Talking BSL with your Strata – Joanne and Brian’s story

joanne-blog-postWe are frequently contacted by people in strata and rental housing that are affected by breed-specific language. Sometimes those in charge stand by these policies, even though they are outdated and ineffective, and turn away responsible owners. But many policy makers will respond favourably when presented with breed-neutral, common-sense alternatives. If you face a situation like this, visit the BSL section on our website  and contact us for advice and resources.

It began simply enough. Joanne and Brian Windsor, along with other owners in their building, were each asked to pay $80 for a lawyer to update their bylaws. To their dismay, however, one of the proposed changes would bar “pit bulls”, American Staffordshire Terriers, bull terriers – and any combination thereof – from living there.

“We have a bully breed named Loda,” explains Joanne, “and our daughter, Kyla, who lives with us, has Loda’s sister Jayden. Both dogs would lick you to death before they attacked you.”

With no breed-specific legislation in the City of Port Coquitlam, and determined to fight the strata’s proposed changes, Joanne not only contacted us, but did her own research online. She came to the strata meeting fully prepared.

Granted the floor when the matter of the bylaw was brought up, she asked the property management representative who had requested that the original wording of “no dangerous animal” be changed to the breed-specific wording. The answer: the lawyers had been responsible for the new wording.

“Armed with that information, I stated my opposition to the bylaw and said there was no breed-specific bylaw in the City of Port Coquitlam. I discussed the media’s often erroneous, irresponsible and inflammatory reporting, and how their skewed views have affected public opinion, making people want to ban German Shepherds in the 1980’s, Dobermans in the 1990’s, and Rottweilers in the 2000’s.

“I offered statistics showing pit bulls rank seventh in bite frequency, while conceding theirs were obviously more severe than those of Chihuahuas. I showed them an article from our local newspaper about a Bichon Frise, deemed by the city council to be vicious and dangerous, when this small breed is usually sweet and docile.

“I pointed to an article about a 6-week-old baby who was bitten by the family pit bull, and mentioned how irresponsible the parents were to have allowed the dog near their child WITHOUT adult supervision. I emphasized that, in cases like these, the DOG is not at fault, and that it’s the duty of all dog owners to raise their dogs properly and responsibly, no matter the breed. I argued that most pit bull owners ARE responsible, and shouldn’t have to pay for the irresponsible ones. I referenced the ‘fight or flight’ principle, in that, like humans, dogs, when feeling threatened, will either flee or fight.”

joanne-blog-post-2A lawyer had already told her that if the matter went to court, Loda and Jayden would be considered members of the family, and that they couldn’t be removed from the premises without any prior complaints against them. Using this as part of her final argument before the strata, Joanne requested the wording of the bylaw be returned to read “any dangerous animal” and focus on behaviour rather than breed.

To the delight and relief of the entire Windsor family, a vote was taken and 100 percent of those in attendance agreed. The previous language stood, and no dog would be targeted by the bylaws simply because of his or her appearance.

Written by Nomi Berger

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Radio-Canada takes a bite out of pseudoscience

freedom-glassesWhen reporters are tasked to investigate stories, including dog bite stories, they are looking to include a few key things in their rush to deadline. They look for juicy quotes. They look for digestible statistics. And they try to make a nod to “both sides” of an issue, whatever they define those to be.

So when they seek information to support the position that “risk factors exist to predict aggression but breed is not one of them” there are a lot of sources to use – advocacy groups, veterinary/animal control/animal behaviour professional organizations, peer-reviewed research, and these days, pretty much anyone who works first-hand with dogs.

When they are looking for something to support the argument that “certain breeds of dogs are inherently more dangerous” they find one source on the internet. They might find a few sites, but they all lead back to two related groups. These groups manufacture their own “studies” and generate “statistics” that sound horrifying. It doesn’t take much to scratch the surface and see that the numbers don’t make sense, but few people take time to do so, and these numbers are seen in reporting and in BSL discussions everywhere. The truth is, NO reliable numbers exist for overall bite rates, serious bites, or breed and bites, because this is not tracked systematically. Anywhere.

Alas, in the wake of the proposed Montreal breed ban, one news outlet took the time to really dig into the phenomenon of these soundbite-oriented statistics. Bouchra Ouatik of CBC Radio-Canada dug into these numbers and the characters who generate them. The article has been shared widely but until now, only a Google Translate version has been available. One of our bilingual volunteers has been kind enough to translate it for us for easier reading. Please read, share, and click on the original link so the article gets the hits it deserves!

Pit bulls: Non-scientific data frequently quoted by media.
Friday September 9th, 2016
Bouchra Ouatik

Statistics on dog bites, coming from anti-pit bull groups, are often quoted in Canadian and American media as being reliable sources. These figures are however very far from reality.

