Monday Mischief 15: 3 Provincial Parks in 3 Days

I don’t know about you, but when the weather starts to change from summer, I want to be outside way more now than when it’s 30°C (86°F for friends below the border).

And there’s definitely also a noticeable pep added to Moses’ step when the temperature starts to be routinely below 15°C (59°F). So we picked some scenic nearby provincial parks to walk the dogs this weekend.

Here was our itinerary.

Friday: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

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Saturday: Fish Creek Provincial Park

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Alma speaks softly and carries a big stick

Alma speaks softly and carries a big stick

Sunday: Spray Valley Provincial Park

Alma & Moses (and Uriel the Bouvier in the background)

Alma & Moses (and Uriel the Bouvier in the background)

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

IMG_5657

This post is part of the Mischief Monday blog hop – to see what everyone else has been up to, click herehere, or here.

Monday Mischief

Wordless Wednesday 22: Back to the Breakwater

Why yes, I sure am getting a lot of mileage out of the photos from our trip to the west cost.

Alma

Alma

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Alma making friends.

Alma making friends.

Moses was pretty tired, so he sat out the trip to the breakwater in Victoria.

To see the rest of Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Black & White Sunday 12: The Breakwater

This may be the view on top of the breakwater in Victoria, BC:

Alma

Alma

But what’s below the surface?

Lingcod

Lingcod

Can you see the octopus?

Can you see the octopus?

Yep - Giant Pacific Octopus

Yep – Giant Pacific Octopus

Where there's an octopus, there's probably a hungry lingcod

Where there’s an octopus, there’s probably a hungry lingcod

Sunstar

Sunstar

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

And SCUBA divers! (Yours truly, actually)

And SCUBA divers! (Yours truly, actually)

Quite the different ecosystem from the tropical waters of Costa Rica.

It'll be swimming ON the surface for Alma

Alma will stay swimming ON the surface.

Check out everyone else’s photos and the blog hop hosts here and here.

BandW

Wordless Wednesday 21: Field, BC

A little more local than as of late; these photos were taken in Field, BC (about 2 hours from Calgary).

IMG_5243

IMG_5252

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I was just going to post one photo, but I couldn’t decide on a favourite. Which one would you have picked?

To see the rest of Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Big Dog Discrimination

If you go back through the annals of the Soapbox, in my first month of blogging (a few years ago, now) I wrote In Defence of Big Dogs, a wordy rant lamenting sized-based dog discrimination.

Well our recent trip to the west coast reignited some of that fury.

We had the pleasure of our vehicle breaking down during our trip, finding ourselves stranded while it was repaired and in need of a last-minute hotel room for ourselves and the Newfs.

Calls to about 8 different places were required because it’s tough to find a place that’s (a) pet-friendly, (b) no, ACTUALLY pet-friendly, and (c) has pet-friendly rooms available.

As it turns out, “pet-friendly” is a subjective term. A lot of hotels will tout pet-friendliness until you test that notion with Moses, a 180lb Newfoundland. Even a lot of those pet-friendly travel websites and directories require some digging through the fine print.

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No room at the inn? But his name is Moses… not… you know…

The biggest obstacles were the seemingly arbitrary size limits. “Pet friendly up to 50 pounds.” “Pet friendly up to 25 pounds.” I actually called one hotel and the lady on the phone cheerfully advised me that “of course” they were pet friendly… up to 15 pounds.

15 pounds! [Insert spit-take here.]

There are perfectly healthy cats that weigh more than that! I politely told the woman that a 15 pound limit isn’t actually very friendly at all and we’d continue to look elsewhere.

After a while, and half a dozen calls, I started to feel desperate. I actually found myself thinking, I wonder if we could pass Alma off as 80 pounds? And then just sneak Moses in a back exit, in some elaborate and clumsy Three’s Company-style ruse? If anyone asks, it’s just one dog, and their eyes must be playing tricks on them.

But I think we all know I’m not up to that. I once rode transit home without paying for fare – it was the first of the month and I’d forgotten to buy my monthly pass – and while the bad-ass feeling was exhilerating, once I realized what I’d done, I spent the rest of the ride eyeing my fellow passengers, it being clear they could all tell I was a dirty thief. The guilt (more like fear of being caught, but close enough) ate me up.

