A family in Vaughan just wants their beloved dog back from the city’s animal shelter after he was detained on suspicion of being a pit bull, a breed banned in Ontario.
Dog owners and others joined Tommy Chang and his family in downtown Toronto to protest Vaughan Animal Services’ detention of their one-year-old dog Dwaeji, affectionately known as Blu. Protesters also called for the repeal of Ontario’s breed-specific legislation, saying they believe the law discriminates against dogs based on their appearance.
It was this legislation that separated Blu from his family for 22 days, Chang said.
“They illegally detained our dog,” he said at the protest in Dundas Square on Saturday. “Vaughan Animal Services goes above and beyond its scope of authority.”
Blu is an American Pocket Bully, Chang explained, but Vaughan Animal Services told him that he was considered on the list of prohibited dogs in Ontario under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA).
The law defines the following breeds as illegal: Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers.
While Chang has documents proving Blu is an American Pocket Bully, Vaughan Animal Services does not accept it, he said. The law allows authorities to interpret “appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to the aforementioned dogs”, as written.
“Substantially similar” dogs would also be banned
“Our dog is an American Pocket Bully,” Chang said. “But they basically considered him a no-go dog in Ontario.
“In Ontario it’s not banned, so we’re challenging that,” he added.
Chang received a letter from the City of Vaughan saying that his dog’s evaluation by Vaughan Animal Services “determines that Dwaeji is a dog that has appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to the breed prohibited under DOLA” .
One of the protesters in the square, Fran Coughlin, is the co-founder of the Hershey Anti-BSL group. She said her group has been fighting race-specific legislation since it was introduced by the province in 2005.
“We know there is no dangerous breed of dog,” she said. “We want to end dogs being removed from their homes based solely on their appearance.”
“The Dog Owners Liability Act needs a major overhaul,” she added.
Chang said no one in his household has been charged with owning the dog, according to DOLA. He is confident that the city will lose the legal battle given the vague assessment of his dog’s breed. Nevertheless, he fears that Blu will be repressed or expelled from the province.
Blu has never shown any signs of aggression or behavioral issues, Chang said, and he hopes the protest against the breed-specific legislation will get people’s attention and maybe bring his dog home. .
The family is “miserable”
“He was raised to be part of the family, raised to be a companion, without any regard for that they detained him,” he added.
“It’s been an incredible, miserable three weeks,” Chang said.
It was three weeks ago, when while cooking, the smoke detector in the family home went off. To ventilate the smoke, Chang opened the front and back doors, but forgot that the courtyard door was open. Blu came out and was located by Vaughan Animal Services.
When the family went to pick up their dog, Vaughan Animal Services wouldn’t allow it, Chang said, despite all the paperwork he showed them.
“I have paperwork, we have documentation, we have documentation from experts, vets and the United Kennel Club, they rejected it,” he said.
“We asked for evidence to show otherwise – how can you dismiss a professional opinion?” he added.
DOLA should be repealed because it gives authorities the power to discriminate against dogs based on their appearance, he said.
“The city says they’re going to detain him indefinitely,” he said. “We fight until the end.”