The two groups in question, Animals 24-7 and, often campaign openly to ban pit bulls. They regularly publish statistics on deaths and bites caused by dogs. However, their figures only represent a tiny portion of serious attacks, and those from Animals 24-7 contain many errors.

A tiny portion of serious attacks.

The author of the Animals 24-7 site, Merrit Clifton, publishes data every year on the number of attacks by dogs in Canada and the United States. The group’s most recent report claims to account for almost every serious attack having taken place between September 1982 and September 2016, a period of 34 years. M. Clifton claims to get his data solely from media reports, but he maintains that he has a comprehensive picture of the situation.

According to this report, during the 34 years studied, there would have been, all breeds included, 5756 dog attacks causing serious injury, 4194 attacks having mutilated or disfigured the victim, and 652 deaths. The author defines serious attacks as being those where the victim has been killed, mutilated, or has received wounds necessitating serious medical care. According to these same figures, pitbull type dogs were responsible for 78% of serious attacks, 70% of attacks causing mutilation or disfigurement of the victim, and 53% of deaths.

This would mean there would be on average 169 serious attacks and 19 deaths every year in Canada and the United States.

But these numbers are very far from reality.


According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2008, in the United States, almost 9500 people have been hospitalized due to dog bites, and roughly 40 died from their injuries, or substantially more than the numbers put forth by Animals 24-7. Of this amount, there were 600 fractures, 300 surgeries requiring skin grafts, and 1100 operations on muscles or tendons. These figures however do not mention the breeds of the dogs involved.

Even so, in only one year, more people have been hospitalized for serious injuries due to dogs than Animals 24-7 has compiled in 34 years.

Deaths and serious injuries caused by deaths

Category Animals 24-7
(annual average)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (for 2008)
Attacks requiring hospitalization 169 9500
Deaths 19 More than 40 (only in hospitals)

The figures from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons follow the same direction. In 2015, in the United States, there were 28079 reconstructive surgeries for dog bites, and in 2000, that number rose to 43089. We should also note that a person can require more than one surgical procedure for the same injury.

This important discrepancy between the figures from Animals 24-7 and reality can be explained in part by the fact that the majority of dog attacks are not reported in the media. The owner of Animals 24-7, Merrit Clifton, has pointed out via email that it is possible that he has missed a few cases of serious injury.

Meanwhile, the site regularly publishes the numbers from Animals 24-7, in addition to maintaining its own list of incidents. Colleen Lynn, the founder of, herself a bite victim, explains that her site does not claim to tabulate all serious dog bites, but that it tabulates the majority of deaths. She also claims that her site does not only rely on media reports, but also draws its figures from other sources, such as police reports, and that her site sometimes publishes cases that have not been mentioned in the media.

Several inconsistencies

The figures from Animals 24-7 underestimate the attacks perpetrated by breeds other than pit bulls. For example, according to this group, in 34 years, throughout the United States and Canada, there were 66 serious attacks by chow-chows, and 67 by Labradors. However, according to the Texas department of health, in 2000, in that state only, there were 67 severe bites from chow-chows, and 39 from Labradors.

In Animals 24-7’s report, the same breed of dogs can be found in many categories, or several different breeds can be grouped in a single category. For example, the author considers the Presa Canario and the bull-mastiff as a single breed which he counts in the same category. In reality, these two dogs are of different origins, and even have a different physical appearance. The Presa Canario saw the light of day in the 15th century in the Canary Islands, whereas the bull-mastiff appeared at the end of the 19th century in England.

Conversely, we find a category for the “Blue Heeler”, one for the “Australian Blue Heeler”, and another for the “Queensland Heeler”, while these all refer to a single breed of dog, the Australian Cattle Dog. We can also see breeds of dogs that do not exist, such as the East Highland terrier.

Merrit Clifton also claims on his site that the Cane Corso is a cross between pit-bull and mastiff, which is impossible, since the Cane Corso is an Italian dog which has existed since Ancient Rome, whereas the pit bull saw the light of day in England in the 19th century.

Additionally, when many dogs are involved in an attack, it is possible that the incident is classified solely in the pit bull category. For example, in 2007, an 18 year old man was attacked by 13 dogs, including one pit bull and 12 of unidentified breed, but this attack is regardless counted in the pit bull category.

Statistics from classified ads

In his report on dog attacks from 1982 to 2016, Merritt Clifton indicates what proportion each dog breed makes up in the total population of dogs. However, there is no dog census throughout the United States and Canada, and the mandatory registration imposed by municipalities is not always observed by owners, which makes it impossible to know the population of each dog breed in North America.

Hence, to estimate the dog population, Merrit Clifton explains that he checked the dog sales classified ads on various web sites for the month of July 2016. He concludes that pit bulls represent 5% of dogs and he considers that this number is representative of dog populations throughout Canada and the United States for a period of 34 years.

