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A pit bull is a pit bull, Ontario says

Canadian Press

Toronto — Breeders of pure bred dogs will not be exempted from Ontario's province-wide ban on pit bulls, Attorney-General Michael Bryant announced Wednesday.

Some breeders were surprised to see the government include Staffordshire bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers among the dogs being banned in Ontario, but Mr. Bryant said the government's definition of a pit bull will stand.

“We are not making exceptions,” he said. “They are banned.”

Mr. Bryant said he listened to the breeders' concerns and checked to see if the pure-bred dogs could be considered safer than mixed breed pit bulls, but he found there were also reports of attacks on people involving the pure-bred dogs.

“We looked into whether or not there is a danger with the pure bred pit bulls, and the answer is yep, they're dangerous,” Mr. Bryant said. “So they will not be exempted.”

The legislation, introduced Tuesday, also defines a pit bull as “a pit bull terrier, (or) an American pit bull terrier, or a member of a class of dogs that have an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to the four types of dogs that have been identified.”

“We're not looking at loosening the definition at all,” Mr. Bryant said. “Pit bulls are banned in the province of Ontario, no ifs, ands or buts.”

He said the government may be willing to make some kind of accommodation so international dog shows could still be held in Ontario without forcing owners of pit bulls to stay away.

“We're trying to work with people who breed pure bred dogs and use them in dog shows,” Mr. Bryant said. “We're seeing whether or not there could be some exception carved out for that.”

The exemption, if granted, could “allow a breeder of pit bulls to visit Ontario with their pit bull, show it and then leave,” said Mr. Bryant's press secretary, Greg Crone.

He said there will not be any exemptions granted for Ontario owners of pure breds listed under the ban, even if the animals compete in international dog shows.

The proposed law, which Mr. Bryant hopes to have passed by Christmas, doubles the maximum fines for irresponsible dog owners to $10,000 and, for the first time, includes potential jail terms of up to six months.

The New Democrats are demanding public hearings on the proposed pit bull ban, and Mr. Bryant said he wants to work with the opposition parties to speed up passage of the legislation.

The Toronto Humane Society contends that breed bans do not solve the problem of a dangerous dog, and said dogs that have not harmed anyone will be killed.

Mr. Bryant said the government will not back down and warned that breeders in the province will have to find other types of dogs to sell or get out of the business.

“They won't be breeding pit bulls in the province of Ontario any more,” he said.

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