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Breed Specific Legislation is a law or ordinance passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In practice, it generally refers to laws or ordinances pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds.
Canadian Legal Challenges: - Taken from Wikipedia.com
In Cochrane v. Ontario (Attorney General), 2007 CanLII 9231 (ON S.C.), Ms. Catherine Cochrane sued the Province of Ontario to prevent it from enforcing the Dog Owner's Liability Act (DOLA) ban on pit bull-type dogs, arguing that the law was unconstitutionally broad because the ban was grossly disproportionate to the risk pit bulls pose to public safety, and that the law was unconstitutionally vague because failed to provide an intelligible definition of pit bulls. She also argued that a provision allowing the Crown to introduce as evidence a veterinarian's certificate certifying that the dog is a pit bull violates the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.
The presiding judge ruled that the DOLA was not overbroad because,
"The evidence with respect to the dangerousness of pit bulls, although conflicting and inconclusive, is sufficient, in my opinion, to constitute a 'reasoned apprehension of harm'. In the face of conflicting evidence as to the feasibility of less restrictive means to protect the public, it was open to the legislature to decide to restrict the ownership of all pit bulls."
The presiding judge found the term "a pit bull terrier" was unconstitutionally vague since it could include an undefined number of dogs similar to the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The judge also ruled that the government's ability to introduce a veterinarian's certificate certifying that the dog is a pit bull created a mandatory presumption that the dog was a pit bull, and that this placed an unconstitutional burden of proof upon the defendant.
Ms. Cochrane and the Attorney General of Ontario appealed different aspects of the decision to the Court of Appeal for Ontario. In Cochrane v. Ontario (2008 ONCA 718), the Court of Appeal reversed the lower court's ruling:
On June 11, 2009 the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear further appeal of the case, thereby upholding the Ontario ban on pit bulls.
- It agreed with the lower court judge in finding that the "overbreadth" claim failed because the legislature had acted on a "reasonable apprehension of harm.
- It disagreed that the definition of pit bull in the Act was insufficiently precise and restored the original wording of "pit bull terrier" on the basis that, when read in the context of "a more comprehensive definition," the phrasing "a pit bull terrier" was sufficiently precise.
- It reversed the trial court and found that the government's ability to introduce a veterinarian's certificate certifying a dog was a pit bull would constitute proof only if the defendant failed to answer the claim: it was therefore a tactical burden, rather an evidentiary burden.