Merrit Clifton replies that he has proceeded this way because there is no other database of dog populations. “In Canada and the United States, only 10% of dogs were registered in 1982 and it’s roughly 25% today. No American city has a registration rate above 40%”, he explains.

Deaths indirectly attributed to dogs

The Animals 24-7 site sometimes considers that a person has been killed by a pit bull even if the dog was only indirectly involved. These cases are counted in the same category as those where the dog has bitten the victim, even when the coroner maintains that the dog was not responsible for the death.

Here are some cases that Animals 24-7 considers as deaths caused by pit bulls:

  • In 2009, in Wisconsin, Louanne Okapal, a 55 year old woman, died after having been struck in the face by her horse. The horse had been frightened by a pit bull.
  • In 2009, Teresa Foss, a 48 year old woman, died from a head wound after having been knocked over by a pit bull. The dog had not bitten her.
  • In 2010, Richard Martratt, a 64 year old Texas man, stabbed a pit bull and slaughtered a Catahoula because the two dogs had attacked a border collie on his property. The man was not attacked by the dogs, but when the authorities arrived, he collapsed and died from a heart attack.
  • In 2010, in Georgia, Miracle Parham, a 14 year old teenage girl, fled after having been frightened by a dog that witnesses described as a pit bull. She was fatally struck by a car.
  • In 2013, James Harding, a 63 year old man, was struck by a car after having attempted to get away from two pit bulls.
  • A 6 year old girl was strangled by a chain to which a pit bull was tethered. The year and location were not specified.

Another case mentioned on deals with James Chapple, a 57 year old Tennessee man who was seriously injured by pit bulls in 2007. Four months later, he died of atherosclerosis and complications from alcoholism. Despite that, counts him as a death caused by pit bulls.

At odds with the scientific community

Both groups are very critical of scientific experts. The site even goes as far as using the term “science whore” to describe some experts. Colleen Lynn, the site founder, defends herself by saying that the term did not originate from her and that it was only used on three occasions since the creation of the site in 2007.

In addition, as opposed to studies published in scientific journals, the statistics from these groups are not reviewed by independent experts in order to verify their validity.

Karen Overall, researcher in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, has analyzed all the studies of dog bite statistics published between 1950 and 2000 throughout the world. Her research shows that the dog breeds responsible for the largest number of attacks vary based on the year and the region studied.

She is critical of the methodology used by the groups who depend mainly on media stories. “The reports by the media and by the police are almost always incomplete, she says, and there is no independent confirmation of the breed involved. These publications use these reports as if they were infallible.”

A previous version of this article erroneously reported that Animals 24-7 had tabulated over 34 years, 7045 dog attacks causing serious injury, 4424 attacks having mutilated or disfigured the victim, and 657 deaths and that pit bulls would be responsible for 64% of serious attacks, 66% of attacks having mutilated or disfigured the victim, and 51% of deaths. Regardless, this in no way changes anything in the analysis of it which was done nor in the conclusions we have reached.

Translation by Phil Boutros.

For more information on this topic, visit the HugABull website.
Statistics and soundbites
– Breed and bites

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Announcing our 2017 calendar

fairy-tailsThe 2017 calendar has landed, and it’s magical! This year’s theme is “Fairy Tails” featuring our adorable alumni in the roles of your favourite fairy tale characters.

A big thank you this year to Sit Stay Studios and Samantha Leigh Smith Design who donated hours of their time to make this project possible. Because of their pro bono work, and through the proud pet owners who sponsored “mini-headshots” to offset printing costs, the full $20 purchase price can support the dogs in our care. Here’s how to get your copy!

1. Attend our Open House on Sunday, November 27 at Dizine Canine Training Centre at 1730 Vernon Drive. Keep an eye on our Facebook event page or check out our website for information on this and other upcoming events.

2. Place an order through our online store.

3. Visit one of our partner vendors (see full list below). More will be listed in the coming weeks.

4. Buy in bulk! If you buy 10 calendars, we will deliver to your home in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Delta, Ladner, Richmond, Surrey, or the Tri-Cities. Don’t need delivery? Buy 10 calendars and we’ll throw in an 11th for free!


