, the judges just accepted that the government was right.
Fast forward to June11. The Supreme Court of Canada simply ruled it would not listen. Period. End of story.
A lot of innocent dogs have been euthanized.
The bigger news story of the day was the terrible shooting in Washington DC where a security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, was shot dead. The suspect, himself critically wounded by other guards, is a white male supremacist opposed to government, with prior history of violence with guns.
So far as I know, all violence perpetrated by white supremacists opposed to government, including the terrible loss of life caused by Timothy McVeigh, was committed by white people. Should they be neutered, muzzled, and banned as dangerous? Should they at least be banned from owning rifles?
Illogical, I know, but hey, I’m a contrarian, and definitely in contempt of court.