EDMONTON – Life could soon be easier for Edmonton pit bulls after a city council committee recommended Tuesday putting a leash on licence restrictions against specific breeds.
Staffordshire bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers, often called pit bulls, must be leashed and muzzled off their owners’ properties, and kept chained and muzzled or in pens outdoors on their properties.
Their owners also need $1 million in liability insurance and face higher licensing fees and fines.
The rules were introduced in 1987 to deal with concerns about attacks by the strong-jawed animals, but a city report indicates the provisions haven’t been effective.
There’s no evidence such legislation reduces biting, it’s difficult for veterinarians to determine breeds without expensive DNA testing, and most owners of such dogs don’t licence them, the report says.
Bilinda Wagner, who runs specialized courses for American Staffordshire terriers at the Edmonton Humane Society, said better training for dogs and owners is the best way to stop aggression.
“We think we can help more people if they don’t feel they’re singled out because of the look of their canine friend,” she told council’s community services committee.
“I think the reason people attend our bully-breed classes is they don’t feel judged.”
Most of the serious bites inflicted by dogs she has dealt with come from small breeds, said Wagner, who moved from Edmonton to Busby to avoid restrictions on her two American Staffordshire crosses.
“As a trainer, I know that putting muzzles on them and avoiding dog play is just wrong.”
David Aitken, manager of the community standards branch, said there are about 105,000 licensed animals in Edmonton, and his staff receives 400 to 500 complaints about dog bites annually.
He suggested keeping the definition of restricted dogs for animals that chase or attack people or animals, as well as creating a new category of “nuisance” dogs subject to higher penalties for repeated barking, biting or other offences.
The issue will be discussed by city council next week, but Coun. Kim Krushell told Aitken the information she has seen has already changed her mind.
“I watch the news just like everyone else does. As soon as you see a dog attack, especially with a kid, I’m not too sympathetic,” she said.
“(But) you have certainly sold me on the fact that if you go down with more breed-specific legislation, where do you stop? German shepherds bite, and chihuahuas.”