With their mixed-breed mother labelled a pit bull under an Ontario, Canada provincial law, seven puppies from her litter were given a death sentence. The ruling came from an Ontario branch Animal Control Services.
The fate of these puppies took a quick turn when a volunteer from the Ontario-Nova Scotia Ador-a-Bull Dog Rescue went under the cover of the night to rescue the seven pups. The volunteer quickly drove the seven puppies to Halifax, Nova Scotia where they were all adopted into their forever homes.
“They were 6 weeks old,” said Emily Ugarenko, co-founder of Ador-a-bull. “They hadn’t done anything wrong. They were just born and of a certain colour with little short ears and possibly their mom was more bull-and-terrier than boxer.”
The underground rail road for pit bulls has been a common trend since the enactment of the pit bull ban in Ontario.
A group of volunteers has been working silently to save hundreds of pit bulls from being euthanized or used for research. A dog can be sentenced to either if a veterinarian states that the dog is, or resembles, one of the banned breeds listed in Ontario’s Dog Owner Liability Act. Banned breeds include pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier.
If a dog is not considered to be a threat to public safety, animal shelters are allowed to send them out of province. Therefore, acts to save pit bulls are completely legal; however, it largely depends on whether the local animal control service or shelter is cooperating. In the event that they do not agree to the rescue, undercover missions like these sometimes occur.
OSPCA spokesperson, Brad Dewar, did clarify that, “It would be illegal for a pound to move an animal considered illegal under legislation to a rescue group within the province.”
Ador-a-bull takes special care to only select dogs that pass an assessment used to determine their temperament. Dogs with a history of aggression do not qualify for rescue.
So far, the organization has helped save over 300 dogs by bringing them out of the province of Ontario to Halifax. While it may not seem like a big number yet, it has prevented those dogs from being added to the current death toll of 1000 dogs that were judged and sentenced unfairly due to a breed-specific legislation.
“It’s the deed, not the breed,” state animal advocates in favour of the Ador-a-Bull organization.
Although it is not the most ideal situation, saving the dogs has been a temporary solution as animal advocates work around the clock to have the breed-specific ban lifted.
A glimmer of hope has surfaced with Bill 16 – a tri-party private members bill that if passed, will end the ban on pit bulls. The bill has been slowly moving its way up as advocates continue to appeal the ban.
As advocates push to have the ban lifted, they do feel changes to the dog ownership act should include other provisions. Ugarenko stated that the act should hold irresponsible dog owners liable for all dangerous dogs, regardless of their breed.
These provisions would mean that all dogs will be micro chipped. It will also create harsher penalties for irresponsible dog owners, that include mandated training and possible incarceration. In addition, the act will promote education for dog owners, as well as training for children on how to properly interact with dogs. The City of Calgary has already employed a similar model that has resulted in a significant decrease in dog bites within the city.
One of the co-sponsors of the Bill, Cheri DiNovo, states that the only way Bill 16 will be passed is if it is substituted with a tighter legislation that will increase public safety. Tom Harrower agrees.
Harrower’s mother, Thelma, was attacked by her neighbours pit bull mix after the dog leapt over a four foot fence and into her backyard. The dog had been left alone in the backyard and had been sick for some time.
“The attack changed the course of her life and mine,” said Harrower, who has dedicated his own time to develop ways to prevent future attacks. “Dogs need protection and pit bulls need particular protection from a bad owner.”
Although Harrower believes that with their muscular stature, pit bull type dogs can be dangerous, he also states that any large dog would be capable of such a vicious attack.
Harrower hopes that if the breed-specific ban is removed, dog owners will be held responsible for the behaviour of their dog.
“They say dogs are a man’s best friend. But I think that man hasn’t been a good friend to dogs.”