We ended up at the Marriott, which, while not necessarily the most cost-effective option, was certainly the most accommodating and I would highly recommend them and stay there again. Their pet fee was reasonable, the room was nice, and the staff was friendly and all big fans of Moses and Alma. We actually felt welcome there rather than a burden.

Moses and Alma in the hotel, waiting for the elevator

Moses and Alma at the Marriott, waiting for the elevator

And this is the thing I don’t get: how do smaller dogs seem to always get a pass? And where do we get one?

There are some days I’m tempted to take Moses and Alma though service or therapy dog training just so they can go anywhere, unencumbered.

I mean, I would understand – even welcome – requirements such as “pet friendly for all Canine Good Neighbours.” That way the business is ensured each dog has some basic training and socialization. After all, aren’t property damage and noise disturbances the biggest concerns?

Sure, I guess it makes sense to a certain extent. Smaller dogs have smaller bladders and smaller mouths, so if some sort of accident or destruction is going to happen, it will be lessened with a smaller dog. I get that. But that reasoning seems to assumes all dogs are destruction machines and the hotel is just hedging bets based on size.

And I don’t want this to be misconstrued as hinting that all small breed dogs are little hellians and are somehow getting undeserved privileges, despite my own previous confessions on bias. But it would just make sense to acknowledge that well-behaved dogs and poorly-behaved dogs come in all sizes, because it really comes down to what kind of owner the dog has.

Who knows – maybe some hotels start with an all-encompassing pet-friendly policy, and slowly whittle it down following bad experiences. Or maybe some hotels are easing into it, starting small and expanding the policy as good experiences come. But that’s the problem – anecdotal stories don’t necessarily represent whole populations.

Just because someone has a certain experience doesn't mean it speaks to overall trends or facts.

Just because one person has a certain experience doesn’t mean it speaks to overall trends or facts. [Photo: nestler.com]

But the rules of logic fail many, and those of us travelling with our dogs or taking them out in public – those conscious and conscientious thinkers of us, anyway – are usually hyper aware of this and try to mitigate it. We keep the dogs leashed, we clean up after them, and we keep them under control – because who wants to be the one who ruins it for everyone else?

And because pet owners are improving and evolving as a courteous and educated population, pet-friendly should also grow be just that. Friendly. Welcoming to all.  If you don’t want to allow dogs at all, fine. But once a hotel is willing to open its doors to the 35% of Canadian households that have dogs, size shouldn’t be a randomly-chosen limiting factor.

Sure, there are bad owners who don’t train or socialize or leash their pets (of any size) and who will ruin fun privileges for the rest of us – that will always be the case. But these owners come in all types and so do their dogs. And I like to think they’re part of a shrinking minority.

It’s not objective or accurate to say all dogs of any particular size or breed are particularly well or poorly behaved, so those size restrictions on “pet-friendliness” are mostly ridiculous and irrational, in my opinion.

Besides, Moses and Alma are our travel companions whenever possible, and our money is just as green (and blue, and purple… this is Canada, after all) as everyone else’s.

Moses and Alma at the famed Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.

Moses and Alma at the famed Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.

And ranting about things I don’t like or disagree with is exactly what this Soapbox is for.

Black & White Sunday 11: Victoria

More photos from our trip to Victoria, BC.

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Moses

Moses

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

Alma

Alma

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Alma

Alma

Check out everyone else’s photos and the blog hop hosts here and here.

BandW

Wordless Wednesday 20: Goldstream Provincial Park, BC

This Sunday I shared some pictures from our recent road trip west to Vancouver Island, BC, and our afternoon hike in Goldstream Provincial Park.

And without (m)any further words, here are some more photos from our short hike in the park.

Gotta love those west coast forests.

Gotta love those west coast forests.

Alma and the water fall

Alma and the waterfall

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

Apparently they call this Niagara Falls. Don't get me wrong... it's nice... but...

Apparently they call this Niagara Falls. Don’t get me wrong… it’s nice… but…

Alma

Alma

So patriotic.

So patriotic.

