February 14/05, TORONTO - The media's extensive and dramatic coverage of "pit bulls" has led to a move by the Ontario Government to ban "pit bulls" and any other large breeds that politicians believe should be added to the list. Other provinces and local jurisdictions are also closely watching to see what takes place in Ontario as public hearings into the controversial proposed law wrap up.
"There is no question that the media continues to be a powerful moving force for change. Nowhere is this more evident than the way in which reporters have helped shape government policy on the subject of "pit bulls". And now rather than just reporting on these tragedies, we're asking the media to help us prevent dog bites," says Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director of The Humane Society of Canada.
The charity is asking that all media consider adding the following brief message at the end of their news coverage on dog attacks: "To help us prevent dog bites contact The Humane Society of Canada at www.humanesociety.com or call toll free 1-800-641-KIND."
When people visit the charity's website or call their toll free number, they will have access to "Saving Lives" which includes practical tips on how to prevent dog bites, and a more comprehensive action plan for laws and educational campaigns to reduce dog bites which can be found here.
"News editors and reporters would be performing a tremendous public service that would help save lives in future, if we can convince them to work more closely with us to prevent these tragedies from taking place," says Al Hickey, the animal charity's Western Regional Director.
The Humane Society of Canada's action plan calls for street proofing children about how to approach dogs, mandatory spaying and neutering of pets to reduce aggression, requirements for training courses for dog owners, heavy jail terms and fines for dog fighters, and strict inspection and licensing requirements for all dog breeders, pet shops, guard dog companies and animal trainers. A copy of the fifteen point action plan can be found here in pdf format.
The animal charity points out that most of the six million dogs sharing our homes never bite anyone, and each day there are at least twelve million interactions taking place between people and dogs all across Canada.
"Demonizing a handful of dog breeds will not reduce the overall number of dog bites. Failing to have a healthy respect, awareness and understanding of dogs, is like telling my daughter that when she crosses the street, she can ignore the small cars and just watch out for the big trucks," says O'Sullivan.
A father with two children and someone who has worked with animals all of his life, he believes that we can care for people and animals at the same time. "Preventing dog bites is a complex health care issue and we have the tools at our disposal to prevent many tragedies from ever taking place. We can also reduce health care costs, and animal care and control costs."
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our educational campaigns that protect animals and the environment please make a donation here. Because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence, we don’t give up. Ever.
The Humane Society of Canada does not support banning pit bulls because they don't believe it will solve the problem of dog bites and even worse will offer up a false sense of security. According to a 1996 study conducted by the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Reporting Prevention Program (CHIRRP) German Shepherds followed by Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers were the most common breeds involved in biting incidents.
The charity also does not support a call by some people to muzzle every dog in Canada, describing such a proposal as arbitrary, punitive and unenforceable.
O'Sullivan also rejects comparisons between a law which restricts firearms and a law which would ban certain dog breeds. "Guns are designed to wound and kill. Dogs have lived in our homes for thousands of years as our companions, they teach us responsibility and compassion, and studies have shown the tremendous health benefits of sharing our homes with pets. Most dogs never harm anyone."
However, the charity does believe that we can draw a parallel between the 17 million cars on Canadian streets and highways - nearly 3 times the number of dogs sharing our homes. "Car accidents injure and kill people each and every day. For example, regrettably in 1998, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Transport Canada reported that there were 150,919 reported motor vehicle crashes which resulted in fatalities or injuries; and that these resulted in 217,614 persons injured and in the deaths of 2,927 persons," said O'Sullivan.
When an accident takes place, no one blames the vehicles, or suggests that we should stop driving, or that cars should proceed only at a relatively safe speed of say only 20 km/hr. Instead, we put responsibility where it belongs, on the drivers of the vehicles. We require them to take training courses and be licensed and there a wide range of civil and criminal sanctions if they break the law. No one would argue that the system is perfect, but it represents a balanced and pragmatic approach to the problems of careless driving, he explains.
"In 2000, as part of our ongoing commitment to save the lives of children, adults and dogs, our organisation launched the National Dog Bite Awareness Week (May 22-27) with a campaign to reduce dog bites and promote the special bond that exists between dogs and people. You can see comprehensive articles on our National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign, which include "Tips for Child Safety", "Tips for Dog Owners" and "Tips for Parents" and posters which we believe represent a balanced and pragmatic approach to the needs of the community."
The Humane Society of Canada is also pleased to learn that politicians are willing to step forward and be a part of the solution. "To date, with few exceptions, except for lip service, political support for our dog bite prevention campaign has been virtually nonexistent at all three levels of government - even after we offered challenge funding of $1 million," said O'Sullivan.
"Our positions on this complex issue of social concern have not always been popular with dog lovers, or with those who choose not to have dogs in their homes. However, we're not here to be popular. We're all here to save lives," he concluded.
The Humane Society of Canada would like to offer our sincere thanks to the wonderful people at TAXI, one of Canada's leading ad agencies and Maverick, one of Canada's leading PR firms, for their kindness and generosity in helping us develop an award winning ad campaign to save the lives of people and dogs.