Tisol – Market Crossing
Van Pet Burnaby (North Burnaby) 
Waterworkz Paw Spa

Silhouette Spa & Laser – coming soon

Pet Food ‘N More

Poco Military 
Tisol – Langley
Urban Pets 

Maple Ridge
Pet Food ‘N More

New Westminster
Bosley’s – Columbia Square 
Mindful Mutts 
Royal City Paws Pet Centre
Van Pet New West 

North Vancouver
Pet Food ‘N More

Pet Food ‘N More
Tisol – Richmond

Elemental Canine
Mother Hubbard’s Pet Food & Supplies
Pet Food ‘N More
South Point Pet Hospital  
Tisol – South Surrey

Dogplay Daycare (South Van)
Dogsmart Training and Daycare
(South Van) 
Infighting MMA (downtown)
Long Live Cats and Dogs  (East Van) 
KK Pet Beauty (westside)
Moonlight Dog Cafe (downtown)
Pet Food ‘N More – Oak
Pet Food ‘N More – West 10th
Simply Natural Raw Pet Food (Kerrisdale) 
Tisol – Arbutus
Tisol – Grandview
Tisol – Main Street
Woofgang Pet Supplies (Cambie) 

Okanagan and Interior

Calling All Pets
We Love Dogs – Daycare & Exercise Centre

Healthy Spot

Salmon Arm
Shuswap Veterinary Clinic

Old Dog New Tricks – coming soon

More locations to be listed throughout November – please keep checking back!

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What do we do about Montreal?

Are you outraged by Montreal’s breed ban? Any animal lover should be. The new legislation makes pet ownership very onerous for any citizen. Here’s how to put that passion to work for change.

14502735_1232106943477691_5559885705516859762_nWhat should I do right now?
We believe strongly that the best way to help Montreal at this time is to donate towards the legal fees of the Montreal SPCA’s lawsuit. We believe this is the best way to reverse the legislation and set a precedent across Canada. They have a dedicated donation page set up here:

We also urge you to sign and share the two major petitions circulating:

The Montreal SPCA’s petition (there is also a lot of great information on the site):

Boycott Montreal Tourism:

Streets, rescued from Ontario.

Streets, rescued from Ontario.

What about the dogs? We need to save the dogs!
The spotlight on Montreal’s breed ban has brought on a flood of interest in saving dogs at risk. The Montreal SPCA and their partner rescues will be looking out for these animals and will keep the public updated about any urgent need. In the meantime, if you have the ability to adopt or foster, please contact a local reputable bully rescue and help a dog in your community. You will be saving a life AND freeing up resources for that group if a Montreal dog needs help in the future.

Remember also that the entire province of Ontario has a similar breed ban (11 years and counting), and pit bull type dogs still come into their shelters on a regular basis. They can’t be adopted out within the province and face death if not transferred. Sit With Me and Bullies in Need are two rescues that work every day to save Ontario dogs and adopt them outside the province. They are also in a good position, geographically, to help with dogs in Quebec if the time comes.

We do NOT recommend donating to anyone claiming that they are transporting large numbers of dogs from Montreal for re-homing. To our knowledge, the Montreal SPCA has not endorsed or partnered with any organization for mass transfer, and most fundraising initiatives at this stage are based on hypothetical dog transports.

If you are close to Montreal and wish to adopt a dog directly, visit the Montreal SPCA’s Petfinder page (check daily):

You can use Petfinder to search among other Montreal shelters and rescues as well. Please note that presence on Petfinder does not guarantee the rescue is reputable. Prepare to ask questions and do your own screening. See our previous blog post for more information.

I’ve done all that! What else can I do?
Organize a fundraiser. Support a local reputable bully rescue, anti-BSL organization, or the Montreal SPCA. We heard of a group fundraising for dog owners in Montreal so they can meet the expenses associated with keeping their dog under the new bylaw: spay/neuter, licensing fees, etc. We think this is a fantastic idea. Why not keep dogs in homes while the legislation is challenged in the courts?

Organize an awareness event. Partner with your local pet store, vet, or other supportive organization.

Organize a peaceful, respectful rally. Check in with local bully rescues and organizations to find resources and tips on how to stage a successful event.

Here are a few of the non-profit organizations that can help steer you in the right direction for support, fundraising, and rescue resources in your area:

For questions regarding the new regulation, please contact 311 if you live in Montreal. Outside Montreal, call 514-872-0311.

Content has been adapted from information provided by the Montreal SPCA and Justice for Bullies. It will be updated as new resources become available.


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Letter to Montreal City Councillors

muralThe letter below was sent to all Montreal City Councillors on September 23, 2016, on behalf of the Dog Legislation Council of Canada, HugABull, Justice for Bullies, and the Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-op.

September 23, 2016

City councillors
Montréal, Québec

Dear Sir/Madam:

In June of this year, the Dog Legislation Council of Canada offered assistance and experience to Mayor Coderre in drafting an effective animal control bylaw.

Three months later, we find ourselves in the same position again – offering help and hoping for a reasonable and personal reply, rather than an automated computer-generated e-mail response.

We would like to put aside, for the moment, the many arguments against breed-specific legislation such as breed identification problems, behaviour prediction by appearance, mixed breed dogs, and the targeting of purebred dogs, some of which don’t exist in the entire province of Québec.

