An American Staffordshire Terrier. (© Can Stock Photo / mariait)An American Staffordshire Terrier. (© Can Stock Photo / mariait)

Three children attacked by pit bull as Ontario moves to legalize the breed

Just one week after legislation was tabled to scrap a controversial dog breed ban in Ontario, a man from Wingham has been charged in connection with pit bull attack that sent three children to the hospital.

The Ontario Provincial Police said on November 13, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a banned pit bull breed in Ontario, slipped its collar and immediately ran to a nearby church and private school located on John Street West in Wingham where it began attacking the children. Police referred to the animal as "out of control" and "vicious."

"A father of one of the children and an older sister stepped in an attempt to [ward] off the attack however the attack continued until the dog owner arrived and was able to gain control of the animal," the OPP said in a media release.

The three young victims, ages 4, 8, and 16, suffered various dog bite injuries from the attack and were taken to hospital. The three were treated for non-life threatening injuries and released later that day.

Following a police investigation, police announced on Wednesday that a 20-year-old Wingham man is now charged under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act with three counts of failing to prevent his dog from attacking/biting a person and one count of owning a pit bull.

Information about the dog attack comes at an awkward time for Chatham Kent Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls, who introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature on November 19 to reverse the ban on pit bull-type dogs. Bill 147, which will amend the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, passed second reading on November 21, and it will now go to public consultation at the committee level before coming back for third and final reading at Queen’s Park.

"Anytime anyone is attacked by a dog, regardless of the breed, it's not healthy, it's not good, and I feel very badly for those three children that were attacked," Nicholls said Wednesday evening. "But it could have been any type of dog that could have inflicted wounds, I'm sure. My concern is, why do we have to go after a particular breed?"

Nicholls told that the current legislation discriminates against one specific breed when other dogs are also capable of being vicious.  He said the responsibility should be put on dog owners for the behaviour of any dog breed, and there should be stiffer penalties for owners when the dogs attack another person.

Nicholls added that the amendment has strong support, however, not everyone is happy with the idea of ending the province's 15-year ban on pit bulls. National Pit Bull Victim Awareness (NPBVA), a coalition of over 70 pit bull victim groups across the U.S. and Canada, has urged the province to keep the breed-specific ban in place. According to the victim advocacy group's statistics, pit bulls have killed 52 people in Canada and the U.S. since the start of 2018.

Ontario is the only province that has a province-wide ban on pit bulls.

-With files from Paul Pedro

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