BSL in Quebec – What you can do now

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 9.11.04 AMIn Quebec, BSL talks have gone from speculation to reality at a dizzying pace. Because things have happened so fast, people are just starting to organize. For now, here are a few things you can do to help:

1. Follow the story and the facts. The media will report the most sensationalistic soundbites, but organizations like HugABull will attempt to report balanced updates. The Montreal SPCA has stepped up, making a strong statement against the proposed breed specific approach, and will be posting updates in the days to come. Follow them!
SPCA Montreal on Facebook
SPCA Montreal on Twitter

2. Spread balanced, proactive information. Encourage anyone you know in Quebec to get involved and speak out. Here are a few specific opportunities:

13423724_903385393105666_3756843673374570305_nUse the hashtag #jamaissansmonchien on Instagram to share family photos of your blocky-headed dog in a family context.

There is also a petition circulating: NON au banissement des pittbulls au Quebec. . While most online petitions aren’t legally admissable, a large number of signatories will show support for this issue. English translation is below.

Protests are being organized on Saturday, July 16 in Montreal and Quebec City.

3. Contact the policy makers. Ask them to consider evidence-based, sensible alternatives to breed-specific legislation. Polite, well-worded messages ONLY please. Emotions run high on this topic, but strong language only perpetuates stereotypes about pit bull owners and supporters.

In Quebec City, where the mayor Regis Labeaume has pledged to ban pit bulls by January 1, 2017.
Email (links to an online form)
@villequebec on Twitter

In Montreal, a breed-specific approach to animal control has been proposed. Email Mayor Denis Coderre with alternatives.
Email (links to an online form)
Denis Coderre on Facebook
Denis Coderre on Twitter

Premier Philippe Couillard has indicated that the province of Quebec will “probably” follow Ontario’s model of a province-wide ban on certain breeds.
Email (links to online form)
Philippe Couillard on Facebook
Philippe Couillard on Twitter

13453376_10154060001546558_1327510693_oIn your communications, please keep the following in mind:

  • it’s okay to keep it short – in fact that is preferable to long essays that probably won’t be read anyway.
  • keep it polite and articulate.
  • try to find a French-speaking friend to translate, and if you have a connection to Quebec or one of the cities affected, emphasize this. They will be more interested in hearing from residents, potential tourists, or business people rather than random people half a country away. If you know people in Quebec, ask them to do everything they can.
  • try to share facts, but feel free to speak from the heart. A photo of your dog in jammies probably won’t change legislation, but a first-person account of how this legislation affects responsible citizens and average families might cause someone to think.

Some sample letters are at here and here. Information on breed-specific legislation is on our website and we will be sharing more resources soon.

English translation of petition at

NO to the banning of pitbulls in Quebec

After the headlines that have made the front pages in Quebec concerning an entire race that we are planning to ban, I believe it is important that we speak in the name of an animal who cannot defend itself.

An animal is an animal, regardless of the race or variety. We do not have the right to penalize citizens who have good pitbulls simply because they are born with the name of their race. Let us respect the families, the citizens, the good people who have a healthy animal in their homes.

To those who fear this race, please conider the legitimacy of your fear. Is it the media who is conveying an erroneous or inaccurate message? Is it the stories of dog attacks, poor treatment, or simply a fear of large dogs?

Considering that the banning of pitbulls by our neighbors in Ontario have demonstrated no resultsm and that worse yet, the number of dog bites is even on the rise, we find this strategy completely useless.

Considering the lack of comprehensive and serious scientific data on the subject, we refuse to let ourselves be seduced by this easy and irrational solution out of fear and disinformation.

Considering that veterinarians who specialize in behavior like Dr. Diane Frank agree and have stated that the solution is not the banning of a race, but the recognition, evaluation, and monitoring of mental illness among dogs as well as the education and socialization of normal dogs and the education of dog owners.

Considering that the solution comes from the education of society, from the awareness on the parts of dog owners. For example, by bite-prevention sessions for primary school students, from instruction on dog body-language, from the abolishment of puppy factories, from the obligatory sterilzation of animals belonging to companies without breeding permits, from the formulation of precise terms and conditions required for the use of terms such as “behavior specialist” and “canine instructor,” etc.

Considering that there are dangerous dogs of all races and sizes and that racism has never been an interesting solution for the advancement of our society.

