News Views: Wagging the dog

Maple Ridge considering new bylaw that would charge pit bull owners a licensing fee four times that for other breeds.

District of Maple Ridge staff are recommending a new animal control bylaw that singles out pit bulls as “aggressive” and would charge their owners a licensing fee four times that for other breeds.

The fee would apply to pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, or a cross of any of them.

Pit bull owners would be required to pay a $200-a-year “aggressive dog” licensing fee, and require their dogs to be muzzled when off the owner’s property. Pit bulls would also be subject to higher impound fees.

The B.C. SPCA says pit bulls and the like aren’t any more aggressive than other breeds.

Among the breeds most often associated with dog bites, golden retrievers and Chihuahuas are the worst offenders.

Pit bulls are way down the list.

Reality is, more people own golden retrievers than pit bulls, whose bite is feared more than that of a Chihuahua.

And you don’t see poodles guarding grow ops.

But the district is reacting to public concerns about pit bulls, trying to update a bylaw last changed in 1977.

Trouble is, the legislation being proposed punishes responsible dog owners instead of encouraging them, and provides a false sense of security for residents.

By charging a higher fee, some pit bull owners just might not license their dogs – or forgo spaying and neutering and essential vaccinations.

Or, as seen in the U.S., where similar breeds have been banned, problem pet owners just move on to different types.

Studies show breed specific laws don’t increase safety for people and their companion animals.

Any dog with strong jaws and a prey drive needs to be well-managed. The SPCA suggests offering a discount on licenses to pet owners who can prove their dogs have successfully passed obedience school. Requiring all male dogs to be neutered would also help prevent dog bites, as well as help control the size of the dog population.

The bylaw, as it’s proposed, discriminates against a certain breed, and seems a simple, unfair solution to appease fears that may be unfounded. Basically, its says the district doesn’t want these dogs in Maple Ridge, when really what we don’t want is irresponsible dog owners.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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