Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City won't lift ban on pit bulls

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WINNIPEG'S ban on pit bulls is here to stay as officials worry lifting it could cause more overcrowding in city animal shelters.

Last year, animal advocates urged the city to consider repealing the pit-bull ban as part of its wider review of responsible pet ownership. Winnipeg city council first enacted a ban in 1990 on the heels of numerous incidents involving the breed.

Advocates have since argued more onus should be placed on the owner to be responsible for their dog's behaviour, instead of an outright ban on a particular breed.

Winnipeg's revamped pet-ownership bylaw will not be made public until fall, but on Monday, animal services chief operating officer Leland Gordon said the department does not support repealing the ban. Gordon said pit bulls are among the most abused dogs in the world, and he's concerned Winnipeg's animal-services agency will see an influx of unwanted pit bulls if the ban is lifted.

Gordon previously worked for animal shelters in the United States and said he consistently saw large numbers of pit bulls euthanized because it's difficult to find pet owners who want to adopt them. He said Winnipeg animal shelters already have trouble finding homes for other popular dog breeds.

"The dog still does carry that stigma, which is sad," said Gordon, who used to foster pit bulls when he lived in the U.S. "Ultimately, they would be abused, neglected; they would be hard to find homes for."

Kate Simpkin disagrees, and said many families want to adopt pit bulls because they make great pets. Simpkin currently fosters a pit bull named Sassy in her home in Anola, and said she's had more interest from families who want to adopt her than her other foster dog, a black Labrador retriever.

She said it's very difficult to tell whether a dog is a pit bull without DNA tests, and the city should repeal the ban.

"I find it funny that if I was a pedophile, I'd be welcome to live in Winnipeg, but because I own a well-behaved dog I'm not," said Simpkin, whose pit bull died last year. "And that makes no sense to me."

Many cities and towns across Canada and the U.S. have outlawed pit bulls and Ontario passed a provincewide ban in 2005.

Cities such as Calgary have a dangerous-dog bylaw that applies to every breed, so the onus is on the pet owner to be responsible for their dog's behaviour.

While some cities have lifted pit-bull bans, Gordon said this usually occurs in places where there is already a large number of illegally owned pit bulls.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 29, 2012 B1

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