Considering that there are extraordinary and well-balanced dogs of all races and sizes, we refuse euthanasia and the human drama that the banning of pitbulls would entail.

Via the Association of Veterinary Doctors of Quebec

The information above is based on our own research. If any links are faulty or there are better resources available, please email us at and we will update.

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Research and responsible rescue

Clover and PirateAdoption has become a popular option for people looking to add a pet to their home. And it should be! Animals in rescues and shelters can be ready-made pets.

Your local shelter is a great place to start your search. However, they have limited resources available for matching, so if you wish for a more personalized experience, or are looking for a certain breed/type of pet, you might look into local rescues.

But be ready to research! Not all rescues are equal. Some may have good intentions but are so focused on getting pets in homes that they miss important steps, setting dogs and owners up to fail. And sadly, there are some that take advantage of rescue’s popularity, running “retail” rescues that operate like a business. Their focus is placing dogs and collecting fees, without looking after the best interests of animals or humans.

How do you know you are working with a reputable rescue? Look for the following:

You should be encouraged to ask questions about your potential new family member, have a no-pressure “meet and greet”, and be given time to think about the pet’s fit with your family.

And the rescue should be concerned about screening YOU. Most will require a home check and/or references along with an in-depth interview to ensure you are a match for the pet. If a rescue offers to drop a dog at your door a day after receiving your application, or they are hosting “mass adoption” events, that tells you that screening is not their priority.

jake for webHealth care
The animal should be vet checked, spayed/neutered, and vaccinated prior to adoption. If there are any health issues or suspected health issues, the animal should come with vet records and a treatment plan so you know what to expect.

Temperament screening
There should be a procedure to assess the dog for behavioural issues – friendliness with strangers/animals, separation anxiety, housetraining, etc. Most rescues have a foster period to help the dog decompress from shelter life and allow for their true personality to emerge. When dealing with living creatures there are always some surprises, but the rescue should have steps in place to catch potential problems early and put a training plan in place.

Follow-up support
The rescue shouldn’t be out of your life once papers are signed. They should encourage you to contact them with any questions and connect you with resources. If things don’t work out, they should be ready to take a dog back – in fact, they should insist on it. A rescue’s commitment should be for the lifetime of an animal.

Reasonable adoption fees
Some rescues will charge a little more for puppies, or a little less for special-needs dogs, but rescues shouldn’t be raising prices for “desirable” dogs as a profit-making initiative. Among BC rescues, the average adoption fee is $250-500, which (barely) covers basic vetting and care.

Check whether the rescue is a registered non-profit society or a registered Canadian charity. If they are not, it doesn’t mean they are bad – every organization has to start somewhere. And certainly, an organization can follow guidelines for BC non-profits and still fall short of good rescue practices. But broadly speaking, an organization registering with the government has taken a step towards some accountability. The rescue should also use detailed contracts and be able to talk knowledgeably about their policies and procedures.

It’s worth noting that rescues are almost always run by volunteers, so a little patience and understanding might be necessary. But any reputable rescue should respect your questions and be comfortable speaking to any of the above points. Ask for references and do research! Talk to vets, trainers, and people in the pet industry to determine how long the rescue has been around and whether it operates ethically.

10380908_10101104918935601_1566730323563894892_nIt might seem like extra work – but this is a family member and a commitment of 5, 10, or 15 years. Don’t be swayed by an emotional appeal or any pressure to adopt. A good rescue has the well-being of the animal as its first priority, and would not engage in manipulative tactics to secure an adoption.

Want to learn more? Email or visit one of these sites:






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Getting ready to bid for bullies!

Bebe computer





Bid for Bullies, our annual online auction, is almost here! We are on track to launch this popular fundraising campaign on our Facebook page starting Friday, July 1. Bidding will be open until 6pm on Friday, July 8.

Last year we raised over $2000 for the dogs in our care, and this year we are aiming to raise even more to help some deserving dogs.

Leading up to this event, we are asking for your help in sourcing some amazing donations! The more tempting items we have online, the more bids we can attract and the more funds we can raise.

Do you run a business? Or make something? Or sell something?
Do you know someone with a great product or service?
Do you frequent a certain restaurant or shop and think they’d like to support a good cause?

Please let us know! Our top sellers each year are gift certificates, gift cards, and gift baskets. Generally an item worth at least $20 retail is preferred in order to make any shipping costs worthwhile. But we are open to new and creative ideas as well.

Please email if you are able to donate or if you know someone who might be. We are happy to contact them directly!




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Rallying around Rally-O

Miranda Hebert is fueled by her passion for all things dog – particularly when it involves bridging the communication gap between canines and their human companions.

Her personal “doggy” journey began at an early age, leading her to train and compete with her own dogs throughout the years. But multi-faceted Miranda didn’t stop there. She studied to be a dog training instructor and began holding both group classes and private sessions, working one-on-one with companion dogs in need of “proper manners” reinforcing, and problem dogs in need of full obedience training.

rally o photo miranda2Now, as a volunteer trainer for HugABull, she has added a new “course” to her canine menu: Rally Obedience! She has been hosting drop-in classes by donation to HugABull over the last several weeks.

“What better way is there,” says Miranda, “to forge a stronger bond between loving owners and their pets than through this form of shared knowledge, body language interaction, communication and especially, fun!

“Rally-O also serves as a foundation for everyday life skills, other human-dog team sports like agility, as well as various types of dog-assisted therapy programs. And ongoing training classes ensure that dogs remain well-behaved, well mannered members, not only of their families, but their community.”

Miranda is launching a more structured set of Rally-O classes for both competition-curious and competition-interested owners and their doggies, on Saturdays beginning May 14 and running until June 18. The six classes will cover the basics of positive reinforcement and precision training as well as the essential ABC’s that beginning handlers must know before they can participate in CARO (Canadian Association of Rally Obedience) sanctioned Novice Rally-O.

miranda rally o brown pupIncluded in the series will be such topics as:

  • An introduction to positive reinforcement and precision marker training
  • The use of a clicker for precision training
  • An introduction to CARO Novice class rules and exercises
  • Teaching the correct competition “heel”
  • Platform training for the competition “sit”, “down”, and “stand” commands
  • Pivot training and teaching of a dog’s “rear end awareness”

There are still a few spaces left! Registration is by donation ($75 minimum) to HugABull. For more questions or to register, email To stay posted about future Rally-O and other training opportunities with Miranda, follow her Facebook group.

Written by Nomi Berger

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Pet-Friendly Housing – A Cautionary Tail


Lexi (left) and her sister Zoe

For Brandi and Tyler, driving cross-country from Ottawa to Vancouver meant a new start and a new life. They hadn’t counted on it being the beginning of a nightmare.

Feeling fortunate at having found a pet-friendly building, they promptly moved in. Brandi and her dogs were settling in beautifully and making friends with the neighbours. When building security asked what breed her dog, Lexi, was, Brandi replied without hesitation: a pit bull. Having already seen four other cute blockheads in the building, not to mention the green doggy bags at the front door as reminders to stoop and scoop, she saw no red flags.

“We were then told that there was a bylaw prohibiting pit bulls because, according to him,” recounts an outraged Brandi, “pit bulls are ‘vicious.’ If that was so, I asked, then why were we allowed to sign a lease and move in?”

Shocked and confused, she promptly contacted their landlord who admitted that he didn’t know about the bylaw and even agreed it was unfair. Taking it to the next level, they went to the head office of the management company and were told to “plead their case” at the next strata council meeting in three weeks time.


The “vicious” Lexi.

Armed with documentation and references, they explained their position, including the fact that there were other pit bulls in the building, only to be told at the end of the meeting that this wasn’t their fault but the landlord’s. The bylaw was to be enforced, and they explained that the pitties currently in the building had been “grandfathered” (they were in the building before the bylaw was passed and allowed to remain).

“We were ultimately served with an eviction notice that outlined the legal reasons behind it,” says Brandi. “And then, adding insult to injury, they even expressed their ‘compassion’ for us and for our situation.”

In the midst of yet another relocation, Brandi remains caught up in a whirlwind of emotions – not only because they are being forced to move after scarcely settling in, but because it’s further proof that the dog breed she loves must constantly be faced with such bias and discrimination.

“Our goal in sharing our story,” she explains, “is to hopefully prevent this from happening to others.”

Sadly, Brandi’s experience is a familiar one. In a competitive housing market, finding pet-friendly accommodation is a challenge – even for people with cats or small dogs, let alone larger or stigmatized breeds. After chatting with Brandi, we wanted to share the following advice to anyone seeking housing with a bully breed or any other breed that might be targeted under restrictions (this could include mastiffs, Rottweilers, certain shepherd breeds, Akitas, Chows, and any other breed that may be regarded as a guardian or fighting breed).

If moving into a co-op, apartment, or strata building, don’t take anyone’s word on pet restrictions. They may be buried in the building’s bylaws, and many owners (like Brandi’s landlord) may be unaware of them. Even other bully breed dogs on the premises means little: an exception might have been made, the dog might be “passing” as another breed, or, as in Brandi’s case, the “grandfather” clause might have been applied.

Always ask to see a copy of the bylaws. If for some reason, you can’t, ask for a written statement from the building’s strata about pet restrictions. If there are restrictions, and they agree to make an exception for you, get this in writing too. Don’t rely on the good faith of others if there are restrictions on the books – all it takes is one angry neighbour to call for the bylaws to be enforced, and the written rules will ultimately be the deciding factor, as it was in Brandi’s case.

If a neighbour complains about your dog, be aware that if you have a large or stigmatized breed, this is an additional weapon that can be used against you. While it’s hard not to be defensive, and it might not always seem fair, try to take the moral high ground. If there are noise complaints, for example, offer to set up a web cam or a recording device to substantiate the claim. If it’s legitimate, offer to work with a trainer or hire a dog walker. If you are a responsible owner and a good neighbour, it’s likely that other people in the building will sympathize and support you if the issue is ever taken to the next level.

Above all, keep a record of these complaints and your attempts to rectify the situation. If, you have attempted to be reasonable and are being unfairly targeted, or if someone tries to change the terms of your rental agreement, try resolving the issue with your landlord, strata, or building manager first. If that doesn’t work, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch. The SPCA also has some resources online for renters, property managers, and strata councils.

Most of the time, people are reasonable and will treat your dog like what it is – a dog. But while breed-specific laws are on the books, it provides leeway for discrimination and harassment. This isn’t a unique case. Elizabeth, Mike and Milton were condo owners forced to move because of strata bylaws. Leanne, Shaun and Peanut had no restrictions in their building but were targeted by a neighbour who used the city’s breed-specific bylaws against them.

Do you have experiences or advice to share around pets and housing? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Article by Nomi Berger

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Media case study – The Christmas Day Tragedy

On Christmas Day, a man was violently attacked by two dogs in his home in Fort St. John. The attack was sudden and severe, and was covered widely by media across the province.

The victim and his family described the dogs as “pit bulls”. Breed description was not released at the time by the City’s  bylaw department (which serves as Animal Control), nor by the RCMP, nor by the SPCA that received the animals’ bodies for disposal.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.53.55 PM Predictably, the incident sparked the usual storm of media coverage about “pit bulls” and “dangerous breeds”. There have been Op-Eds about banning breeds on the Province blog, on the Tyee, and on talk shows across the province.

Sounds like the usual conversation, right? Except, for the third time this year, we find that the media missed a couple fact-checking steps in its rush to publish a “pit bull” story. This week, the dogs were finally identified by the bylaw department as American Bulldogs.  This is a breed often mis-identified as a “pit bull” breed but exempt from most breed-specific legislation.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.41.33 AMThat means that the breed restrictions or bans loudly advocated by Charlie Smith (editor of the Georgia Straight), Lori Welbourne (columnist for Post Media), and Bill Tieleman (columnist for 24 Hours and The Tyee) would have done nothing to stop three of the violent dog attacks that so agitated them this year. Yet these attacks provided them with platforms to share gory statistics and to openly advocate for the genocide of a breed that was not even involved.

The first was in July, when a large dog killed a puppy in Yaletown. The victim, understandably traumatized and disoriented, described the dog as a pit bull and the story received wide initial coverage as a “pit bull attack”. This was later corrected when Vancouver Animal Control identified the dog as a mastiff/bulldog cross.

yogiThe second was at the end of the year, when a serious attack on a young woman was reported as a “pit bull attack”. This dog was later identified as a Rottweiler/husky.

Now we have a third case where the conversation was quick to turn to a “breed debate” while it was clear that the media did not have all the information.

Kudos to CBC for taking the time to correct the breed ID in this week’s coverage. But for every article with this correction, there will be 20+ articles that only serve to cement the breed stigma in the minds of those susceptible to it. It detracts from constructive conversations we could be having about dog aggression and risk factors for dog bites. And let’s not forget that the “statistics” cited by Charlie, Lori, and Bill are based on media reports of dog aggression, creating a feedback loop that’s been cycling for 30 years.

Each time this happens we draw a deep breath and hope that the media will learn from their errors. Stop with the sensationalism. Report a dog attack as a dog attack, and don’t be so quick to assign a breed. It’s fairer, and it’s better journalism. If you feel the breed is relevant, wait until a reliable source of information surfaces:  the owner’s information about the dog’s heritage or, minimally, a statement from an impartial professional like an animal control officer or a veterinarian.

BreedSpecificLegislation_2And for the love of dog, will the Op-Eds stop? For three decades we have been tolerating the same clickbait comparing an imaginary category of dog to a loaded gun. Under the guise of concerned citizens, they use fear to advocate for laws that have proven ineffective and are being repealed across the continent.

Bill, Lori and Charlie seem content to be on the wrong side of the history. That’s their right. But if these opinions are winning column space, it tells you that people are interested in this topic. Why not feature another perspective?

In 2012, The Vancouver Sun asked Rebeka Breder, BC pre-eminent animal litigator, and Rebecca Ledger, one of BC’s few certified veterinary behaviourists, to pen an Op-Ed. People with advanced degrees and decades of experience commenting on the issue of dog aggression in our communities? That’s a great start!

If their degrees and evidence-based reasoning don’t attract the same number of clicks, there are plenty of trainers, behaviour consultants, vets, dog walkers, or animal rescues that would be happy to pen their own opinion piece based on experience. The Huffington Post has featured a “pit bull week” for the last couple years and have no shortage of clicks and shares. You’d be surprised at how many people want to read reason and compassion around these issues.

Please. Please expand your offerings on this topic.

Or – well – at least ensure your columnists are writing about the right “breed” when they propose exterminating it.


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Announcing our new T-shirt designs

We have been eager to refresh our t-shirt designs for a while, and after working with the uber-talented Kristy of Fog and Swell we are finally there. We love the new graphic!

pb has my heart

We will have the first order ready for mid-February. You will be able to order online and pick up shirts at events throughout the year, but if you want to be one of the first to sport the new design, we have an offer for you. Pre-order before Thursday, January 28, and you can have your t-shirt shipped to you (shipping and handling fees apply) OR you can pick them up at The Pop Up Pet Shoppe in Vancouver on Saturday, February 13.

Shirts are available in women’s and men’s styles, in ash grey.

pit bull has my heart mockup

Here’s how to order!

Do you need your shirt shipped within Canada? Use the PayPal button below to purchase the shirt with shipping and handling charges:


Or would you like to pick up your shirt on February 13? If so, use this link instead to waive shipping and handling charges.



Have questions? Contact us at with any queries or to arrange alternate payment.

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How Holly Helps HugABull

Ribbon for Hugabull 2015 Calendar (3)Holly and her partner adopted Ribbon through HugaBull in December 2011. Although they had been looking for a Rottweiler to replace the precious one they had lost to cancer the previous May, a certain brindle puppy face peered out so captivatingly at them from the computer screen that they were instantly smitten.

“Her full name is Ribbon Ann Bows,” explains Holly, “which, to us, made total sense. Why? Because she has what we consider a white ribbon running down her head and because it was close to Christmas, when ribbons adorn presents. We gave her the gift of a home, and in return, she gave and continues to give us the gift of boundless love, loyalty and laughter.”

But Holly’s own “gifting” didn’t end there. She recently became our first monthly donor through CanadaHelps.

Holly and Ribbon Inter River Jan2013“By adopting a pit bull,” Holly says, “we became aware of the challenges facing this breed. While we live in North Vancouver where there’s no BSL, we’re pleased to see a shift in opinion in Metro Vancouver, much of it due to the extraordinary work of HugaBull. They encourage potential adopters to accept the bully breed as the fabulous family members they can be, find these dogs forever homes, and educate the public about BSL.

“All of this costs money, making fundraising a primary concern of every non-profit, volunteer based organization. Because I wanted to help alleviate some of HugaBull’s financial burden, I chose to contribute to them monthly, hoping they could use my small donation for whatever they needed most. I also wanted to thank them for all they did for Ribbon by doing something for them.”

Ribbon and Peas croppedAs for Ribbon, she’s an exuberant and happy, high-energy girl who’s part of a dog hiking group that explores Vancouver’s North Shore twice a week. An ideal ambassador for the bully breed, she’s funny and friendly, easygoing yet playful, who loves everyone and adores children.

“There are so many dogs out there who, like Ribbon, want to be loved and to be part of a forever family. And because of that, we must continue to work on opening people’s minds to the truth about this very warm and caring breed.

“I would also urge everyone reading this to join me in becoming a monthly donor through CanadaHelps to provide HugABull with the financial stability they need in order to carry on their remarkable work. Every dollar HugaBull can count on each month is one less dollar they need to raise themselves, allowing them more time to do what they do best: making the world a better place for pit bulls to be their funny, endearing and loving selves.”

 Interested in becoming a monthly donor? There are many advantages – you can commit a small monthly payment that makes a huge impact over the course of a year.  Monthly donors also contribute to our financial stability by providing a consistent source of revenue throughout the year – not just around special events and holidays! Like all donations, your contribution is tax receiptable. For more information, visit the donation page on our website or email

A big thank-you to Holly and to Kim and Josh, our newest monthly donors!

Ribbon on lounge chair June 2015ps

Article by Nomi Berger 


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Media case study – misidentification in Richmond


Is this what you think of when you picture a pit bull? How about a pit bull mix?
A Rottweiler/pit bull mix? A Rottweiler mix?
A Rottweiler/husky mix?

Over the last week, this photo has represented all these things, as the face of a recent dog attack.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 9.33.01 AMOn Wednesday, December 30, a woman was badly attacked by a dog and hospitalized. The circumstances vary widely between media, police, and social media posts by those involved – some reports say the dog was being walked on leash and suddenly attacked; some say the dog was tied to a tree and lashed out. We know that a woman was badly injured and sent to the hospital, and a bystander was injured in the process of trying to help.


This photo, sourced from Facebook, is thought to be the dog involved in the incident.

The dog was known to the victim, so if the RCMP or media wished to make a breed identification it should have been a simple enough process. Yet somehow the black and tan dog was labelled a pit bull and this made its way into the initial RCMP press release.

So for a full 24 hours, this ran as yet another pit bull attack story. HugABull received two media calls on New Year’s Eve because this recent event, together with another incident in Northern BC had “re-ignited the debate” about pit bulls, rottweilers, and other “vicious breeds”.

12465702_10153663979811558_1271548074_oThe victim of the dog attack, while dealing with her own injuries, was outraged enough to take the time to post about this breed misidentification on Thursday night. The RCMP also took the time to issue a public correction, and slowly this news began to trickle out into the media. Up to Thursday night, the dog was being reported as a Rottweiler/pit bull cross.

Now, many news outlets have corrected their online reports to read Rottweiler cross or Rottweiler/husky cross, and uploaded new photos. Interestingly, once the breed identification was corrected, we noticed the tone of the reporting change as well, along with the comments under these reports. People are talking about whether there was past history of aggressive behaviour. What circumstances led up to the attack. Whether the dog was abused. What will be done with the dog.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.19.29 AMNotice the difference? A “pit bull” story leads to outrage and a discussion about whether they are inherently bad dogs that should be restricted. A “dog bite” story leads to much more nuanced and important questions about the pet dogs we share our lives with.

To the RCMP and media – we appreciate your taking the time to issue a correction of the breed ID. It’s not the first time misidentification has happened, but it’s the first time the correction has been publicized widely, and that’s appreciated.

But more meaningfully, can we learn from this the next time there is an incident with a dog? There will be a next time. Serious dog bites are rare, but with hundreds of thousands of dogs in our province, it’s statistically certain that 2016 will see its share of serious dog bites. At least a few dozen, if not more. We don’t know for sure because there’s no data source for this in BC. Maybe that’s a good place to start if we are worried about aggressive dog problems in our community.

