It’s been 11 years since the Ontario government in Canada passed breed specific legislation. To put that in perspective, Ontario is about the size of Texas and Montana combined. That’s a lot of people and a lot of dogs that have been affected since the 2005 breed ban came into effect.

The legislation allowed dogs born before the ban to live and remain in the province so long as they are muzzled in public, altered, and do not enter spaces like dog parks. Dogs that were born after the ban must be destroyed by law or relocated out of province. The legislation is hazy as to what a pit bull is, and many dogs have tragically fallen under the vague breed description. Citizens found with an illegal pit bull face a $10,000 fine as well as time in court.

The Ontario government has done little to track the cost, effectiveness or a record of just how many dogs have been killed as a result of the ban. A 2016 study did note that since the ban, dog bites have been on the increase even though pit bulls have been banned. Furthermore, the ban has created a black market for pit bulls that are shipped illegally into the province to be used for murky reasons.

Despite pleas and quarterly protests against BSL, Ontario pit bull owners and advocates have been largely ignored by the government, the media, and international pit bull activists. There is hope in the Ontario pit bull community that the outrage over Montreal’s suspended BSL laws would shed some light on the forgotten dogs of Ontario. It is estimated by 2020, there will no longer be a single living pit bull in the province.bsl protest ontario

So what exactly does it feel like to live under such a large breed specific legislation? For years these owners have lived with the harassment and fear of BSL and the public’s misconception of their dogs. Here is just a slice of the everyday life of an Ontario pit bull owner:

“When BSL hadn’t started yet but was in the news and was coming into force in a few months, I had a man in a park run after and start kicking my dog. Just because. BSL hadn’t even come into force and people thought they had the right to abuse my dog because the government demonized her… Under BSL, I have had to protect and defend other dogs who looked like her. I have had to muzzle and leash my dog while other dogs snap and growl off-leash at her. BSL doesn’t address dangerous dogs. It legitimizes fear and hate.” – Genevieve

Related: Pit Bull Escapes Breed Ban With A Beautiful Cross-Country Trip
“Owning a dog that falls under BSL changes almost every aspect of dog ownership. It gives you a heightened awareness of other people’s stigma, the fear of what could happen if someone with a grudge complains about your dog. Or if an accident happens and your dog gets off leash. You can’t do things other dog owners do, like a simple walk down the street… Go to the dog park… Go in some pet stores… Everything you do revolves around the rules you have to follow to ensure your dog’s safety. I know when my senior passes away, that I will never be able to own another dog of this breed that I adore so much and has changed my life for the better. And that’s heartbreaking.” – Sarah
pit bull owner ontario
“Living under BSL is disheartening and saddening. I have such wonderful dogs, and they change peoples’ minds about the terrible stereotypes surrounding their breeds. But people automatically assume something is wrong with them and often don’t give us a chance to show their true personalities. That’s the hardest part, having the discussion shut down before it even begins, because the government we are supposed to trust has told us they are bad dogs.” – Robbie

“BSL has impacted my life in positive and negative ways, but for Princess and Jem there are not any positives. People’s fear of them were reinforced when the government encouraged public fear by calling them dangerous and banning any dog that looks like a ‘pit bull type’ dog. Some people know BSL is just BS, but many people avoid me and my dogs on the street or in the pet store because they are either afraid of the breed, or more commonly, they assume they are muzzled because of aggression. They don’t get to go to the dog park or just be the dogs they are sometimes because of leash and muzzle restrictions.” – Dymond

protest against BSL

“There are a few things, of course the restrictions of places Josie is not allowed (dog parks, etc.), my fear when I go on vacation, I’m paranoid, and stress to [the dog sitter] absolutely no dog parks, always muzzle and leash her outside, no exceptions as I fear if the wrong person sees her they’ll complain and Josie will be taken — I don’t want any issues especially if I’m away.” – Kayla

pit bulls with muzzles

“According to BSL, my loving, loyal, family dog, best friend and protector of my baby daughter, has to wear a cage around her face when out in public, she is supposed to be registered as ‘potentially dangerous,’ our dog cannot play nor run in dog parks with all other dogs and she doesn’t understand why, she cannot attend dog training seminars nor socialization classes like all other dogs, we cannot take her to the beach, we cannot travel with her across the province safely… Our dog is a genuine member of our family! We live under the black cloud of BSL-induced fear every single day, not because of anything our dog has done but because of the shape of her head, her chest, her legs, the length of her coat, we are forced to live like paranoid criminals. We are victims of discrimination, for a dog who has done nothing wrong.” – Emily

PupJournal is proudly hosting National #PitBullWeek, or #NPBW, to celebrate blocky-headed wigglebutts, otherwise known as “pit bulls.” It’s time these pups are able to live their lives free from discrimination and harm. You can find articles, videos, and adoptable dogs on our National Pit Bull Week page and on Facebook. Join us by tagging National #PitBullWeek, or #NPBW!

Header image via Redemption Dogs