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Animal rescue operator: bad owners make bad dogs

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Pitbulls, such as this one, are illegal in Ontario following a 2005 ban. A recent national survey found a majority of Canadians believe it’s bad owners, not bad breeds, that lead to dog attacks, and one animal rescue operator agrees.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

When it comes to a bad dog, the real culprit is a bad owner.

And it appears that more Canadians are agreeing with that sentiment, with a recent Angus Reid poll finding that 58 per cent of those surveyed see dog attacks as isolated incidents caused by bad owners, rather than because of a specific breed of dog.

Janet Smith, the executive director of the Oshawa-based Oasis Animal Rescue and Education Centre, says that based on what she’s seen, that is absolutely true.

“How the animal is raised has a lot to do with how it turns out,” Smith says.

“The folks that come to us with dogs that need rehoming, generally what has happened is that they have not been socialized properly from the time they were puppies. The family decided they wanted a puppy, they saw this delightful, attractive little dog, and they’ve adopted this animal, but then not realize that it’s going to grow, it’s going to need training, it’s going to be worked with and socialized, and it doesn’t happen.”

Smith says that dogs that aren’t trained properly or aren’t being socialized can become unruly, destroying furniture in the home and possibly becoming violent.

A report by the Canadian Safety Council estimates that dogs bite approximately 460,000 Canadians every year. South of the border, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 4.5 million dog bites annually, with approximately 350,000 of those causing serious injuries.

In order to combat this, Smith says potential dog owners need to do their research, and know what they’re getting into.

“Look at your family, look at the dynamics of your family. Are there children? Are you retired? Is it a mixed family? Multi-generational family? Where do you live? Do you live in an apartment? Do you live in a house? Do you have a backyard? Research,” she says.

“Look for a breed that is going to accommodate your needs to the best of your ability, and then subsequent to that, really decide to make the commitment. It’s like having a child. You train a child as the child grows older. Why wouldn’t you do that with an animal?”

Smith says she disagrees with the notion that any one breed is more aggressive than another, and that it all comes down to ownership.

One of the biggest things Smith disagrees with is the provincial ban of pitbulls, passed in 2005, due to their perceived aggressiveness. She says any dog can become vicious if it’s in the hands of the wrong owner.

“We’ve had Labrador retrievers that have come in, and those are a delightful family breed, but they’ve been treated so badly in those first six to seven months that it’s very difficult for us to do anything with them.”

Sixty-one per cent of those surveyed in the Angus Reid poll agree with the idea that banning a particular breed works in preventing attacks. Among those surveyed, the most popular solutions were to ban owners of dogs who have attacked others in the past from owning another dog – 69 per cent – and requiring some breeds to be muzzled and on a leash at all times when off the owner’s property – 67 per cent.