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 Sometimes those in charge stand by these policies, even though they are outdated and ineffective, and turn away responsible owners.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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