Moses

Moses

Hiking Newfs

Hiking Newfs

Soggy Newfs

Soggy Newfs

To see the rest of Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Monday Mischief 14: Oceanfront Park

As I mentioned yesterday, the Husband and I recently packed up the dogs and headed west to Vancouver Island.

One of many great parts about the vacation was being able to take the dogs to one of the nicest off leash parks – with a couple kilometres of beach in Victoria, BC.

To be honest, there was a lot of fun to be had, but not a lot of mischief! One of the impressive things about the park was how clean it was and how well behaved all the dogs seemed to be each time we went.  Moses and Alma had a blast!

No hesitation from Alma.

No hesitation from Alma.

Moses

Moses

For Alma, it was her first visit to the ocean (Moses’ second).

Moses and Alma

Moses

Moses

A couple of soggy Newfs

A couple of soggy Newfs

Driftwood

Alma

Alma

Moses fetches.

Moses fetches.

Alma along the park pathway

Alma along the park pathway

This post is part of the Mischief Monday blog hop – to see what everyone else has been up to, click herehere, or here.

Monday Mischief

Black & White Sunday 10: Goldstream Provincial Park, BC

Last week the Husband, Moses, Alma and I packed up and roadtripped west to Victoria, BC.

Here are some select shots from an afternoon hike in Goldstream Provincial Park.

Alma

Alma

Alma2

Moses & Alma

Moses & Alma

Moses and Alma 2

Alma

Alma

Check out everyone else’s photos and the blog hop hosts here and here.

BandW

More Facts About BSL & Calgary

An upcoming municipal election and a recent headline have reignited calls this week for pit bull bans in both Calgary and Osoyoos, BC.

In Osoyoos, the local newspaper was kind enough to print a letter to the editor that I wrote them while I was there on vacation and came across an inflamatory, factually incorrect editorial avocating a pit bull ban after an incident there. You can read my reply here, but unfortunately I can’t find the original editorial online.

The most recent Calgary incident is interesting because intervening in a fight between two dogs caused a child to get bit (not seriously – thankfully everyone is okay). The media, both CTV and CBC articles, have made it very clear that the dog that bit the child was a pit bull (“pit bull” is said 5 times in about 150 words in the linked article). The details of what caused the child to be bit – the preceding dog fight – are not discussed, including the breed of the other dog, which dog instigated the fight, or the fact that the owners of both dogs clearly did not have control of their animals. Yes, it was an off-leash space, but control is still required by Calgary by-law.

Update:  660 News has printed this clarification that the child was not bit by the dog at all and injuries were sustained from falling from the carrier. I doubt this clarification will receive the widespread publication the original “pit bull” headlines got – that is, if all news organizations make the correction.

In Calgary, dog bites accounts are rising. That is true. That’s bound to happen as a population increases, but it does seem to have grown disporportionately since 2009.  Still, our city – and our responsible pet ownership model – still boasts the lowest bite-per-population ratio in North America, so we’re doing something right.

This adorable pup is Chewy, currently adoptable through Pit Bulls For Life rescue. See: http://pitbullsforlife.com/adoptables/

This adorable pup is Chewy, currently adoptable through Pit Bulls For Life rescue. See: http://pitbullsforlife.com/category/dogs/for-adoption/

BSL Doesn’t Work And Often Gets Repealed

First, it should be noted that breed-specific legislation (BSL) is widely acknowledged as ineffective. It hasn’t been found to reduce dog bites or attacks and it often doesn’t even address breeds of dogs responsible for the most bites or attacks.

Ontario has a pit bull ban, and while dog bites have decreased in Toronto since 2005 when the ban was introduced, there has actually no decline in dog bites in that province, at the cost of “countless” dogs being destroyed. And it’s important to remember correlation does not equal causation.  After all, dog bites in Calgary also decreased from 2005 to 2008, and there has never been BSL here.

Update: A comment below has drawn my attention to this article showing that Toronto has several different statistics on the issue, others showing no decline in dog attacks, together with stats from other Ontario cities – London and Ottawa – also showing no decline in incidents.

