Does latest pit bull attack underline need for Alberta ban?

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew
An Iqaluit woman who suffered a vicious dog attack last summer wants to see pit bulls banned in Nunavut.

The death of a family dog in Alberta, after being mauled by three pit bulls, underscores the importance of responsible dog ownership, if not an outright ban on the breed.

The Calgary Herald reports that the attack occurred in an off-leash dog park in southeast Calgary, when Scott McDowell and his two children took their Pomeranian and Great Pyrenees for a stroll.

Another man was walking three pit bull terriers on leashes, when they attacked. The Pomeranian suffered injuries to the chest and had to be put down. The Great Pyrenees received 16 stitches for its injuries.

McDowell's 13-year-old daughter was also injured trying to stop the fight.

What follows are the customary accusations, but with a twist.

[ Related: Three pit bulls seized after dog killed in southeast Calgary ]

Stephen Jaquish owns one of the pit bulls and was dog-sitting the other two. He says the dogs were provoked into attacking. He says his pit bull, now in the custody of animal services, is not aggressive.

McDowell, meantime, says Jaquish is at fault for walking three dogs that he could not control. He told the paper, however, that did not blame the dogs’ breed for the attack on his pets and children.

He told the Herald:

The owner of the other three dogs would pull one dog off, and maybe another, but he had to let them go to grab the third and they’d pounce back on … He went to the dog park thinking he could handle all three, and he couldn’t.

Despite McDowell’s personal view, pit bulls are seen by many to be inherently aggressive. The National Post’s Barbara Kay wrote in depth on the statistics of pit bull attacks earlier this year, saying pit bulls “were never bred for anything but fighting.”

A study by the University of Manitoba also suggested the number of dog bite injuries reduced when pit bull-type dogs were banned.

Winnipeg introduced Canada’s first major pit bull ban in 1990, and Ontario followed suit in 2005, although the province-wide ban has faced constant opposition since then.

Calgary bylaws require all pets to be licenced, but there are no specific rules on the breed. Instead, all owners are required to ensure all dogs are well socialized and do not become a threat.

[ More Brew: Edmonton LRT beating: Why lock victim, assailant in together? ]

While the idea of banning specific breeds of animals is polarizing, the need for dog owners to take proper care of their animals is not. When Jaquish took his pit bull and two others into public, it was his responsibility to maintain control.

All animals, pit bulls especially, are unpredictable. And even the best-behaved dog may not act in kind when packed with unfamiliar beasts.

Like it or not, a ban would have stopped this attack. An owner who managed to control his animals would have as well.

If pit bull supporters don’t want bans, they need to stop giving the rest of us reasons to consider them.