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The Calgary Model
The animal control bylaw in Calgary, Alberta, Canada has been hailed by many as a HUGE success. While other cities and provinces in Canada are banning breeds, Calgary is choosing education program and stronger enforcement. What’s the end result? By all accounts, reports and statistics, the bylaw is working! Not only that, the bylaw works so well and the results are so highly praised, Calgary is inspiring animal control officials outside of Canada to use the bylaw as a model for their own animal control ordinances.
The following is written by Dana Grove of Banixx:
The bylaw officers in Calgary have taken a stand against breed banning, and responded to dog bite concerns with a tougher licensing program and stronger enforcement. The City of Calgary also spends considerable funds on dog safety public awareness and education campaigns. Research shows that just 1 hour of dog safety training in grades 2 and 3 can reduce these attacks by 80%.
“We don’t punish breeds, we punish behavior,” said chief bylaw officer Bill Bruce. “The bottom line is, we believe all dogs are capable of biting.”
In Calgary, 90 per cent of dogs are licensed, allowing bylaw officers to keep track of pets and owners. The city also has a strict fine structure that includes a $250 penalty for chase incidents and $350 fines for bites. The bylaw also allows the officers to declare specific dogs as “dangerous” and this label brings with it higher license fees, muzzling rules and age restrictions on the dog’s handlers. The bylaw states that a dog can only be destroyed by owner request or court order.
The county of Newell in Alberta received dozens of letters and e-mails from around the world from people who oppose breed restrictions, said deputy Reeve Jack Harbinson.
“We decided after listening to the people, they were right,” he said.
The success of their actions? Approximately 1000 reported dog bites in 1985 and 260 reported dog bites in 2003.
According to recent pit bull reports on Blogspot, Calgary’s dangerous dog legislation was implemented in response to the bite problem. Dangerous dog, not dangerous breed. The results speak for themselves – a 70% drop in the number of OVERALL dog bites.
The measures Calgary has taken have shown results, and set a model and a precedent that should be implemented across Canada. THIS is the model Ontario should be looking at…
Calgary dog attacks fall to lowest level in 25 years
City a leader in reducing canine problems, says top bylaw officer
By Sean Myers, Calgary Herald, February 21, 2009
According to recent reports, attacks by aggressive dogs are at the lowest level they’ve been in 25 years despite a steady population growth and the absence of breed-specific legislation brought in to tackle canine issues in other jurisdictions.
Despite the low numbers, Calgary’s top bylaw officer plans to delve deeper into the causes of dog attacks to try to bring the incidents even lower.
“This is exactly what we’ve been targeting,” said Bill Bruce. “Our ultimate goal, of course, is to get it to zero, or as close to that as possible.”
Bruce said Calgary is a leader in reducing dog attacks in Canada, noting that he often receives invitations from animal services around the world to talk about the work done here to reduce dog bites.
Calgary bylaw officers recorded 340 reported aggressive dog incidents in 2008 which included chases, bites and damage to property.
Of those, 145 complaints were bites.
In 2007, 374 aggressive dog calls were made, including 137 bites, and in 2006, of 402 aggressive dog complaints, 199 were for bites.
By comparison, back in 1985, the city received a whopping 1,938 aggressive dog complaints, including 621 bites, at a time when Calgary had a population of just over 600,000.
A new pet owner bylaw was brought in three years ago that included stiffer fines and a recognition that aggressive behaviour in dogs is normally traced back to irresponsible owners. Bruce said both the heavier penalties — ranging from $350 to $1,500, to euthanizing the dog–and the philosophy of blaming bad owners rather than pets has helped reduce incidents.
This year, Bruce is launching a pilot project where he’ll have six officers dedicated to following up every aggressive dog complaint to identify common factors in attacks that can be addressed in future bylaw enforcement and public education campaigns.
“We want to look at everything that led up to an aggressive dog attack,” said Bruce. “We’re hoping to find four to six common things that people do that causes dogs to bite. Our goal is not to have anyone bitten by a dog.”