We would like to focus on one thing only: Breed specific legislation does not work.

It has been proven, over and over again, that breed-specific legislation fails to reduce dog bites and fails to reduce serious injuries or deaths from dog attacks.

It is possible that some city councillors believe that authorities will be able to identify every “pit bull” in Montréal or that “pit bulls” are inherently dangerous or any number of other scientifically disproven theories.

To the citizens of Montréal, to the voters of Montréal, those theories are irrelevant.

The only question they have is, “Are you going to keep us safe?”

The data proves, unequivocally, that breed-specific legislation fails to do that. The experts agree, unanimously, that breed- specific legislation fails to do that.

The experiences of Ontario, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Denver, Ohio, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, and Australia, as well as countless municipalities throughout North America and numerous studies by scientific experts prove that breed-specific legislation costs more money, fails to improve public safety, and kills thousands of unoffending family pets based solely on the way they look.

Finally, a couple of very important closing points:

1. Just in case some city councillors have not read the bylaw in its entirety, there are some clauses that should concern any animal lover, regardless of their position on this subject:

During the transitional phase until special licensing is granted to “pit bulls”, these dogs will be required to be muzzled at all times, including inside their homes and cars. There is no exception for puppies, old dogs, sick dogs, therapy dogs, or service dogs. After the transitional phase, they will be required to be muzzled in their own backyards. There is also no exception after the transitional phase for puppies, old dogs, sick dogs, therapy dogs, or service dogs. Any animal behaviourist will tell you that the negative impact on these dogs will actually create fear and aggression that was not there before.

Every “pit bull” in every shelter or rescue group in Montréal will be required to be destroyed immediately. There is no transfer of ownership allowed so if an owner dies, their dog must be killed. There is no provision for dogs who defend their property, their owner, or themselves. Those dogs must be killed. Any dog that is found without a muzzle/microchip/tag or that it is picked up by animal control for any reason must be killed.

2. We’ve noticed an increase in letters to city councillors from U.S. based anti “pit bull” groups. It can be overwhelming to receive the massive amount of “data” that they send to city officials. It is important to note that these groups consist of a very small number of people who get their data from a single person in the United States. His data has been carefully analyzed and it is the conclusion of analysts and researchers that his data of bites, deaths, and canine population has been highly falsified, is incomplete and incorrect to the point of being unusable, and cannot be relied upon to make any conclusions regarding dog bites and public safety. If you would like more information about that, we would be happy to send it to you. In the meantime, his supporters (even “disciples” would not be too strong a word) inundate thousands of websites and Facebook groups with copies of this data and then distribute it to the general public through journalists such as Lori Welbourne (Vancouver Province), Barbara Kay (National Post), and Marie-Claude Malboeuf (La Presse). The latter’s “investigative reports” have now managed to become a quoted source in the working group report commissioned by the government of Québec and, as such, are going to influence provincial policy decisions, all based on one man’s falsified data in the United States. That alone should worry you enough to, at the very least, delay this decision until you have had the opportunity to verify the data you are being sent.

If you would like any more information about fair and effective animal control legislation that has been proven to reduce dog bites and improve public safety, please do not hesitate to contact me.


LeeAnn O’Reilly
Dog Legislation Council of Canada

Mireille Goulet
Quebec Region Representative
Dog Legislation Council of Canada

Steve Barker
Head of Research
Dog Legislation Council of Canada

April Fahr
Executive Director

Chantelle Mackney
Justice For Bullies

Debra Black
Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-op

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September’s Foster Roster

August kicked off to a great start, with Moxie busting out of boarding and settling into a new foster home. She’s been having an absolute blast with her new foster brother Rowan, but she is still on the hunt for a forever homemoxie. Moxie is full of energy and loves life – she wakes up every morning with her bum wriggling in excitement for the day to begin.

She’s looking for a home where she can enjoy an active lifestyle which could include running, hiking, or even dog sports. Moxie excels in learning new things, is crate trained and adores other dogs – so much so that she can come on a little strong and needs to be coached through calm introductions. Overall Moxie is a one of a kind and would make a wonderful companion for someone who’s looking for an active dog to keep up with them.

Coco is also currently available for adoption. Sweet Coco is a young, energetic dog who is looking for a special someone to show her the ropes.  Coco is still a puppy at heart and needs someone who will continue to work with her on img_20160415_160110her training and leash manners using lots of positive reinforcement.

She tends to be a little on the anxious side, so she would do best in a home with consistency and boundaries so she can continue to build her confidence. One of Coco’s best qualities is her eagerness to learn, and with her awesome personality so we know that with the right home, she will excel and be the best dog she can be.

