Breed Specific Legislation: Our position on BSL

Guest Blog Post by Jacqueline Watty, Vice President of our Board of Directors, KWSPHS

It is no secret that the Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo and Stratford Perth believes in a kinder, safer Ontario (and Canada) for all.  Breed specific legislation is a hot topic and has been for decades as it seeks to generalize a ‘look’ or ‘type’ of animal. In my mind, it can be easily translated to how humans discriminate against one another – based on how someone looks, talks, dresses etc. It simply isn’t okay for us to be judging ‘books by their cover’ whether it be of fellow humans or animals – all of us are individuals.  

Breed Specific Legislation discriminates against one breed, instead of looking at each dog as an individual.  We felt it was time to dig deeper to better understand the issues surrounding BSL, its enforcement, the scientific evidence and the concern that has been spread due to a lack of understanding, education and inconsistent messaging on the topic.


In response to a series of high-profile media stories in 2005, Ontario introduced legislation to ban ‘pit bulls’ and toughen penalties for owners of dangerous dogs. It outlawed pit bull/American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire/American Staffordshire bull terriers and all dogs that look like them. The vast majority of stakeholders opposed the legislation, including the Ontario & Canadian Veterinary Medical Associations; Canadian Kennel Club; Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada; Canadian Association of Pet Trainers; Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and Toronto Humane Society. In the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Bar Association have spoken against breed-specific legislation, recommending instead a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. It is widely seen as poor law. In 2012 the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association blamed BSL for the unnecessary euthanasia of over 1,000 dogs and puppies, many with no history of violence against people or animals.

Where We Stand

BSL became a front-page topic again in 2019 when the Ontario Conservative government proposed ending the ban. We knew it was time to investigate and be forthcoming with our own statement on where we stand. In previous years we simply would say that BSL is very difficult to enforce and that perfectly adoptable dogs are having to be shipped outside of Ontario due to the ban. We struck a committee of the Board that also included a community member to research BSL. 

There are countless municipalities in Canada and US specifically that have been reversing decades old legislation banning breeds. From a Canadian perspective, we looked to the success that Vancouver and Calgary have had with the enforcement of Dangerous Dog legislation and educational campaigns – instead of BSL.  Ultimately, restricting breed ownership has not reduced the incidence of dog bites. A survey of reported dog bite rates in 36 Canadian municipalities found no difference between jurisdictions with BSL and those without. Likewise, a 2010 Toronto Humane Society survey found no change in dog bites in Ontario in the years before and after Ontario’s BSL. Calgary, however, saw a five-fold reduction over 20 years – from 10 bites per 10,000 people in 1986 to two in 2006. Rather than banning breeds, Calgary uses strong licensing and enforcement plus dog safety public education campaigns. The most important piece of information that reinforced our stance was that dog bites have continued to rise, despite the ban being in place across Ontario. This in itself was cause enough for us to continue our discussions and collective efforts to seek understanding. 

After months of research, outreach and  discussion, we came up with a statement to share publicly. We oppose breed-specific legislation as it has proven to not reduce the incidence or severity of dog bites, penalizes responsible owners and can end the lives of innocent dogs. We believe it is important to have a community approach to responsible pet ownership through Breed Neutral Legislation (BNL) that treats all dogs equally and puts the onus of responsibility on the dog’s owner. BNL that focuses on the behavior of the dog and owner, as it is the most productive way to protect the public and promote animal welfare and education.


Educating ourselves on BSL is important if we wish to take a stand on either side of the issue. Relying on media stories and opinion instead of the science, facts and those that are experienced in the area, leads to wide-spread misinformation – which of course is common with many issues and hot topics.

We can learn from others that have already been advocating for the lift of the ban, such as the City of Montreal ( and Ontario’s collective initiative ( that includes dozens of Humane Society’s, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, the Canadian Kennel Club and many more. Other objective resources to consider delving into are the following:

OVMA Board Report - July 2012 and OVMA Position Statement

What’s Next

In Ontario, Breed Neutral Legislation is being proposed.  It aims to treat all dogs equally and looks at the owner as much as the animal when drawing conclusions.  

The Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018 repeals provisions in the Animals for Research Act relating to the disposition of “pit bulls” under that Act. 

The proposed bill will repeal the provisions in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act that currently prohibits certain types of breeds of dogs from entering or residing in the province, i.e. ‘pit bulls’. This bill will correct the targeting of Ontario citizens’ dogs based solely on appearance. We remain hopeful that the right decisions will be made for the betterment of our laws in Ontario through the education of our leaders and the general public. We are committed to giving every animal a fair chance to find a loving home – regardless of how it looks.


Read our formal Position Statement here.

Read the second part to this series - Breed Specific Legislation: Our Experience and Research