The owner of Rambo, a 10-month-old cross-bred pit bull puppy, has been given a bitter choice: sign the dog over to the City of Mississauga to be killed or face a long legal battle she cannot afford.
“Rambo is harmless. He wouldn’t hurt anybody,” said his owner, Gabriela Nowakowska, 20, of Mississauga.
Nowakowska bought the puppy at a flea market last year and wasn’t aware of Ontario’s draconian breed ban on pit bulls or perhaps even that the puppy was a pit bull cross. Under the ill-considered breed ban, enacted in 2005 by the McGuinty government, pit bulls or “substantially similar” dogs are banned in Ontario. Although there is a grandfathering provision for existing dogs, the unfortunately-named Rambo is too young to be legal.
As a flea market purchase from a backyard breeder, Rambo hardly qualifies as a purebred Pit Bull (whatever that means), although he may be “substantially similar” with his square jaw and whip tail. Where does that comparison end…? Even Rambo’s veterinarian, Dr. Cetera, has stated that his lineage is questionable.
Rambo, who is thought to be 10 months old, was caught running free on Christmas Day by animal control officers in the pristine suburb of Mississauga. He had escaped via an open back yard gate from Nowakowksa’s home.
Animal control manager Dulio Rose outlined two choices to Nowakowska: sign Rambo over to the City to be put down or go to court on the unlikely chance that she can convince a judge that Rambo is not subject to legislation passed two years ago by Queen’s Park that essentially made it illegal to own new pit bulls. After all, what choice do municipalities, particularly those that observe The Letter of the Law have, given the provincial legislation? Well, other municipalities have managed to show leniency in cases like this. Surely Mississauga can think out of the box and do the same?
“I really do want to fight it,” Nowakowska said. “I don’t want Rambo to die.” But she’s worried about funding an expensive legal action.
Mississauga politicians are asking City staff to explore options that would allow Rambo, a pit bull cross-breed puppy scheduled for euthanasia, to be shipped out of Ontario to a reputable rescue organization.
In separate interviews yesterday, Ward 9 City councillor Pat Saito and Ward 6 councillor Carolyn Parrish strongly criticized the provincial legislation aimed at eliminating new pit bulls from being owned in Ontario and said they’re working with Animal Control staff to see if there are alternatives to killing the young dog.
“We’re going to see if we can get the dog neutered and approve a 24-hour exemption for him to be shipped out of the province,” Parrish said.
It wouldn’t be the first time a dog has been sprung out of an Ontario Dachau. Bandit, a “substantially similar” pup, was sent to Washington state where he is now a K-9 law dog!
Parrish, who owns a bulldog named Lady Charlotte, says this about Rambo: “I’m told he’s really a sweet dog and everyone at animal control plays with him. He’s just a darling.”
“It is perverse to pass a law that bans animals based on the fact they look like a pit bul”, said Parrish. “There has got to be a humane set of rules put in place when the law is an ass,” she added.
“Mr. (Michael) Bryant (who guided the legislation through Queen’s Park) should have to put on gloves and come out here and use the hypodermic,” to put the dog down, Parrish, a former MP, said. (Michael Bryant failed to identify a pit bull from photos of 24 “substantially similar” dogs, choosing a Presa Canario.)
Saito called the pit bull law, “terrible legislation that is poorly written and poorly worded.”
Bans based on breeds do not work, she said. “It should be based on temperament and the threat of the individual dog.”
Nowakowska said she has almost raised the $500 she needs to meet with Toronto lawyer Anik Morrow to fight to have Rambo returned. The lawyer has indicated that Rambo could be “bailed out” until the trial, although that would seem to fly in the face of the legislation, which requires municipalities to seize and hold prohibited dogs.
Nowakowksa said her preferred option is to have Rambo back as a pet. If the courts rule that he is a pit bull and subject to the legislation, only then would she consider having him given to a rescue operation, she said.
She acknowledged that holding the dog in a cage for several months pending a trial would be hard on him.
City Hall and The News have been flooded with e-mails about the issue since it came to public attention. Several animal welfare groups opposed to the pit bull law see the case as a classic example of the flaws of Bill 132 and are renewing their battle against the legislation.
An out-of-province placement would be a deserved reprieve for Rambo, and Mississauga councillors Pat Saito and Carolyn Parrish have been lobbying for that. Although, ideally, Rambo would be returned to Gabriela who seems to have a very big heart.
Here’s the opportunity:
This case challenges the ill-conceived breed-specific legislation brought in by Michael Bryant and the McGuinty government. It’s time to open that up again and repeal this nasty piece of legislation that doesn’t solve any problems whatsoever, and just creates heartbreaking cases like this one. Kudos to councillors Parrish and Saito for raising hell.
Michael Bryant and those who supported Bill 132 have the blood of over 2,000 dogs on their hands since 2005. How many humans have pit bulls or “substantially similar” dogs killed in Ontario since, oh, the beginning of recorded Canadian history? Perhaps a bill could be passed to protect other sentient beings from those who voted for this draconian bill.
Surely the creative minds on Mississauga City Council can figure out some wording with the Animal Services folks, so that this puppy can just be a puppy in a loving home?
See the MPPs’ voting record on this bill here.
See what other bloggers have to say about this case:
Random Access (check the blog for further Rambo-lings)
Check out Banned Aid, the website for a coalition which is opposing Bill 132.
Contact Mississauga municipal government to help spring Rambo for good. They really ought to be paying attention to Councillors Parrish and Saito. The mayor appears to be looking for some help over at Random Access (all this ruckus is costing money!): Rambo and Ronin
If you e-mail, change the (at) to the @ symbol. The (at) is to fool bots looking for e-mail addresses.
Here are the addresses for the City Councillors and the Mayor of Mississauga:
Her Worship Mayor Hazel McCallion: mayor(at)mississauga.ca
Office of the Mayor
City of Mississauga, 300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga, Ontario L5B 3C1
Fax: (905) 896-5879
Councillor Carmen Corbasson: carmen.corbasson(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Patricia Mullin: pat.mullin(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Maja Prentice maja.prentice(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Frank Dale: frank.dale(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Eve Adams: eve.adams(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Carolyn Parrish: carolyn.parrish(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Nando Iannicca: nando.iannicca(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Katie Mahoney: katie.mahoney(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Pat Saito: pat.saito(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor Sue McFadden: sue.mcfadden(at)mississauga.ca
Councillor George Carlson: george.carlson(at)mississauga.ca
City of Mississauga, 300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga, Ontario L5B 3C1
Janice Baker, City Manager – city.manager(at)mississauga.ca