Halifax dog lovers held a small but mighty get-together on Saturday to stand in solidarity with their pitbull pals and raise awareness about the dangers of breed-specific legislation.
Breed-specific legislation, or BSL, is regulation that restricts or prohibits ownership of dog breeds perceived as dangerous, and often targets pit bulls, rottweilers and bulldogs.
“Any labelled as a pit bull-type dog or a bully breed all face sustained stigma and that becomes an issue with owners and the dogs,” explained pit bull owner and advocate Mark Romans.
“When the term ‘pit bull’ is used, the term ‘pit bull’ is an umbrella term which is actually used to describe appearance only, so that is muscular, stocky dogs with short hair, big fur, etc. There’s actually only one pit bull breed, which is the American pit bull terrier.”
The event was staged on Global Anti BSL Day, but took place about a month after a Nova Scotia woman, Megan Milner, was killed by her dog while they were on a walk in Middle Musquodoboit.
In that tragedy, the dog was publicly mislabelled by media and police as being a pit bull.
“There’s a lot of fear based around them because it’s kind of sensationalized and stuff like that,” said dog owner Parker Peterson. “But it’s really not the case at all, they’re really quite docile — some of the sweetest dogs you can see really.”
Milner’s death on June 9 renewed some calls to bring BSL to the Halifax Regional Municipality, Coun. Steve Streatch told Global News at the time.
According to Lisa Lawrence, a friend of Milner, the dog in question in that incident was not a pit bull, but proven by DNA tests to be an American bully.
“We want to educate people and get them together, and help them spread the word,” Lawrence told Global News. “I don’t think any type of dog deserves to be demonized.”
Stephanie Gustys, who owns a rescue mutt named Hunter, said her dog was labelled as a pit bull on its adoption papers due its short, brindle coat.
Mistaking dog identities can be deadly, she told Global News.
“When I look at my little guy, who’s the love of my life, and I think that he would have lost his life if we had BSL — that’s why we can’t let BSL ever happen,” Gustys said.
Anti-BSL rallies are held annually in cities like Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa.