Burnaby, British Columbia Still Defines “Pit Bulls” as “Vicious” Despite All Evidence to Contrary
British Columbia has always captivated me. It is a beautiful province, and I have long wanted to go there. But like with Toronto, I refuse to visit a place that has such ridiculous and even stupid governance.
On Monday, September 30, 2013, the Burnaby, British Columbia City Council inexplicably unanimously decided to keep their admittedly ineffective breed-specific legislation (BSL), and even add more restrictive provisions for so-called “pit bulls.” The Council,
- Raised fines for owners of so-called “vicious” breeds to $500 for a 1st incident with Animal Control.
- Raised dog licensing fees for “vicious” breed to $150 annually.
- Raised fines for unmuzzled “vicious” breeds to $200.
- Raised impound fees for “vicious breeds to $400.
The bylaw defines a vicious dog 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.” Here in the U.S. we’d call that definition unconstitutionally vague because Burnaby residents will have no idea how to comply with the bylaw, or whether they even have a “pit bull” or not because, as we so often say here, there is no breed “pit bull.” “Pit bull” is a vague term that can describe any of a number of medium- and large-breed dogs, and as Burnaby has defined it, will allow the Animal Control officers to define as “vicious” any breed they determine in their uneducated opinion is a “pit bull.”
The U.S. city of Denver, Colorado passed BSL in 1989 and is often touted as a BSL success story, yet Denver has likewise had difficulty determining what constitutes a “pit bull” as they themselves define it. For instance, in the 2004 case of Margolius v. The City of Denver, it was shown that Mr. Margolius’ due process rights were violated when Denver’s own Animal Control Officers could not discern what was and was not a “pit bull” as defined by their own ordinance. Denver violated dog owners’ due process rights again when the Denver Daily News reported that in January 2011 (and in 2009) Denver’s Animal Control officers could not tell the difference between a Boxer mix and what Denver’s ordinance defined as a “pit bull.”
Like I said, Denver claims BSL has been successful in their city, and yet “While dog bite-injury hospitalizations are infrequent, the breed-discriminatory County of Denver continues to have a significantly higher rate of dog bite-related hospitalizations than all counties in the state except for one, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment statistics.” (Miami-Dade County has likewise reported similarly high dog bite-related hospitalizations despite having BSL in place since 1989.)
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he would feel responsible if he didn’t move ahead with the stricter breed-specific rules and someone was attacked. But the U.S. has proven in places like Denver and Miami-Dade County that BSL actually keeps communities less safe. In Canada, Winnipeg and Ontario have also had to admit, although reluctantly, that their breed-specific bylaws are ineffective, with Winnipeg even seeing an increase in dog bite incidences. Burnaby itself is a BSL failure story, with a B.C. mathematician even questioning Burnaby’s stats, and yet they inexplicably pushed for more BSL anyway, even foolishly daring to cite the widely discredited Dogsbite.org website.
So congratulations to the Burnaby City Council. Not only have you compounded your ineffective breed-specific bylaws with even more impotent provisions, you have now made your community much less safe because the Animal Control officers that should be policing all dogs, will have to myopically focus on “pit bulls,” whatever those are, to the exclusion of other dogs and other breeds who, in irresponsible hands, are just as likely to bite or attack.