At the same time Bruce investigates softer approaches to addressing pet owner issues, he’s also been given a bigger stick with which to penalize chronically non-compliant dog owners.
In the fall, bylaw enforcement gained the right to tag a dog as a nuisance pet, which means doubling the fines on the owner.
One dog has already received this designation, according to Bruce.
Brandy Campbell-Biggs, president of Pit Bulls For Life, a non-profit animal rescue operation geared specifically toward puppies with ear problems, said targeting bad owners instead of stigmatizing entire breeds is the key to reducing aggressive incidents.
While dog bites have been going down, the number of pit bulls coming to the city has been increasing, she said.
She doesn’t know how many there are in the city, but her organization has placed 160 pit bulls in foster homes or with permanent adoptive owners in Calgary over the past three and a half years.
Pit Bulls For Life brings the dogs in from jurisdictions with breed-specific legislation that sees many breeds deemed dangers, including pit bulls, targeted for euthanasia. She said 20 per cent of the dogs they help come from Ontario.
“We have a lot more pit bulls in Calgary now,” said Campbell-Briggs. “Part of the reason is we don’t have breed-specific legislation. I’m proud to be a Calgarian because our animal by-law officers deal with specific incidents and don’t deal with it as a breed issue. There’s no bias and that’s so important.”
Pit Bulls For Life doesn’t take in any dogs with histories of aggression toward humans or other animals and says it works with the city bylaw department to educate owners.
Canada Post has also noticed a slight reduction in dog incidents involving its letter carriers in Calgary that bucks the trend nationally.
From January to August last year, 25 dog incidents were reported by carriers, two of which resulted in time off work. In the same time period in 2007, 28 incidents were reported, with three requiring time away from work.
An aggressive dog can lead to an entire block losing mail service until the animal is brought under control.
“We have to ensure the safety of our employees–your front step and front yard are our employees’workplace,”said Andrean Wolvers, Canada Post safety manager for Calgary. “We tell our employees when in doubt, get out.”
Wolvers says partnerships with the city and other organizations that send employees into residential neighbourhoods has helped reduce dog attacks on posties.
“The city and Bill Bruce have been very proactive,” said Wolvers.
The Calgary Humane Society said the working relationship it has with the city is unique in Canada.
“We have a very collaborative relation-ship. When we talk to other humane societies, they say we’re the only ones they’ve heard of that have a positive working relationship with the city bylaw department,” said Calgary Humane Society spokeswoman Lindsay Jones.
“Other cities learn from us and the way we do things here.”
The available studies on breed specific legislation all lead to the same conclusion…. dog bites do not decrease in communities where breed bans and/or regulations have been passed. In fact, the statistics related to dog bites remain at relatively the same rate year after year. If the goal of breed specific legislation is to reduce and prevent injury from dog bites – yet dog bites continue to occur at comparable rates year after year, even in communities with BSL – it is quite clear that breed specific legislation does little to protect the public from dog bites. The below studies do an excellent job at illustrating the ineffectiveness of breed specific laws.
You can access the studies and reports where available by clicking the highlighted text.
In 1996, a Scottish study entitled “Does the Dangerous Dogs Act Protect Against Animal Attacks” looked at the three month period before the implementation of BSL and the three month period after said implementation. The study found that the banned or regulated breeds contributed to only a small percentage of attacks. The study further revealed that Alsatians and mongrels (mixed breed dogs) were the most common breed involved (in 24.2% and 18.2% attacks, respectively), while the restricted breeds accounted for only 6.1% of the attacks.
In September 2002, the Administrative Court of Berlin ruled null and void the government of Lower Saxony, Germany’s breed specific law related to 14 breeds of dogs. This ruling was based, in part, by a study by Esther Schalke, PhD, DVM, which demonstrated that breed specific legislation was ineffective.
In June 2008, the Netherlands repealed a 15 year ban on pit bulls after research proved that it did not improve public safety and dog bite incidents did not decrease.
In March 2009, Italy repealed its long-standing breed specific law in which 17 dogs were identified as “dangerous breeds.” The breed ban was replaced with a law making owners more responsible for their pet’s training and behavior.
