Case Studies

Case Study – Ontario

A breed-specific ban on “pit bulls” was put in place in 2005, following a high-profile dog attack in Ontario, Canada. Registered “pit bull” breed dogs were “grandfathered” and subject to restrictions, but the legislation meant that any other “pit bulls” found in Ontario after the implementation of DOLA (Dog Owner’s Liability Act) were to be transferred out of province, euthanized or signed over to research facilities.

In 2005, multiple experts testified against the implementation of this law. Among academics, behaviour experts, and representatives from kennel clubs and other parts of the dog community, the recommendation was – unanimously – to adopt owner-focused legislation. The breed-specific legislation was passed anyway.

What Happened

There were multiple challenges in court, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Many owners in Ontario have had their dogs identified as “pit bulls” and seized. They have had to weather lengthy and expensive court battles, while their dogs were impounded and kept in concrete kennels. It is important to understand that these were not dogs seized for an aggressive act, but are family pets – their only crime is that they were identified, visually, as “pit bulls.” Some of these dogs were later determined to be labs, ridgeback crosses, mastiffs or boxers.


The city of Ottawa publicly stated that they were not going to enforce the ban, due to the expense and difficulty in enforcement.

This legislation did not have any type of benchmark identified to measure the success of the ban. The government did not put rigorous data collection in place (i.e., monitoring municipal animal control activities or hospital admissions) to identify whether the legislation reduced the total number of dog bites or serious injuries by dogs.

Statistics from the Toronto Humane Society indicate that the number of dog bites in that city has increased. Pro-BSL advocates point out that bites by “pit bulls” have gone down, but that is inevitable given that there are fewer of them in the province with each passing year.

The pit bull ban has not kept dogs out of the hands of serious criminals.

It didn’t prevent deaths.