This week’s #BSLbytes were hijacked by an unfortunate episode of CBC’s The Fifth Estate. We don’t encourage you to watch it, but we hope you have found our analysis helpful in thinking about sensationalized media coverage and perhaps responding to others who may have been influenced by it.
The episode relied heavily on one particular story about a child being killed by two dogs. It’s a terrible tragedy and we understand why the family is looking for a source of blame in order to assign meaning to the child’s death. We don’t agree with their opinion that the breed of dog is to blame, but it is their right to have that opinion. If they were given undue influence in the episode or provided with a platform to share false information, that is a matter to take up with the CBC.
Unfortunately, we have seen posts from anti-BSL advocates with insensitive comments about the victims. This is not okay.
It’s one thing to be a critical media consumer and take what you see with a grain of salt, but none of us are in a position to know what happened the day the little boy died. If you wish to make a comment about the incident, think about how it comes across and whether it’s a fair or productive addition to the world.
Personal attacks are never acceptable. They just aren’t. And if you’re ever tempted to post one, keep in mind that every tasteless comment online is being saved by pro-BSL advocates to prove that “pro pit bull” folks are unstable lunatics.
We should all agree that it’s horrifying to hear stories of pet dogs attacking people, and terrible to think that innocent children lost their lives. Our hearts go out to the families of Daxton Borchardt, and they also go out to Cameron Mushanski, a child who was killed by dogs in Saskatchewan last month. The dogs were not “pit bulls”, and you might not have heard much about his death.
All victims deserve to be remembered, and in their memory we should be having conversations about how we, as a society, can ensure this doesn’t happen again. Putting breed aside, we actually have many of the same goals as the folks at Daxton’s Friends. If we could only put the tired breed-based conversation to bed, we could look at the commonalities between the attacks by all dogs and start to draw some sensible conclusions.
There’s the misconception that because we oppose BSL, we oppose any dog legislation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We support legislation that is much more comprehensive than what the majority of communities have in place. There is a lot of evidence to indicate that steps like these are most likely to result in safer communities:
- strong bylaws targeting specific dog behaviours – ensuring that dogs with aggression are identified early before their behaviour has a chance to escalate
- specific requirements to properly manage and train dogs with concerning behaviours
- increased enforcement of bylaws and training of staff to do so
- more resources to investigate animal cruelty concerns
- bite-free education for children and anyone else who regularly comes into contact with dogs (mail carriers, utility inspectors, etc)
- outreach to low-income and at-risk communities providing veterinary care, spay/neuter, proper equipment use, and training
- regulation for breeders and rescues, including liability consequences if they knowingly place unstable dogs in homes
- increased liability for owners if a preventable incident occurs, and penalties including fines, jail time, and restrictions on owning animals
- registries for dogs that have demonstrated dangerous behaviour, at the regional, provincial, or even federal levels.
We have no problem being held to a high standard – but it’s only fair that every German Shepherd, every Golden Retriever, and every mixed breed that makes up the majority of our dog population be held to that same standard. It is the only shot we have at making sure that what happened to Daxton, Cameron, and others never happens again.