Owners protest breed-specific bylaw in Maple Ridge

District pawing over proposal to charge four times the licence fee for pit bulls and require muzzles too

More than 50 pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Dachshunds and even Shih Tzus took to the streets of downtown Maple Ridge with their owners Sunday afternoon to protest a proposed bylaw that would single out certain breeds as aggressive.

Two months ago, District of Maple Ridge staff recommended a bylaw that would single out pit bull breeds, such as Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers, as “aggressive” and charge their owners a $200 licensing fee annually, four times that of other breeds. Pit bulls would also be required to be muzzled when off the owner’s property and would also be subject to higher impound fees.

Local pit bull owner Janessa Munz helped organize the event on Sunday to protest the bylaw, which she feels is unfair to responsible dog owners, and to help improve the public image of the pit bull.

Munz said she understands why some people might be fearful of larger breeds like pit bulls, that large dogs in the hands of a bad owner can be dangerous. But that’s not the fault of the breed, she contends, and breed-specific bylaws do nothing to address the real problem: irresponsible owners.

“Most dog owners are responsible,” she added. “We train our dogs properly, we socialize them, and we nurture them. We feel we shouldn’t be treated the same as irresponsible owners.”

More than 50 dogs took part in the dog-walk around downtown Maple Ridge, without incident.

“We want to be ambassadors for the breed,” Munz said. “All the dogs were well-behaved and got along great. There were no issues and no problems.”

In addition to pit bulls, the owners of other dog breeds came out to lend their support for the oft-maligned breed, and show their opposition to breed-specific bylaws like the one being proposed by District of Maple Ridge staff.

Munz said she surprised at how positive the reaction was from the public.

“We had people honking in support, people were coming out of their businesses to greet us and shake our hands,” she said.

Bylaws director Liz Holitzki said singling out pit bulls is designed to encourage responsible pet ownership. While both the district and SPCA receive complaints about problem dogs of all breeds, there is significant public concern about pit bulls, in particular.

Parents of two B.C. children who were viciously attacked by pit bills in August have asked the province to ban the breed.

However, Holitzki told councillors in July she felt an outright ban was unnecessary.

The bylaw comes back before Maple Ridge council for discussion at a workshop meeting on Oct. 15, and Munz hopes councillors will have a change of heart and steer clear of any breed-specific language.

Maple Ridge News