If you would like to learn more about Moxie or Coco, or how to submit an adoption application please check out our adoptables page or email

Moxie is sponsored in loving memory of Jessica Coulter-Brown. A special thank you to Dierdre, Kayla, Helen & Ruth, Sonya & Amanda, Kimberley, Torin and Rita for being Moxie’s HugABull Angels!

If you are interested in sponsoring a dog, please click here for more information.


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Media case study – the mastiff mixup

Yesterday in Langley, a dog attack with an especially unfortunate outcome made the news. A loose dog attacked an on-leash dog, then died after being subdued by the leashed dog’s owner. While this wasn’t reported as a “pit bull” attack it does provide another example of the media’s propensity to pin a breed label on a dog early, even when few facts are known.

Initial reports were of a Cane Corso attacking a Labrador. A stock photo of a Cane Corso was sourced.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 2.20.14 PM






Then, perhaps when new information was gleaned, the breed ID stopped appearing so prominently in headlines, but still remained in body copy. The stock photo remained also.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 2.20.25 PM








The dog was eventually identified and found to be a Dogo Argentino. Some ensuing reports used photos that appeared to have been provided by the Dogo owner, and added information based on interviews with him.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 2.19.50 PM









In a Reddit thread by a family member of the victim, the attacked dog was described as a Golden Retriever. So depending on how exacting you want to be, both breeds in the original headlines appear to be incorrect.

A 2013 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association pointed out that a reliable breed identification was only available in 18% of cases they studied (in this case, dog bite related fatalities). They found that media reports did not match other sources of breed data up to 40% of the time.

With this potential for error, we have to question why reporters are so quick to publish these breed guesses. Why not report a dog attack as a “dog” attack? In these stories, more often than not the dog identified as a “pit bull” turns out to be a Rottweiler/Husky  or an American Bulldog or a big old mixed up mutt. And that’s when we have an owner or a DNA test to reference, usually after the initial reports are yesterday’s news. In most cases we never know an offending dog’s parentage.

Is breed really so important to the story that a reporter needs to nail it down right away in the headline, based on unsubstantiated reports by witnesses who may be emotional, traumatized, and certainly not breed identification experts?

Considering that that media gets it wrong more times than not, it seems that the standard should be to refrain from reporting a dog breed unless a reliable source can substantiate it: for example, an owner who knows parentage, vet/animal control records, or a statement from the City’s Animal Services Staff. Given that other circumstances around the attack are probably more relevant, like known risk factors that are identified by reputable studies – this seems to make more sense and be more useful for the community as a whole.

It is time to stop irresponsible reporting when it comes to dog bites. Journalists must take responsibility and stop assuming, speculating, guessing or providing unsubstantiated identification about the breed of the dog involved in an incident. The current practice hurts our communities, it deepens stigma and superstition around certain categories of dogs, and it prevents us from engaging in more productive conversations about dog safety in our community.

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New faces at the HugABull helm

Team HugABull has a few new faces on its leadership team, and while the dust settles on a busy summer, it’s time to introduce them!

apbt club

Lauren and Bronte

But first, a goodbye – Lauren Calbeck has been a part of the HugABull  world since 2008 when she fostered her first dog, Rex. She adopted him and soon after, Bronte, another “failed foster”. She joined the board and became a Director of Foster and Family Placement. In those years she has worked tirelessly to build relationships with local shelters and unite dozens of dogs with loving forever homes. Lauren was offered a job earlier this year with a local shelter and is already proving to be a fantastic resource to the community, but balancing a Board role and a management role is a lot to manage, and she will be stepping down from the Board to focus on her career. She will remain in the community and we look forward to working with her in her new role to help dogs and people.

Christine and Bailey

Christine and Bailey

Taking over her role is Christine Crunican who has been working closely with Lauren over the past two years, and volunteering for many years prior to that. Christine has a substantial background in dog behaviour and management, and  knows the foster/adoption program inside and out.  She will be taking over Lauren’s position on the Board and has been a whirlwind of activity, finding three foster homes in two weeks, all while taking care of an infant son.

Christine will be assisted by Steering Committee member and brand new foster coordinator Kim Federico! Kim has been a familiar face at events and has been our Sponsorship Coordinator for the past year. She is lovely to work with and when

Kim and friend

Kim and friend

she told us that she was looking for more “hands on” experience with the foster dogs, we knew she would be a great right-hand woman for Christine.

Another new addition to the Steering Committee is Genna Thies. Genna has been an active volunteer doing absolutely everything – planning events, staffing events, collecting donations, walking dogs, you name it! She has been our go-to girl and we wanted to take advantage of her creativity and her people skills, so we “promoted” her to Fundraising Coordinator.