So to the reporters and responders out there – when it happens, we have a couple requests.  Please be consistent in what you cover. Is a serious attack on another dog newsworthy? Then cover them all. In June we heard about a mastiff/bulldog mix that killed a small dog in Yaletown. We heard about it a lot when a witness identified the dog as a pit bull. We heard about it less when it was found to be a mixed breed. Within a week, another small dog was almost killed by an Airedale in the same neighbourhood. We heard a few reports about that. And within a month, another small dog was killed by a German Shepherd in a Vancouver suburb. That didn’t make the news at all.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.41.33 AM

Original headline read “Three hospitalized after pit bull-rottweiler dog goes berserk”. Accompanying article refers to pit bulls and calls for restrictions.

Second, if there isn’t a reliable breed ID for the dog, please don’t include it. Don’t ask witnesses what the dog was; don’t even rely on police or animal control personnel on the scene. If the owner knows the dog’s parents or pedigree, or if a formal ID is made by animal control later on, that’s a reasonable source, but until then why can’t it be a “dog attack”?  In fact, why can’t it stay a “dog” attack?

Breed misidentification and sensationalism hurts us. It hurts the millions of responsible dog owners whose dogs happen to have the square heads – who are pit bulls or who are perceived as pit bulls. It diminishes our quality of life, restricts our housing options, and sometimes leads to outright abuse. It also hurts the community at large, because after 30 years of scaremongering about pit bulls, we rarely have the opportunity to have conversations about what we can do to steward happy, healthy, harmonious relationships with the canines in our community.

We work every day to move these conversations forward, and we need your help. It is truly in the best interest of all of us – four-legged and two-legged.


For the record, the photo at the top of this post would not be considered a typical “pit bull” breed but rather an extremely large American Bully, a newer breed that is not common in BC. The photo has since been updated.

Further reading on breed (mis)identification in the media:

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Battling BSL On Behalf of Our Bully

milton1Elizabeth and Mike are HugABull adopters who never faltered in their commitment to Milton, but faced a worst-case scenerio shortly after adopting him: breed stigma and restrictions forced them to choose between their family member and their home. We have been so inspired by their courage and grace in the face of a pit bull owner’s worst nightmare – we asked them to share their story with volunteer writer Nomi Berger.

When we first saw Milton on the Hugabull web site, he wasn’t quite what we were looking for. But after being encouraged to meet him, we instantly fell in love with him – with his big beautiful head and even bigger, exuberant and funny personality.

Several weeks after adopting him in December 2012, we were rudely confronted by a fellow condo owner, who insisted ‘those dogs’ weren’t allowed. We had no idea that the strata (condominium association) had voted in a breed-specific pet policy between the time that we bought our condo and the time we adopted Milton.

Worried and afraid, we promptly met with the strata, explained our situation, and promised to muzzle Milton in the building and on all shared property. They, in turn, agreed to allow us to stay until a vote could be taken at their annual general meeting in April. To further allay their so-called ‘safety’ concerns, we even purchased extra liability insurance.

milton2We then tried to arrange for the strata to hear a presentation from HugABull or a similar organization, but they weren’t interested. We sent out flyers to our neighbours – which were well received — explaining the situation and asking for their support. One of the strata members even told us that although they were sympathetic to our cause, one particular condo owner was threatening to sue if the bylaw wasn’t upheld. In April, we spoke at the AGM, receiving more than 50% of their votes, but we failed to get the 75% required to change the bylaw.

milton3Having already decided to move if we lost the vote, we instructed our realtor to begin looking for a new place for us. The strata members were amazed when they learned that we had chosen our beloved Milton over their building! But they did let us live there until our condo sold.

Despite this extremely upsetting ordeal, we have survived intact! We are now in a much better situation, living in a nicer building nearby, with wonderful neighbours who adore Milton. The lesson my husband and I learned is that you don’t always have to ‘win’ in order to win. My only regret is not having been sure enough of ourselves to campaign more vocally to get the bylaw changed. If faced with that situation again, we would definitely be more ‘in your face.’

For anyone caught in a similar predicament, I urge you to work your connections and ask for help. Although I was reluctant to involve those I knew through my job in the housing sector, everyone there was extremely helpful. Thanks to their advice,  suggestions and support, I even managed to effect a change in breed-specific pet policies involving some of our own housing partners.

I also encourage you to talk, really talk. Inform people. Educate them. So many people were shocked to hear about what we had endured because they know what responsible and trustworthy dog owners we are. These personal stories — ours and yours – are how people’s minds, and hopefully, policies, are changed!

Article by Nomi Berger




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