The following letter was also submitted to the Burnaby NOW following amendments to the animal control bylaw proposing to keep breed-specific terminology:
Dear Mayor Corrigan,
Thank you for requesting public feedback on Burnaby city staff's recommendations, not only to keep breed-specific language (BSL) in our animal control bylaws, but to increase the restrictions. As always, I speak as a Burnaby resident, and the executive director for Paws for Hope Animal Foundation.
It is incredibly unfortunate that despite having a wealth of information provided and available to city staff that supports a complete removal of BSL, the only information they cite as a justification for this response is dogsbite.org, a website with the sole purpose of "exterminating pitbulls.” Their statistics are not accurate, their discussions are not based in logic, and their credibility has been denounced by animal welfare professionals across North America. If staff consulted the groups they say they did, including the BCSPCA, they would have been informed of the many reasons and received data to support this position, why BSL is flawed and would have been recommended to remove it completely. Either staff did not actually consult these groups or made a conscious decision to ignore recognized leading experts in animal welfare issues. Animal welfare organizations are unanimous in this position. BSL is inherently flawed and does not work. It would seem, therefore, there is a definite bias against pit bulls in this agenda.
In addition, the bite statistics that were provided to council were dramatically different than ones provided to a community member in Freedom of Information response, and I would like to know where staff acquired these from. Following this is the questions: if staff are arguing that the bites have increased with the existing BSL, it does not logically follow that increasing the restrictions of this legislation is going to improve the issue. Again, there are evidence-based practices that prove this approach does not work. One only need turn to our neighbours in Calgary to see how creating legislation that holds dog owners accountable for their dog's behaviour (all dogs, regardless of breed) will have a dramatically positive impact on community safety (a move the City of New Westminster recently made).
In fact, BSL can create an unsafe community. It does not hold irresponsible owners equally accountable, and it provides its residents with a false sense of security by stating "these" dogs are inherently vicious and all other dogs are not (unless they attack and bite you, then we will do something about it). It also creates an environment that can potentially encourage animal cruelty. By discriminating against a certain breed, there is an unwritten proviso that says, "these dogs are not nice dogs, who cares what happens to them."
As a resident of Burnaby, I expect my government to develop polices and laws that are based on sound research and evidence based practices. The response from City staff has shown a complete disregard to this and in my mind, brings into question other policies and bylaws that govern our city. Finally, my husband and I will be looking to sell our condo in the next couple of years to accommodate our expanding family. We will not consider buying our new home in Burnaby if BSL still exists. When we are ready to bring another dog into our family (as we recently lost our lab cross), we want to be able to have the freedom to choose the dog that fits with our family the best and do not want to feel restricted, based on their breed.
In addition, I frankly do not want to live in a city who has a mayor and council that can be swayed by a fearmongering website, such as dogsbite, that has no basis in science. I want to live in a city that truly wants to create a safe and inclusive community and has the courage to do what is necessary to do what is right.
As an animal welfare professional, I am frustrated and outraged by the antiquated approach being taken to address animal welfare issues in Burnaby, despite a willingness of many groups to work with staff and council to bring Burnaby into the 21st century.
Executive director, Paws for Hope Animal Foundation
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