A list of our leadership team members is below and on our website. Feel free to touch base at if you have any questions about any aspect of our operations, or if you have the time and commitment to take on a Steering Committee role with the organization.


Shelagh Begg, President
Kathleen Wee, Vice-President/Director of Fundraising
Christine Crunican, Secretary/Treasurer/Director of Foster and Family Placement
April Fahr, Executive Director


Steering Committee Members

Kim Federico, Foster coordinator/Sponsorship coordinator
Genna Thies, Fundraising coordinator
Brittnee Van Bruegel, Volunteer Coordinator
Jeff Warner, Events Coordinator
Dave Davies, Special Projects

Genna's dog, Jackson!

Genna’s dog, Jackson!


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Montreal – countdown to September 26

montreal mural

Protest mural by Jean Labourdette

On Monday, August 22, the 19 boroughs of Montreal voted to consolidate animal control bylaws, so that when new animal control legislation is voted in on September 26, no single borough will be in a position to challenge it.

The proposed bylaw is endorsed by mayor Denis Coderre and will ban “pit bulls” (defined as American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, any dog with one of those breeds in it, or any dog that looks like one of those breeds) within the city. It places restrictions on all dogs and leaves a clear path to including other dogs on the restricted list:

  • Pit bulls are banned unless owner has special licence, only available up to December 31, 2016. No new pit bulls after that time will be allowed in the city and no pit bulls not licensed in Montreal. This will include visiting dogs.
  • Existing pit bulls must have special (more expensive) licence, be vaccinated against rabies, be sterilized, be microchipped, wear a muzzle and 4-foot leash outside, be behind a 6.5-foot fence and muzzled on own property, be owned and walked by someone over 18, be owned by someone who has no criminal record, especially any related to violence (but not limited to those), must always wear its special licence tag. Violation of any of the above will result in the immediate destruction of the dog.
  • ALL dogs must be microchipped and sterilized by December 31, 2019 unless you can provide a medical note from a vet or unless you have a “breeding dog” (not defined)
  • A limit of four pets, only two of which can be dogs, will be imposed. There is no grandfathering option imposed for those who currently have more than two dogs, so presumably they will have to choose which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of.
  • Permission granted for the Executive Committee to add other breeds as they see fit.

Thank you to Steve Barker of DLCC for the translation and summary. Full document can be downloaded here.

It appears that Mayor Coderre and some key policy makers have made up their mind on the breed ban, expressing their clear and unequivocal support and declining to answer specific questions on Monday. The final vote will take place on September 26.

From Monday's protest in City Hall.

From Monday’s protest in City Hall.

There is similar talk happening about a breed ban at the provincial level as well, but the Montreal vote is more imminent and will likely set the stage for the conversations to take place provincially.

We urge you to take this window of time to take action, especially if you have a connection to Montreal or Quebec. The mayor and official opposition can be emailed through the Ville de Montreal website, and a complete list of Montreal city councillors is available here.

A few other useful links…

Petition Sites

Montreal SPCA:
Boycott Montreal Tourism:

Tourism Montreal
City of Montreal
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre
Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard

Montreal Tourism: @Montreal
City of Montreal: @MTL_Ville
Phillippe Couillard: @phcouillard
Denis Coderre: @DenisCoderre

Please keep it civil – while the issue is an emotional one, this is no time for strong language or abusive content. You can certainly speak from the heart or simply tell them that BSL is a bad idea for everyone in the province. You can also share any and all of the following.

  • Specific ways that BSL doesn’t work:
  • Let them know you personally pledge never to travel to Quebec/Montreal and spend tourism or other dollars there.
  • If this legislation passes, let them know you will contribute to a legal defense fund for those within the province to fight this legislation at every possible level of the justice system. Groups in Western Canada are working together to set up this fund so that crowdfunding can begin the moment the new legislation is passed.

If you have any updates, social media handles, or tips to add to the above, please email us at

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A dog’s fate in Montreal

Rocky, currently for adoption through a Montreal rescue.

Rocky, currently for adoption through a Montreal rescue.

In Montreal tonight, Canada’s second largest city will vote on whether to proceed with a proposed ban on pit bulls. The entire province of Quebec has announced they will be pursuing similar measures. Advocates in Quebec will be protesting, and are circulating petitions:

Montreal SPCA:
Boycott Montreal Tourism:

Breed bans are ineffective, inhumane, and they are plain old bad policy. Based on our experience with the Province of Ontario, here’s what we see, and foresee, happening:

As talks of legislation escalate, people start to worry. If someone was already on the fence about keeping their pit bull type dog, this will push them to make a decision, and shelters will start seeing more of them. At the same time adoptions will decrease because even in this window of time where the dog might be legal, most adoptive families aren’t going to sign up for a host of restrictions on their family dog for the next 10-15 years. An increase in abandonments was noted a few months ago  in Quebec (due to a number of factors but it’s reasonable to assume that the proposed legislation was among them). We have also been contacted by a number of shelters directly looking for options for the dogs in their care.

