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Remember these two?

One is now living with his owner. The other is living with a foster, still awaiting his neuter, because his two boys haven't come out yet.

This is their reunion. They are unnecessarily cute.

[29] Accordingly, the appeal is allowed and the order of the Justice of the Peace directing the destruction of Ginger under s. 4(8) as mandated by the Act is reinstated.

[30] I recognize this decision will be difficult for Mr. Huggins, and the result perhaps incomprehensible to him. Like pet owners generally, he is undoubtedly very fond of Ginger and sees her as the friendly dog and docile pet his mother portrayed at trial. The legislature has decided, however – as it is entitled to do – that pit bulls are inherently dangerous animals that pose a risk to public safety by their very presence in public places. The language of s. 4(8) is clear and unambiguous about what is to happen when a pit bull contravenes its provisions, and must be given effect.

“R.A. Blair J.A.”
“I agree D. O’Connor A.C.J.O.”
“I agree Janet Simmons J.A.”

- from R. v. Huggins, 2010 ONCA 746

I've been thinking about Ginger to the point of distraction today. I'd only heard about the outcome of the November 4 court decision this morning. The judge has sentenced Ginger to death to put it plainly.

Ginger is a Pit Bull in Toronto who got into a dog fight and was sentenced to be euthanized. Her owner, Phillip Huggins, appealed and got a stay of execution. Now, the Crown has convinced a judge to reinstate the euthanasia order.

There's no point in blaming the other dog in the dogfight, Buddy, since it's impossible to determine which dog started the fight. It's one owner's word against the other's. And even if that determination could be made, so what? Like all animals, dogs sometimes get into fights. Unlike wild animals, however, dogs can only fight through the carelessness or intent of their owners. If a driver gets into an accident, is the person forced to destroy the car? Would that even make sense?

But making arguments in defense of Ginger based on the justification of her actions or even her owner's actions is moot. The courts don't care about right or wrong. They only care about interpreting the law and the judge makes it clear "The legislature has decided, however – as it is entitled to do – that pit bulls are inherently dangerous animals that pose a risk to public safety by their very presence in public places."

Except that Ginger isn't a risk to public safety anymore than a cat who gets into a cat fight is a risk. Anyone who's met her, knows she's obviously in love with people. She may or may not like some other dogs but she did get her canine good citizen certificate which requires her to be exemplary around people and to maintain proper composure around other distractions (including dogs).

None of this matters in the eyes of the law or to the people who support the law. The intent of the law and the intent of those who support the law is to eradicate Pit Bulls in Ontario.

Ginger never had a chance in court.

Killing Ginger only amounts to a cruelty to satisfy the vindictive urges of paranoid bigots who label all Pit Bulls as dangerous - the same type of personality which labels all Muslims as terrorists or all feminists as man-haters. It's an extremist, intolerant and uneducated view which has no place in a modern, civilized culture - which begs the question: just how civilized are we in Ontario?

Apparently, not as civilized, nor as compassionate, as Calgarians who have offered to take Ginger if our courts allow it and if Huggins is okay with it. Still, either through death or exile, Huggins will lose a cherished family member.

And Ginger? I'm sure she will continue to be a good and happy dog, living moment to moment, oblivious to the shadow of the killing monster we call our "justice" system looming over her.

She was found wandering the streets of Montreal with the other dog who lived with her, a Pit Bull. They'd been on the loose several times before and were returned to the owner each time by the pound but this final time was one time too many. This time, the pound decided they had enough of her owner's negligence. They kept her and then put her up for adoption where she eventually ended up in Toronto as part of the rescue program TAS has with Montreal based Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec.

She'd been used for breeding and in fact when she was recently spayed, it was discovered that she was pregnant again (the pups were aborted). Maybe it's just her general demeanor but she seems tired out by all the breeding cycles she's been put through.

She's got a wide stance and thick muscles. Patting her is like patting a tree stump: solid, immovable. She's quiet, calm even when walking through the crowds. She's so laid back, it takes me a while to read her. She's gentle on the fingers when she takes a snack. She spots a couple of Doberman puppies playing in the leaves and I'm not sure how she's going to react then she goes into a play pose and wags her stubby tail.

People who walk by her comment.

"What kind of dog is that?"

"Looks like a bull."


"Stay away from that dog, honey."

"Is your dog friendly? Can we pet your dog?"

"That dog's a Pit Bull."

"You training that dog?"

"Is he from the Superdogs show? Does he do stunts?"

"Looks like a Boxer's head."

"He looks really fit."

"He looks strong."

"He looks mean."

"He's got an underbite. Funny."

"Cane Corso? What a beautiful dog."

For people who don't know dogs from Adam, a dog is a dog is a dog. For people who know dogs, this is, of course, bunk. Sure they've all got some obvious similarities, like they tend to walk on four feet, are inclined to pee on posts, live life to the fullest and in the moment (hence the peeing on posts, I suspect), and are loyal to a fault, but otherwise, it doesn't take much effort or insight to see that each and every dog is about as different as each and every person. Even within similar breeds, there are vast differences in personality. Some dogs are extroverts, some are introverts. Some are comedians, some are drama queens. Some love a good rowdy time, some prefer not to get their hair ruffled. Some like to eat their vegetables, some don't. Some like punk rock, some like classical. The list is endless.

We've been told over and over that we shouldn't anthropomorphize dogs (or any other animals for that matter). I say, we don't anthropomorphize them enough. Obviously, dogs don't communicate the same way humans do, and they don't reason the same way some humans do, but to wholly neglect the fact that each and every dog has a different personality is to turn a blind eye to something wonderful and it closes the door to discovering that wonder. Humans have shared their lives with dogs for ten thousand or more years now so it's no wonder that our partners on this planet are as varied as we are. After all, we made them that way, to reflect that which is best in us.

I photograph the dogs at Toronto Animal Services South for their adoption website. Here are some of the greatest personalities I've had the pleasure to meet.


A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.