Winnipeg is considering making a number of changes to its bylaws around pet ownership, including the proposed removal of breed-specific legislation — which means pit bulls could be allowed in the city for the first time in years.
That’s good news for pit bull owner Jerome Reimer, who says he’s had four pit bulls over the last 40 years, and they’ve been fantastic pets.
“We’ve never had a single issue with our dogs,” Reimer, who lives outside the city, told 680 CJOB.
“They’re just our pets, they live in our house the same as a labrador or golden retriever. They’re wonderful pets with everybody they meet.”
Reimer said he agrees pit bulls are powerful enough animals that the consequences of an attack could be worse than that of another dog, but a blanket ban — especially one that covers dogs that are declared pit bulls based on appearance alone — isn’t fair to responsible owners and good-tempered pets.
“Unfortunately a pit bull-specific bylaw tars them all with the same brush,” he said.
“It gives many wonderful dogs that have perfect pet temperaments — or even rescue dog or service dog temperaments — they don’t even get the chance, because when they hit the shelter, they’re immediately euthanized because of a ban.”
Reimer said when he got his first pit bull decades ago, there was a lot of fear, even within his own family. He had relatives who said they wouldn’t bring their children over — until they actually met Farley.
“He was the most-child-loving dog in the whole world. He was literally beside me, a foot away, for 13 years, unless there was a child present and then he’d ditch me in a heartbeat to be with those children.”
Despite the proposed bylaw changes, Reimer isn’t convinced Winnipeg is going to side with dogs on this one.
“I can’t imagine Winnipeg is going to lift their ban, because the prejudice against them is so horrendous.”
Leland Gordon, the city’s Animal Services manager, said Winnipeg is trailing other jurisdictions when it comes to updating its policy on breed-specific legislation.
“Winnipeg has had a pit bull ban — we call it the prohibited dog ban — since 1990,” said Gordon.
“Winnipeg and the province of Ontario are the last major jurisdictions in Canada that have this ban. So as part of this, our idea is that instead of judging the dog on how it looks, we hold owners more accountable for responsible pet ownership.”
Gordon said the idea is to remove the ban, but also strengthen the bylaw so all dog owners — regardless of the dog’s breed — are more responsible pet owners, making it possible for them to own all sorts of dogs safely in the community.
Animal Services is currently reaching out to stakeholder organizations to get feedback on the proposed changes, which are expected to be presented to council this winter.
Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Jessica Miller told 680 CJOB her organization supports the proposed changes, as they frequently see pit bulls come into the shelter who can’t be rehomed in the city.
“It’s really sad to see. They can’t be within city limits, and every day they’re in the shelter, it gets harder and harder,” she said.
“I’d like to see dogs that are just as nice as others get to live among society.”
“It’s absolutely about time coming from Winnipeg Humane Society’s perspective — we’re obviously here for the protection and welfare of all animals, so that’s exactly like we’d like to see — we can work toward moving the needle and being as progressive as we can in terms of animal welfare in the city.”
Miller said the community can be kept safer with the proposed ‘dangerous dog’ designation, which would actually look at understanding an individual animal’s personality traits rather than a blanket condemnation of all dogs who look a certain way.
The designation could, among other changes, prohibit 24/7 outdoor guard dogs, require training and harness use, and prohibit attendance by offending dogs at doggy daycares or off-leash areas.