Ontario's controversial pit bull ban has not resulted in a significant decrease in the number of dog bites in the province, the Toronto Humane Society claims in a study.

The pit bull ban, passed as an amendment to the Ontario Dog Owners Liability Act in 2005, banned the breeding, sale and ownership of pit bulls.

The ban was introduced as a public safety tool after a series of pit bull attacks in the province.

In announcing the plan to ban the breed, then attorney general Michael Bryant said in 2004 that pit bulls were "inherently dangerous animals" and "ticking time bombs."

But a statistical survey completed by the THS, which opposes breed-specific legislation and euthanizing animals, suggests that the ban on the breed has not reduced the number of dog bites in the province. It said the number of dog bites in the province has not significantly decreased since the ban came into effect.

"Countless" pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers have been euthanized because of the ban, the humane society said.

And a spokesperson for the humane society said targeting specific dog breeds is not the way to reduce dog attacks.

"If we want to reduce the number of dog bites, we have to address the root cause of the problem, those irresponsible owners who do not appropriately care for their animals," Ian McConachie said in a news release. "It is clear from these figures that the BSL aspects of the Dog Owners Liability Act has not worked to decrease the incidents of dog bites."

According to the humane society's study, there were 5,428 reported dog bites in 2005, the year the ban came into effect. Here are the numbers since then:

  • 2006 - 5,360
  • 2007 - 5,492
  • 2008 - 5,463
  • 2009 - 5,345

The study does not show the number of dog bites compared to the number of dogs in the province. Nor does it adjust for changes to the province's population or for the severity of attacks.

McConachie said the information about dog bites comes from the local health networks, while the number of licensed dogs is tracked by individual municipalities and is not accessible without filing access to information requests.

“It’s possible the number of dogs could have gone up,” McConachie told CTV News. “It’s also possible the number of dogs could have stayed the same.”

The provincial Liberals have stood by their decision to introduce the ban. Premier Dalton McGuinty said last fall that the ban was based on public safety.

"It's about public safety," he told reporters last fall. "We got the best advice we could, and put in place legislation which we think upholds public safety."
This is not the first time that the pit bull ban has come under fire.

Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby unsuccessfully mounted a challenge of the ban in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The ban was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in an October 2008 decision.

"The total ban on pit bulls is not 'arbitrary' or 'grossly disproportionate' in light of the evidence that pit bulls have a tendency to be unpredictable and that even apparently docile pit bulls may attack without warning or provocation," the court said in its decision.

"This evidence of unpredictability provided the legislature with a sufficient basis to conclude that the protection of public safety required no less drastic measures than a total ban on pit bulls."

Last fall, Toronto NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo introduced a private member's bill to overturn the ban, saying at the time that fatal dog attacks had gone up since the ban went into effect. DiNovo did not give specific numbers.