Winnipeg, Manitoba also has a pit bull ban, and a new study “inconclusively” suggests a corrlation.  Dog bites there have also not decreased over time, but the study suggests serious attacks only show a decline when compared to another Manitoba city that does not have BSL.

What could this mean for Calgary? Not much. It should be noted that Winnipeg is a smaller city (660,000 to 1.1 million) with fewer dogs and 44% more dog bites – 289 in 2012 to Calgary’s 201.  The two cities tackle pet issues very differently, including Winnipeg’s BSL and limiting the number of pets in a household.  Yet our statistics remain better.  Calgary’s dog licensing rates are upwards of 90%, while Winnipeg is sitting at 40%. If 35% of Canadian households have a dog, that’s 385,000 dogs in Calgary to Winnipeg’s 231,000 – working out to mean you are still twice as likely to get bit by a dog in Winnipeg than in Calgary.

Despite the cautious suggestion that BSL may have impacted Winnipeg slightly, that remains the exception to the rule; countless other governments have witnessed Ontario-like results (read: none).  The UK has seen dog bite statistics increase by 66% while BSL has been in place.

Not to mention the extreme difficulty and expense in enforcing this sort of legislation, when pit bulls aren’t even a recognized or registered breed (and what about mixed breed dogs?) – it’s hard to ban something that’s not well defined. From a strictly pragmatic stance, the cost of the legislation is not worth the outcome, since the only real outcomes are the mass seizure, impounding, and euthanization of these dogs, and litigation costs of the BSL – all on the tax payer’s dollar.

As fast as governments introduce the legislation, other governments are repealing it. Some examples of places that have repealed their BSL after acknowledging it didn’t work:

  • Edmonton, Alberta in March 2012 (click here for report)
  • The Netherlands in 2008, after 25 years and no results
  • Italy, in 2009, after 6 years and attempting to ban 90 breeds of dog
  • Germany, in 2002
  • Connecticut, USA, June 2013
  • Ohio, USA in 2012
  • Topeka, Kansas, after discovering repealing BSL would save the city money (click here for story)
  • If you want to see a full list of (mostly American) governments that have either declined to enact or repealed breed-specific legislation, this website has compiled an exhaustive list tracking from 2003-2011.

BSL Has No Support From Experts

In addition, there is no professional support for BSL, from lawmakers to dog breeders, rescuers and trainers to veterinarians. The following institutions/authorities have official anti-BSL policies:

Calgary & Canada

US/International

  • The American Bar Association (click here to download PDF statement)
  • The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AMVA) (click here for policy)
  • The American Kennel Club (click here for policies/info)
  • The President of the United States (August 2013)
  • The Humane Society of the United States (click here for policy)
  • The American Humane Association (click here for policy)
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) (click here for policy)
  • The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) (click here for policy)
Did you think this was a pit bull?  It's not.  It's an American Bulldog.

Do you think this is a pit bull? It’s not. It’s an American Bulldog. (Photo: dogbreedinfo.com)

Other Objections

Pro-BSL Position 1: It may not be the breed, but a “certain type of person” is attracted to owning a dangerous dog like a pit bull, and if you can’t ban dog ownership by these people, you should ban dangerous breeds instead to keep them out of the hands of these people.

This is an interesting point, and I don’t disagree – those terrible owners are setting the bad example and getting all of the terrible press. But BSL also punishes the majority of dog owners who aren’t “these types” (and I certainly think there needs to be a firm mechanism in place prohibiting ownership by people proven to abuse/neglect dogs). I know several pit bull owners who are perfectly responsible, took their dogs to training, and have friendly, well-adjusted dogs. The majority are, since there are literally millions of pit bulls in North America, but not millions of attacks. BSL punishes these dogs and owners for the actions of a minority.

If the aim is to stop pit bulls from getting into the hands of these “types”, where does it stop? You ban pit bulls, and anyone who really wants a “bad-ass dog” for protection will just get another breed. Boxers, Mastiffs, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Huskies, St. Bernards, Dogue de Bordeaux, Bull dogs, Labradors, Retrievers, Ridgebacks, Wolfhounds, wolf-hybrids… all of these are large breeds (and therefore have large bites) and any dog with the wrong owner can be dangerous and aggressive. Is the aim to ban any dog over 100 pounds? 50 pounds? It gets ridiculous and out of control quickly.

