September 20/04, VANCOUVER – Earlier today, The Humane Society of Canada released its report “Saving Lives: An Action Plan to Prevent Dog Bites” which has been sent to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and other political figures across Canada according to Al Hickey, the charity’s Western Regional Director.
“Most of the six million dogs sharing our homes never bite anyone, and each day there are a minimum of twelve million interactions taking place between people and dogs. However, as recent events demonstrate, the safeguards and public policy initiatives now in place need to be strengthened in order to protect our communities, which include our dogs,” said Hickey. “We are a nation of animal lovers, with 6 out of every 10 households sharing their homes with a pet of some kind. And we also need to respect the concerns of those who choose not to live with pets.”
“Our fifteen point action plan reflects recommendations that place responsibility for a dog’s actions on the people who care for and control the dog. We are willing to work with governments on these public policy initiatives in a sustained way that is also revenue neutral,” according to HSC Executive Director Michael O'Sullivan. The 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 plan can be found here.
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.”
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 website, 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.
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.]
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