The legislation allows irrational fears to take seed and grow. Pit bull owners have been experiencing verbal abuse and much worse, including attempts on their dogs’ lives. Businesses and landlords have started to restrict opportunities for families with blocky-headed dogs because of fear or concern for liability.

Ontario puppy labelled a "pit bull" cross. We don't know its fate.

Ontario puppy labelled a “pit bull” cross. We don’t know its fate.

Many shelters and animal control departments will begin euthanizing blocky-headed dogs. They may do so because they don’t have the resources for re-homing, or because someone in management is on board with the legislation and wishes to see it to its natural conclusion. Now, keep in mind that most dogs in our communities are mixed breed, and the ability of even trained professionals to identify breed visually is abysmal. This has been shown in academic studies, and in the many cases brought before the courts in Ontario. So inevitably, pit bull breeds will be euthanized – but so will mastiff crosses, boxer crosses, lab crosses, and many others. If a dog is reported as a suspected pit bull at any point, or if an official declares that it’s coat is short enough and head is wide enough to fit the description of the breed, it’s a death sentence.

brindle hugo

Hugo, brought from Ontario through HugABull and Bullies in Need.

Some shelters and groups will find ways to send dogs out of the Province. This has been able to happen in Ontario thanks to partnerships across Canada. We participate in this system out of compassion for the dogs, but it not a solution:

  • The resources involved in cross-border adoptions are immense. With restrictions in the home province and with many airlines, it is expensive and logistically difficult to ship a dog out. If the province of Quebec adopts legislation similar to Ontario, this means that a good chunk of the country will be off-limits for dogs to travel through.
  • Cross-border adoptions rely on the non-enforcement or civil disobedience on behalf of the rescue and foster home. Because of the logistics involved, these dogs are often in foster care for months. Some parts of Ontario, like Ottawa, have openly stated that they don’t enforce the breed bans, so a foster home may feel safer there. For now. Others simply take chances for the sake of the dog, risking their own safety and well-being since the law allows police officers to enter your home and seize your dog if a suspected pit bull lives there.
  • Streets was abused by her owner, but she was considered the dangerous breed in Ontario. She was relocated to BC by HugABull and Bullies in Need.

    Streets was abused by her owner, but she was considered the dangerous breed in Ontario. She was relocated to BC by HugABull and Bullies in Need.

    Only the very best dogs get saved. Because of all the factors above, the rescues participating in this “underground railroad” can’t afford to take dogs with behaviour problems. A reactive or noisy dog will attract attention of neighbours. A dog that needs training or boarding will probably not be serviced by local businesses. Think about the dogs in your life and how many of them are perfect, or were perfect at the time they were placed in your home. Not many, right? Imagine them as a pit bull in Montreal in a few months, and they will die because of their poor leash manners or separation anxiety.

  • Rescues in the receiving province need to commit to a dog sight-unseen. When we commit to an Ontario dog, we are providing them a spot and allocating donation dollars that could be given – and could probably do more for – a BC dog. This is a constant ethical battle for us, because in some cases both dogs face death if we can’t take them.

Ten years after the breed ban in Ontario, there is no shortage of “pit bull” breeds there. We are contacted regularly by shelters and the rescues working in Ontario who are caring for dogs that need out. We are currently supporting the efforts of Bullies In Need to free the Chatham 21 dogs who have been impounded in concrete kennels, at the cost of the taxpayer, for nearly a year.

Monkey, currently up for adoption in Montreal.

Monkey, currently up for adoption in Montreal.

Our foster program is full now, and we are just barely breaking even on vet bills. The other reputable bully breed rescues in BC are in a similar position. Once the Quebec legislation passes, we will help if we can, but at most we are talking about a handful of dogs over the next year. The will is there to help, but the resources simply won’t be.

The legislation is a crime, and it will absolutely result in the death of dogs and puppies. Please speak up against it now, while there is a sliver of a chance that it can be reconsidered. Sign and share the petitions, stay informed about what is going on, and mobilize anyone you might know in the Province of Quebec. Write to government officials and to tourism organizations.

If this legislation passes, we will be working with other advocacy groups to step up the boycott campaign, and to invest in a legal defense fund. Please stay tuned and be ready to provide your support. While the US is moving towards mandatory breed-neutral legislation in almost half of its states, Canada is moving backwards. We will need every voice and we can’t afford to be complacent.

Petition links (again):
Montreal SPCA:
Boycott Montreal Tourism:

If you would like to donate to anti-BSL efforts, use our donation page and indicate that you would like your donation directed this way.







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