Burnaby, British Columbia to Vote to Add Additional BSL, Though Current BSL is Not Working

Despite Burnaby, British Columbia citizens petitioning the Burnaby City Council to remove breed-specific language from Burnaby’s Animal Control bylaw, the Burnaby council has decided to go the other way, seeking instead to add additional provisions to its existing breed-specific law (BSL).   According to BurnabyNow:

If council says yes to the staff recommendation on Sept. 9, pitbulls will remain listed as vicious dogs in the animal control bylaw . . . The two breeds specifically named through data provided by the BC SPCA are the pitbull and German shepherd breeds “ as they are the most frequently identified biting breeds from 2007 to now. However, German shepherds will not be added to the citys vicious dog category.

How many times do we have to say it?   “Pit bull” is not a breed, but a vague classification that can describe and has described almost any medium- and large-breed dog which is why statistics on so-called “pit bull” bites are skewed and therefore completely meaningless.   Does that not follow?   Heck, when even Chihuahuas are mistaken for “pit bulls” what breed of dog can’t be called a “pit bull”?    

Burnaby’s council claims that,

The bylaw is intended to encourage responsible pet ownership and to provide regulation to protect both pets and the general public, said Denise Jorgenson, director of finance, in her report. While largely successful in providing both a regulatory framework and an educational tool to meet the citys objectives, recent calls from the public both favouring and opposing regulations within the bylaw have prompted staff to undertake a review of the bylaw.

 The bylaw heretofore has not encouraged responsible pet ownership.  

In fact, according to Burnaby’s own dog bite stats, their BSL has seen dog bites increase:

From 2012, there was a 17 per cent increase in bites reported, from 69 to 81 cases. Since 2007, there have been 477 dog bites in Burnaby “ but in only 50 per cent of the cases was it possible to identify the breed.

Of the 239 bites where breeds were identified, 59 (24.7 per cent) were committed by pitbulls, the report states. Of the total 447 reported bites, pitbulls were responsible for at least 12.4 per cent of the incidents. Pitbulls represent the largest number of bites attributed to any breed.

In 2013, 30 per cent (10) of the biting incidents where the breed could be identified were committed by pitbulls, according to the report.

German shepherds ranked as the second highest breed with the number of bites since 2007. There were 35 cases where a breed was identified, and 7.3 per cent were by German shepherd.

In Burnaby, pitbulls account for two per cent (113) of dogs licenced in the city, and German shepherds account for 5.4 per cent (296).

So Burnaby acknowledges that — like Hamilton, Ontario who said their BSL isn’t working, and like Winnipeg, Manitoba who admitted their BSL isn’t working and that it had actually increased dog bites — their BSL is not working and has actually increased dog bite stats.   Yet Burnaby seeks additional restrictions?   Another way to put that is, Burnaby’s breed-specific bylaw is wholly impotent and yet they seek to add additional provisions to their existing BSL that will likewise not work.  

And does it escape the council’s attention that though only 2% of Burnaby’s so-called “pit bulls” are licensed, that this percentage does not account for the unknowable number of “pit bulls” in Burnaby?   Or, as the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged, in addition to breed misidentification which rendered the CDC’s own statistics worthless, historically statistics on so-called “pit bulls” are inaccurate because they are not based on what the CDC called reliable breed-specific population data (JAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000, p. 838).   This means that population data for “pit bulls” is unknowable because 1) no one knows what a “pit bull” is such that they can define it, and 2) population data for so-called “pit bulls” is unreliable because dogs commonly and erroneously called “pit bulls” are so popular and are also frequently not licensed and not registered with a registering body like the AKC or UKC.

Also, as the CDC pointed to,

. . . it is imperative to keep in mind that even if breed-specific bite rates could be accurately calculated, they do not factor in owner-related issues. For example, less responsible owners or owners who want to foster aggression in their dogs may be drawn differentially to certain breeds (JAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000, p. 839).

Irresponsible dog ownership of any breed has never been curbed by BSL.   In fact, as Burnaby’s own statistics show, the opposite is true.   Like the U.K., all that Burnaby’s BSL has done is make so-called “pit bulls” that much more attractive to the very irresponsible owners you don’t want owning them, which is why the U.K.’s BSL, instituted in 1991, has seen a huge rise in banned fighting dogs.

Still, the ill-reasoned our-BSL-isn’t-working-so-let’s-add-more-BSL approach smells like the specious reasoning of Dogsbite.org and Merritt Clifton.   Oh sure enough, the BurnabyNow article notes that,  

A statistic from Dogsbite.org, a U.S.-based dog bite victims group website, was included in the report, as well, which states that pitbulls were responsible for 61 per cent (23 of 38) U.S. fatalities due to dog attacks in 2012.

Much like the CDC report that supposedly found 31% of dog-bite related fatalities (DBRFs) were attributable to so-called “pit bulls,”

. . . to the extent that attacks by 1 breed are more newsworthy than those by other breeds, [the CDC’s] methods may have resulted in differential ascertainment of fatalities by breed. (JAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000, p. 838).

In other words, breed determinations based on mere media reports are notoriously inaccurate, particularly since, again, “pit bull” is not a breed.   Nor should the likes of Dogsbite.org or their statistics be viewed as anything other than an extermination campaign undertaken by those with an agenda who use junk science statistics which are easily and readily debunked.   Indeed, it is astounding that anyone would cite Dogsbite.org as if it were a credible source to the point where I have had to ask the question of those who cite their junk science “statistics”: Are you just that ignorant or just that corrupt?    

Additionally, information that suggests Dogsbite.org founder Colleen Lynn may have fabricated her own dog bite story, at least in part, has been widely disseminated across the Internet.   Even Ms. Lynn herself has recently admitted that breed-specific laws do not reduce the number of dog bites, yet for some inexplicable reason, she continues to push BSL anyway.

But back to the issue at hand, Burnaby’s report concludes: The number of bite incidents involving pitbulls in Burnaby is concerning, and further compounded by this breeds potential to inflict significant injuries.”   Any attacking dog has the potential to inflict significant injuries.   Even small-breed dogs have been known to fatally maul infants.   But the report is referring to the long-debunked urban mythology about “pit bulls” supposedly being more vicious which is wholly false.   But then, it’s not surprising that the report should be rife with falsehoods considering at least one of its sources is Dogsbite.org .

Regardless, there is more than ample evidence that BSL hasn’t worked in Ontario, Manitoba, and yes, even in British Columbia in Burnaby itself.   So why is Burnaby looking to add additional breed-specific restrictions for so-called “vicious dogs” — including a $500 fine for vicious dog incidents, increased impound fees from $200 to $400, increased vicious dog impound lengths from 10 to 21 days, establishing a $200 fine for aggressive dog incidents where no bite occurs, etc. — when the existing breed-specific regulations aren’t working?  


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