Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Going to bat .... again ....

It is the first weapon of choice for violent hate crimes.  No training required.   No license needed.  No permits required to purchase.  Readily available at most retail outlets for under fifty dollars.  And perfectly legal to carry openly on the street.
I am of course referring to the humble baseball bat.   This week we have seen two terrible stories in the news here in Nova Scotia about severe injuries caused by baseball bats.
Why has there never been a hue and a cry to ban baseball bats?  Are innocent pedestrians not quaking in their boots?  
Or is it simply that most households in the province have a bat?  Some have children involved in the sport.  Many Nova Scotia adults belong to a ball league of some sort.   When the kids are all grown, it is the kind of thing one keeps on deck for visiting grandchildren.
In other words ... for every bat used to commit a crime .. there are thousands and thousands that are only ever, ever used for the love of the game.  
Straight, sweet and simple, eh?
This week there have also been a couple of dog attacks that have made our Nova Scotia News.  What does that mean in realspeak?  Does that mean that people will understand that there are thousands and thousands of 'pitbull types' who are lovely family pets?   Not even close!
Sigh ... it means that once again ... that animal advocates will have to step up and campaign their friends, neighbours, facebook lists and yes of course, their politicians to prevent BSL from becoming the same nightmare in Nova Scotia as it is in Ontario :(
People who never lose a minutes sleep about all the baseball bats start to panic ... creating a climate where they are willing to punish the very people who were never part of the problem in the first place.
(The subject of how the municipal warden in Guysborough County who is the Biggest Advocate for BSL in our province might just have a bone to pick with animal loving community who campaigned to thwart his provincial political ambitions last election is a topic deserving of its own post on another day.  Right now his municipality is reeling from the impact of New Page closing and BSL would just a dandy way to distract people, eh? )
But I am wandering a bit afield here.   This morning, I was horrified to read the following article in  today's Herald
Time to get tough with owners of unruly dogs — McCluskey

Woman bitten at beach by unleashed animal
By BILL POWER Staff Reporter
Wed, Aug 31 - 7:07 AM
Coun. Gloria McCluskey, shown in April 2010, said she will introduce a notice of motion at city hall calling for stiffer fines against the owners of dogs that attack people or pets. (Christian Laforce / Staff)
A Halifax regional councillor called Tuesday for heftier fines for careless dog owners, a day after an attack at Martinique Beach sent a woman to hospital.

"It’s the owners who are responsible for these incidents and not the dogs," said Coun. Gloria McCluskey (Dartmouth Centre).
In the latest in a recent string of dog attacks, Kathy Martin of Dartmouth was treated and released from hospital after an unleashed dog attacked her at Martinique Beach on Monday evening.
Martin told CBC News she was in a grassy area near the parking lot of the Eastern Shore beach when the dog suddenly lunged at her.
"I was on the ground and this dog was snarling and lunging at my neck and face," she said.
Halifax Regional Municipality’s Animal Services department was on the trail of the dog’s owner Tuesday. The dog was described as a pit bull.
"We have information pertaining to the owner of the dog in question and expect to make contact later today," said Animal Services manager Andrea MacDonald.
Last week, an off-leash dog killed a Jack Russell terrier in Dartmouth, and earlier this month a Dartmouth child was hospitalized after an attack. In July, a couple of large dogs mauled a tiny Shih Tzu to death in Dartmouth. In that case, the owner of the attacking dogs was fined $1,360 and the dogs were seized.
McCluskey said she will introduce a notice of motion at city hall calling for stiffer fines against the owners of dogs that attack people or pets. She also wants heavier fines for repeat violators of muzzle orders for aggressive dogs, and consideration for a possible ban on aggressive breeds.
"There have been bans in other jurisdictions of breeds known to be aggressive," she said. "People who train their dogs to attack or who have experienced aggressive behaviour from the dog should not be out walking that dog in public without proper controls."
McCluskey said a simple muzzle could save a dog owner, and an unsuspecting victim, a lot of grief.
The basic fine for a dog running loose is $340.21, and that can be doubled if there is a muzzle order in effect.
MacDonald said there were 96 reports of dog attacks in the municipality during July and August, the peak season for attacks. In 17 cases, injuries to people or small dogs were reported.
"This is pretty much in line with the number of reports during the peak summer period in previous years," she said.
MacDonald said changes to municipal animal bylaws would require provincial approval.
Ted Efthymiadis of Unleashed Potential, a dog training service in Halifax that specializes in aggressive dogs, welcomed talk of strengthening animal bylaws.
"People should not be permitted to obtain these large breeds without being required to undergo training on how they are to be managed," Efthymiadis said.
He said he is concerned about the number of large, out-of-control dogs appearing around the city.
"Anybody can obtain one of these big dogs and do whatever they want with them," he said. "The fines for offences are minimal."
"Fines under the animal bylaw should be steeper and Animal Services should have more staff so the bylaws can be enforced," he said.
Efthymiadis said aggressive behaviour can be a problem with all breeds, and most dogs will exhibit symptoms months or even a year before an attack occurs. He said all dog owners should learn to interpret the signs of problem aggression, such a nipping at other dogs or forcing them into a submissive position, and should learn how to use a muzzle.
"Dogs will welcome the use of a muzzle if they are introduced to it properly," Efthymiadis said. "They will associate it with going for a walk, which is something they enjoy.
"I cannot understand why anybody would bring an aggressive dog to a public area without a muzzle."
Devin Stevens would support mandatory muzzles for aggressive dogs. An encounter with a pit bull on Caledonia Road in Dartmouth on Friday sent his two-year-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever to the veterinarian with extensive head wounds.
"The owner tried to keep the dog under control, but its collar broke and it charged across the street and attacked," Stevens said.
Well then ..... where do I start?   Perhaps I should begin with the bit that I've highlighted in red.    Most of the animal loving community on facebook seem to think that Councillor McCluskey is opposed to a breed ban.
As a matter of fact, this very morning,  Councillor McCluskey assured local animal advocates that  she was NOT for breed bans AND was all in favour of having a working PANEL to amend the bylaws to strengthen the bylaws to affect all offending OWNERS not dog breeds.
So ... one of two things has happened.   Either Mr Power and the Herald have printed one of the worst misquotes in the world for all the uneducated world to take as gospel ...... or Councillor McCluskey is engaged in a game of political double speak and is trying to play both sides against the middle.
The point I am making in my meandering way is that somebody got the wrong end of the stick.   ( And before the keyboards catch on fire I am not even going to dwell on why the author of this article chose not to consult Sylvia Jay who has become a popular mainstream media resource on the subject of breed bans ... choosing instead to consult an 'expert' with next to no credibility in the animal loving / positive dog training community.   Was it that he was too unfamiliar with the subject and relying on old research?   Or did he just google aggressive dogs and pick the first name that popped up? )
What time is it?   It is time to implement the solutions that actually work.  Anti tethering legislation.   Support for Spay Neuter.   Implementing breed neutral dangerous dog laws and restricting reckless owners from owning dogs.
And of course ... it is always, always time for the media to acknowledge their role in shaping public opinion

1 comment:

voice4dogs said...

Well said. I like to see mandatory owner education - not just for "bully" breeds, laws that legislate a dog's right to treatment that doesn't promote fear and anxiety, and bylaws that allow for a dog to be rehomed if the present owner is not willing or able to train, treat and manage the dog so it won't harm others.

I also always wonder about people who sell dogs. I mean, often, not always, but often a troubled dog lives with shady or at least inept owners. Someone sold a dog to those people. It might be difficult to hold them liable, but stricter laws who can produce and sell dogs is certainly part of the whole picture.