If you ban one breed because it is perceived to attack people the most, another breed will just take the #1 spot next year, perpetuating the cycle. Breeds with most bites attributed to them change over time, so while pit bulls may be perceived to be the problem now, that will change and any BSL will soon be obsolete while people grow concerned over another breed that’s gained popularity and notoriety.

Banning the dog is not the best solution – or even a marginally good one. The focus must be on these problematic owners, their individual dogs, and enforcing the legislation already in place in Calgary to protect people and dogs.

Did you think this was a pit bull?  It's not.  It's a Boxer. (Photo from: http://fantasticaanimal.blogspot.ca/2013/03/boxer-dog-description.html)

Did you think this was a pit bull? It’s not. It’s a Boxer.
(Photo: http://fantasticaanimal.blogspot.ca/2013/03/boxer-dog-description.html)

Pro-BSL Position 2: Pit bulls are responsible for a disproportionately high number of bites/attacks compared to other dog breeds.

Even with all of the mighty powers of Google, I was unable to find reputable sources for this claim. Or recent sources. Or local sources that would be relevant to Calgary or Alberta or even Canada.

So we have to look to anecdotal US studies for the most part. And, of course, methodological issues about defining pit bull, how mixed-breed dogs are classified, and reporting accuracy and frequency all seriously arise when it comes to looking at dog bite statistics, but I looked anyway.

There is the 2007 “Clifton Study” (click here to download PDF), which finds pit bulls as disproportionately dangerous is often cited to support BSL, but it should be noted that this was self-published, not peer-reviewed, and the author of the study has no credentials in animal behaviour, biology, or research in general.  The data cited itself is unverifiable, so using this non-scientific “study” to prop up BSL is highly suspect and problematic.

Working, herding, and terrier breeds were responsible for 73% of dog bites in Calgary in 2012, and presumably pit bulls are included in the terrier category, but no further local information is available. In 2010, pit bulls were responsible for 13 of 102 dog bites in Calgary – and for several years prior, Labrador Retrievers held the honour of most frequent dog attacks in our city.

Real analysis of the subject by the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AMVA) does not support BSL, and instead shows that pit bull-type dogs are not implicated in controlled studies of dog attacks. The AMVA assessment is a good read, and it discusses relevant facts such as the dog-victim relationship and certain dog breed popularities over time or in certain locations.

And I’ve linked to this Canadian Veterinary Journal study several times that shows not a single dog-related fatality in Canada in a 17 year period (to 2007) is attributable to a pit bull.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US did a 2000 study of its own on this issue looking at fatal attacks over 20 years and also did not identify any specific breed that was most likely to bite or attack (click here to download PDF of study).

So it’s established by reputable experts and organizations that pit bulls are not more likely to bite or attack than any other breed of dog.

What about the part of the claim that says there are fewer pit bulls, so any bites or attacks signifies a higher proportion/likelihood of attack?  Or that it doesn’t matter if other breeds attack more because pit bull attacks are more serious?

Well, first, the proportions claim is hard to determine and verify.  Pit bulls aren’t a registered breed, so you can’t exactly look at CKC registration stats to determine their popularity.  Again, the identification issues arise; dogs like boxers and bulldogs have long been popular, making top 10 most common lists, and are often also mistaken for pit bulls.

It might be worth noting that in articles claiming pit bulls are Public Enemy No. 1 in the US, Rottweilers are often up there in second place, and are often also targeted BSL, but they have been in held firm as a popular US dog breed, coming in at 9th most popular in 2012, challenging the legitimacy of proportionate claims and BSL.

This 2009 Colorado dog bite study says pit bulls were responsible for 8.4% of bites (Labs were 13%, German Shepherds 7.8%, Rottweilers 3.9%), which, together with the 13% in Calgary in 2010, is certainly not the exorbitant majority of bites often quoted by the pro-BSL lobby.

As for populations, the best I could find was estimates that pit bulls make up somewhere between 5 and 10% of the North American dog population (and growing), possibly up to 30-40% if focusing on urban centres, and upwards of 40% of the population of dogs in shelters.

