Janessa Munz is out to prove that pit bulls aren’t scary, once you get to know them.
Munz is organizing a pit bull walk in downtown Maple Ridge on Sunday, Sept. 30, to protest a proposed Maple Ridge bylaw that would single out pit bulls as “aggressive” and would charge their owners a licensing fee four times that of other breeds.
District of Maple Ridge staff recommended the bylaw two months ago, however, the proposal hasn’t yet to come back to council for approval.
Bylaws director Liz Holitzki said the singling out of pit bulls is designed to encourage responsible pet ownership. While both the district and the SPCA receive complaints about problem dogs of all breeds, there is significant public concern about pit bulls in particular.
“It’s not unusual to have a total ban, but that’s not the way to go,” she told council in July.
A woman faces charges after ordering her two pit bulls to attack another woman last month in Toronto, where pit bulls were banned seven years ago.
And parents of two B.C. children who were viciously attacked by pit bills in August have asked the province to ban the breed.
But singling out pit bulls as aggressive isn’t fair, or even accurate, says Munz, who owns a staffordshire terrier named Karma.
“I have a six-month-old, and she chews on the dog’s tail, and it couldn’t care less,” she said.
According to Munz, if more people could meet well-trained pit bulls, there wouldn’t be such anti-pit bull hysteria. To that end, she is organizing a walk through downtown Maple Ridge for pit bull owners and their dogs to help show the public how gentle and safe the dogs are, despite their muscular physique.
“A lot of drug dealers and affiliated type people get pit bulls because they want to instill fear,” she says.
But a breed-specific bylaw targeting pit bulls will mean problem owners will switch to other large breed dogs, such as Rottweilers, German shepherds, or Dobermans.
“It all comes down to the owner.”
Breed specific bylaws like the one Maple Ridge is proposing amounts to racism for dogs, said Munz.
“To judge an entire breed by their appearance is unfair,” she said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Munz said she would like to have all potential dog owners go through a trial assessment period with a dog to ensure they are responsible owners when buying one from a breeder or pet store, similar to what the SPCA requires when adopting dogs.
Owners of large breeds should also be required to properly train and socialize their dogs, so they don’t pose a threat to others.
“Training can be expensive … but if you are working a nine-to-five job, and can’t be around to properly socialize your dog, you probably shouldn’t have one,” Munz said.
Dr. Adrian Walton, a veterinarian at the Dewdney Animal Hospital, also believes the proposed bylaw misses the mark.
“It’s not the pit bulls and Rottweilers that scare me, it’s the Pomeranians and Chihuahuas,” he said. “They are the dogs that most frequently try to bite me.”
Instead, he favors bylaws that would target intact male dogs of any breed, and require more training for dogs, and their owners.
Often dogs are aggressive for a reason, and it’s not because of their breed.
“If you are finding yourself with an aggressive dog, talk to your vet,” he said. “Maybe it’s got arthritis and in pain. Maybe it’s just one of those dogs that is wired wrong, or the genes that promote the human-animal bond is missing. If your dog is a risk to your family, or your neighbors, consider humane euthanasia.”
• The pitbull bylaw protest dog walk begins at Memorial Peace Park in downtown Maple Ridge at noon on Sunday, Sept. 30.
– with files