In June 2008, a report regarding the United Kingdom’s Dangerous Dog Act of 1991 was issued. According to the report commissioned by pet insurer LV, the number of people hospitalised for dog attacks has increased by almost 50% in the past decade — this is despite having breed specific legislation in place since 1991.
In 2007, a Spanish study compared dog bites reported to the health department of Aragon, Spain for 5 years before and 5 years after the implementation of breed specific legislation in the form of a Dangerous Dog Act. The Spanish study concluded, among other things, that there was no change in the number of dog bites reported, and that the restricted breeds, were responsible for less than 4% of the reported bites both before and after the BSL took effect.
A 2006 Australian study entitiled Breed-specific legislation and the pit bull terrier: Are the laws justified? concluded that the data collected in the United States to support the theory that pit bulls posed a unique danger to the public is flawed by methodological shortcomings. The study also concluded that the evidence does not sustain the view that pit bulls are a uniquely dangerous breed, and breed-specific laws aimed to control it have not been demonstrated by authorities to be justified by its attack record.
The pit bull myths… we’ve all heard them
Unfortunately, anyone dedicated to fighting BSL will be forced to deal with officials and others who believe some or all of the below false beliefs about pit bulls. This page was created to help you combat those myths with the best ammunition…facts!
Pit bulls are “inherently dangerous” or they are “born mean.”
No one breed as a whole is bad, the same as no one race of humans is bad. Much has to do with the individual, it’s genes, upbringing, and training. In the case of Pit Bulls, a breed that was created to be especially gentle with people, all of the human aggressive dogs are victims of one or more of the following: poor breeding, bad training, or irresponsible upbringing. There are thousands upon thousands of Pit Bulls that are loving, loyal, safe pets, who will live and die without ever having bitten a human. They are the proof that this “born bad” idea is fiction, pure and simple.
In the event you are asked to provide “fact based” and undisputed proof to this effect, in August 2002, the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the decision of the lower state court that pit bulls are not inherently dangerous. City of Huntsville v. Tack, et al., Alabama Supreme Court(2002).
Again, in the case of Zuniga v. County of San Mateo Department of Health Services, the California Court of Appeals held that pit bulls are not inherently dangerous. (1990)
Pit bulls have massive jaw strength that can be measured in terms of pounds per square inch (PSI).
According to Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia:
In regard to claims of massive 1200 P.S.I., 1500 P.S.I., 1800 P.S.I. jaw strength he says, “To the best of our knowledge, there are no published scientific studies that would allow any meaningful comparision to be made of the biting power of various breeds of dogs. There are, moreover, compelling technical reasons why such data describing biting power in terms of ‘pounds per square inch’ can never be collected in a meaningful way. All figures describing biting power in such terms can be traced to either unfounded rumor or, in some cases, to newspaper articles with no foundation in factual data.
Pit bulls have locking jaws.
Dr. Brisbin has also conducted studies with respect to the myth that a pit bull’s jaws lock. With respect to this, he states,
The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Pit bulls bite or attack more than any other breed of dogs.
Despite all the studies on dog bites, the American Veterinary Medical Association has found that no single breed is more dangerous than another. Rather, studies show the most popular breeds at any given time tend to top the list because, of course, there are more of those dogs in the general population. It may seem to the general public, who is constantly bombarded with disturbing reports on Pit Bull attacks, that this is the only breed that harms humans with any great regularity. However, the fact remains that Pit Bulls are hot news items. Dogs of all breeds and mixes bite and attack people all the time, but it is mainly the Pit Bull bites that get sensationalized.
If the breed of dog was the primary determining factor in all dog attacks, it would stand to reason that since there are literally hundreds of thousands of pit bulls in the United States alone, there would be countless more statistics on pit bull bites. The truth is, there simply are not. Any dog, regardless of its breed, is only as dangerous as his/her owner allows it to be.
Further, in the case of Tellings v. City of Toledo (2004), the Court found that there is no statistical evidence which indicates that the pit bull bites more frequently than some other breeds of dogs.
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