So, if there are 5-10 million pit bull-type dogs in the US, and 61 million dogs total, that’s 8-16% of the US dog population. Looking at this and the Colorado/Calgary bite figures seems pretty proportionate to me, actually.

Did you think this was a pit bull? It's not.  It's a Dogo Argentino. (Photo: puppydogweb.com)

Did you think this was a pit bull? It’s not. It’s a Dogo Argentino. (Photo: puppydogweb.com)

Better Alternatives

BSL is reactionary and not pragmatic. Any dog in the hands of the wrong owner can become aggressive and a public risk, so the emphasis has to be there with public education and laws that look at the actual statistics surrounding dog attacks.

It’s fairly telling that no experts, authorities or associations advocate for BSL, and there are no reliable facts supporting it, but it still gets passed in many places just due to the fear insighted by the media and politicians looking for a false sense of accomplishment.

Like I’ve said, there are more interesting factors at play in dog attacks that should be the focus of solutions. In Calgary, dog attacks are most frequent in the lower-income/notorious neighbourhoods. In Canada, dog attacks mostly involve children. In the US, statistics show unaltered dogs (97%), abusive owners (84%) and guard dogs (78%) as most responsible for dog bites.  Because even if pit bulls account for 13% of dog bites in this city, that’s still 87% (approximately 175 dog attacks) not at all addressed by BSL. What’s the plan for those victims?

Calgary already addresses dog concerns with mandatory leash laws and dogs-at-large and dangerous dog by-laws. Perhaps pro-BSL efforts are better spent lobbying for better enforcement of these existing laws (after all, who’s to say BSL, if passed, wouldn’t also be as poorly enforced?).

Or perhaps working towards educating anyone who interacts with dogs on how to properly do so and recognize proper dog body language (that dogs bite unprovoked and unexpectedly is a myth 99% of the time, but if someone doesn’t know the signals, they won’t see it coming). You know – something that successfully addresses 100% of dog bites, breeds, and owners, not just potentially 13%, while needlessly punishing the majority of pit bulls and their owners. As always, public and owner education is key when it comes to interacting with dogs, allowing your dog to be off-leash or meet others, and basic training, and socialization.

I honestly don’t think Calgary is at a huge risk of legitimately considering a pit bull ban, but there are always those reactionary voices out there who can speak loudly and to the right people.  And with an election coming up in a few weeks, I’d rather hammer my point – and the facts – home just to be safe. Of course, calls for BSL are based out of fear and anger, and fueled by sensationalist headlines, so maybe my hope that anyone would give this post and these facts real consideration is all in vain. But I’ll put the information out there just in case.

Unsurprisingly, our awesome Mayor knows what's up.

Unsurprisingly, our awesome Mayor knows what’s up.

For those truly consumed with this issue, the Canadian Kennel Club offers a straight-forward Canine Good Neighbour certification/evaluation – maybe that’s an interesting starting place for anyone really concerned with lobbying regarding dangerous dogs.

That, and asking for better enforcement of our existing laws. The Calgary Model is famous for the way we handle dangerous dogs and pet by-laws. Personally, I’d love to see folks cracking down on those illegal flexi-leashes.

Do you think this is a pit bull?  Still not.  A Presa Canario. (Photo: pedigreedatabase.com)

Do you think this is a pit bull? Still not. A Presa Canario. (Photo: pedigreedatabase.com)

Is this a lot of focus from someone who doesn’t even own a pit bull?

Maybe. But maybe if the BSL got out of hand or started exclusions by size, then I’d have a problem. World-wide, 75 breeds are targeted by BSL somewhere – and Newfoundlands make that list.

Or maybe I acknowledge I worked in dog training for a few years in this city and got to see just what it takes to create (and help) an aggressive dog – of any breed.

Or maybe I just want to stand up for what makes logical sense for my city. Loud voices with emotional pleas easily get the attention of politicians – someone needs to counter with information and reason.

And does this just seem like a lot of effort for both sides when just 201 people out of 1.1 million (0.0001827%) were bit by dogs (and none fatally) in Calgary last year?  Probably, but everyone has a(t least one) cause and that’s what soapboxes are for.