BSL is Bullshit

If there were fewer humans in the world, there would consequently be fewer opportunities for vicious attacks by humans; terrorism, murder, whatever.  Right?  So the solution is that we should castrate people we deem will be bad parents; or, perhaps, the mentally ill.  Good thing I don’t want children to begin with.

I mean, you can’t fault the logic.  It’s definitely true.  But does that make it reasonable?

In Canadian legislation, apparently the answer is yes.

Wait, let’s back up and swap some words.

“[T]here are now fewer pit bulls in Ontario and, consequently, fewer opportunities for a vicious attack by a pit bull.”

That is a direct quote, in a personal email to me from Premier Kathleen Wynne, when I emailed her asking her about Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and the Dog Owners Liability Act (DOLA).

Anecdotally, in my work with dogs, I have only been seriously bitten once.  It was my own fault, and also, not a pit bull.  The most recent dog bite to someone I know personally was a pug, not a pit bull.

Wait, let’s back up again.  What is a pit bull?

Yeah — I’ll let you know now: “Wait, back up, what?” is going to happen a lot in the post.  Want to know why?  Because BSL is confusing, and doesn’t make any sense.

“pit bull” includes,

(a) a pit bull terrier,

(b) a Staffordshire bull terrier,

(c) an American Staffordshire terrier,

(d) an American pit bull terrier,

(e) a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d); (“pit-bull”)

– from the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA), Ontario

Let’s play a game, called “guess who is a pit bull?” — I’m going to post a few photos, you tell me if you think pit bull or not pit bull:

Onus of proof, pit bulls
(10) If it is alleged in any proceeding under this section that a dog is a pit bull, the onus of proving that the dog is not a pit bull lies on the owner of the dog. 2005, c. 2, s. 1 (13). – DOLA,  Ontario

“I can’t think of a single law that is based on DNA testing and there are some very interesting reason for that.  One of those reasons is cost.  At about $80 a pop, it would cost Prince George’s County, Maryland, about $75,000 ANNUALLY just to do the genetic testing.  I think the second reason is more interesting—it’s specifically noted in the terms and conditions of the DNA testing company that it’s NOT to be used for that exact purpose.”, says Adrianne Lefkowitz, of the Maryland Dog Federation

“Maybe,” I thought, while working on research for this article, “there is something I don’t know here.  Maybe BSL is working in some way I am unaware of.”  I decided to ask around to experts in various fields in animal welfare.

I reached out to Bruce Rooney, Executive Director of the Ottawa Humane Society, to ask him what he thought about the subject.  “The OHS does not support BSL.  We think it is ineffective and unfair – as it targets breeds rather than individual dogs which may be problematic.”

But hang on; Kathleen Wynne told me that “Ontario sets high standards for responsible dog ownership to keep families safe and secure.”

And yet, Bruce Rooney claims, “It was mainly a Toronto problem that this government imposed on the whole province. They made no provision for enforcement.  The City of Ottawa has indicated that they are not enforcing it, unless the dog poses a risk to the community.” [emphasis is my own]

A rescue I met at the Doberman Rescue fundraiser with an anti-BSL group; she was apparently rescued from a crack house. She loves to swim.

Let me tell you this – again, this one is anecdotal: I know multiple “pit bulls”, be it American Pit Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers (who seem like a legal gray area), and Staffordshire Terriers.  They are definitely pit bulls, born and bred.  Their vet paperwork?  It does not say pit bull on it.  Because vets know that BSL is bullshit, so they lie.  I have met so many “wink wink boxer lab” mixes.

BSL is an ethical failure. BSL is a public safety failure. –

The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. have thousands of dogs temperament tested.  Some statistics that illuminate how unfair the pit bull ban is:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier: out of 870 tested, 86.8% passed the test
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier: out of 129 tested, 90.7% passed the test

But, ruh roh –

  • Shetland Sheepdog: out of 502 tested, 68.3% passed the test
  • Pembrooke Welsh Corgi: out of 207 tested, 78.7% passed the test

Where is the Corgi ban?!

Failure on any part of the test is recognized when a dog shows:

  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Panic without recovery
  • Strong avoidance
I'm going to attack you... just as soon as I am done napping.
I’m going to attack you… just as soon as I am done napping.

It is shockingly apparent, a decade into BSL in Ontario, that it isn’t working.  And everyone knows it isn’t working.  In fact, regardless of BSL (as it wasn’t a banned breed), I reported my dog bite to Toronto Animal Services, and nothing happened.

Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) - Toronto Humane Society
Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) – Toronto Humane Society

If BSL isn’t the solution, what is?

“The solution – if a “solution” is required – is to focus on individual dogs that are a risk – stiff fines, temperament testing, muzzle-orders,  and to educate children about being around dogs, and what to do if they feel threatened.”, says Bruce Rooney, of the OHS.

Given all of this, why has BSL not been repealed?

“Politicians do not want to look like they are soft on crime or public safety. When it comes to BSL that is already in place, it is much easier for a politician to do nothing than to repeal.”, states Adrianne Lefkowitz.

Me being smothered in kisses by Scarlett, a pit bull belonging to a classmate of mine from KPA
Me being smothered in kisses by Scarlett, a pit bull belonging to a classmate of mine from KPA

What can we do to get BSL repealed?

A photo posted by Verena Schleich (@odditvees) on

  • And, you can spread the word.  Let people know that BSL doesn’t work, isn’t fair, and that pit bulls are adorable and lovable.  (Okay, okay.  That last is just my opinion.  But that doesn’t make it wrong!)

8 thoughts on “BSL is Bullshit

  1. love it!!!! thanks for the enjoyable yet factual read! It’s hard to smile in BSL ridden Ontario but this article has both exposed it’s barbaric cruelty, yet given us advocates a well-deserved smile PS. know that little swimmer!

  2. A very well written article about BSL. As a facebook crossposter and animal advocate I hate all BSL laws!! They make no since whatever and are ridiculous. I would be more afraid of, and frankly am, my peekapoo. He is very protective of his daddy and has bitten me several times thinking he was keeping me from hurting his daddy. Every “pit bull” I have met has only tried to link me to death. I cannot find where to like your article.

  3. You hit this directly on the nail… It’s really a shame that the Ontario political system currently in power refuses to acknowledge logic and science. If BSL is the “almighty solution” they think it is, then WHY IS IT STILL NOT WORKING??? Thank you for this article!

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