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Hope Continues for the 21 Seized Pit Bulls from Tilbury, Ontario

On Thursday, March 10th, my husband and I left our home at 5:30am and drove 3 hours to Chatham, Ontario, to be a part of another peaceful protest in support of the 21 dogs seized by the OSPCA from a suspected dog fighting ring and who now await possible euthanasia. Previously, we had attended 2 protests in Newmarket, outside the OSPCA’s headquarters there, but this was the first time we were taking a road trip for a protest outside a courthouse (you can read more about this case and our previous protests here).

This is a case close to our hearts. Our family has never known pit bulls to be anything but loving and loyal family dogs. Since I first became involved in advocacy for this case, I have had many sleepless nights thinking about these 21 dogs, who have been labelled as “pit bull type dogs” (as they have yet to be confirmed as pit bulls outside the OSPCA), who have been incarcerated in cages for over 6 months now. I am haunted by images of these dogs in isolation, behind bars, living without any loving human contact, no attempted rehabilitation, having already suffered at the hands of humans who forced them to fight.  I shudder to think how these dogs must feel. And I am absolutely sickened by the OSPCA’s opinion that not a single one of them can be rehabilitated. I don’t buy that for a heartbeat.

March 10 D

Peacefully protesting with MPP Rick Nicholls

We gathered outside the Chatham courthouse around 9am, with about 40 other advocates, demanding a second chance for these dogs. We all held our protest signs, marching in front of the courthouse and stopping to chat with local media and Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Rick Nicholls who made the trip from Toronto to show his support in this case against the OSPCA. We had hoped to walk away from the courthouse that day with good news. Our biggest fear was that the OSPCA would be granted their request, to euthanize these dogs, however, they had no such victory. Sadly, the dogs had no victory that day either, as the case was adjourned until Friday, March 18th.

Part of the OSPCA’s argument has been that since the accused in this case still “own” the dogs, they are unable to take any action. This is their repeated response when any agency (and there have been several, both within Ontario and outside of Canada) offers their assistance to rehabilitate these dogs. Why the OSPCA has decided to petition the court to euthanize the dogs as their only course of action is something that no one but the OSCPA understands. At Thursday’s hearing for the OSPCA, lawyers representing four animal rights groups (Bullies in Need, who have formally filed a motion of intervention, Dog Tales, Animal Alliance of Canada and Animal Justice) attended the court with the future intention to intervene. Dog Tales, an animal sanctuary in King City, Ontario, is offering rehabilitation for these dogs and to house them at their sanctuary for as long as they live. Both Dog Tales and Bullies in Need informed the court that they have statements granting them ownership of the dogs from the accused, and this was confirmed by a representative for the lawyer for the accused, however, these statements could not be confirmed to the satisfaction of the court. The lawyer for Bullies in Need pushed hard to get this motion through, however, the chief counsel for the accused was in another court case elsewhere and therefore could not confirm the transfer of ownership of the dogs. Also, the Crown was not interested in hearing these motions and objected to any interventions from any of the animal rights groups. The Judge adjourned the case until March 18th, at which time we are hoping for a decision in favour of any of the proposed interventions.

Since my first peaceful protest in this case, back in early February, this case has built significant momentum in the media, with coverage ranging from small-town news agencies to nation-wide networks, as well as on-line through social media. The signatures on several circulating petitions have increased by the thousands and three MPPs have spoken up in the Legislature at Queen’s Park in support of these dogs. Those discussions, thus far, have just gone in circles and received no true response.

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Photo courtesy of Fran Coughlin

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) laws in Ontario make this a complicated case. Ontario is the only place in Canada where a province-wide ban on “pit bull type dogs” exists, hence the increasingly popular tag-line “Ontario is the Pits”. To me and my family, this has become an embarrassing place to live when it comes to the laws against our animals. In light of the province’s ban, only a pound can take in these dogs. In a statement from the lawyer representing Dog Tales, it was suggested that the sanctuary is applying for pound designation as a means to help these dogs. A representative for Dog Tales told me that they will do “whatever we possibly can to save them”.

There is a tragic story in “Beyond the Myth: A Documentary About Pit Bulls” in which a family’s pit bull is taken away from them and kept locked up by an animal agency while their case goes before the courts. Their dog spends weeks in a cage and every time the family visits, they notice that the dog they once knew is slowly slipping away, becoming increasingly depressed and non-responsive. The family makes the agonizing decision to euthanize their own dog, a beloved family member, in order to save him from any further suffering, as the case is delayed repeatedly. After all of the stories I have heard over my years of advocacy, this one stills stands out and comes to mind often as I work on this case.

We cannot allow these 21 dogs to die as punishment for a life forced upon them by human hands. They are innocent victims and their lives matter. Many advocates like to reference the Michael Vick case when defending the possibility of rehabilitation for these dogs. When I first spoke to a reporter about my feelings on this case, she told me that the OSPCA denies this, stating that all cases are different. I explained to her  that of the 51 pit bulls that were rescued from that unimaginable horror, 48 were fit for rehabilitation and many of those dogs went on to live lives as members of families, some with young children, and four have even been certified as therapy dogs. There have never been any reports of aggression from those dogs who were adopted. I understand that not all rescued and rehabilitated dogs can live with children, and some of them cannot live in a home at all and remain at rescues and sanctuaries for the rest of their lives. But there is absolutely no way that I will believe that if 48 dogs who endured a true hell on earth can be rehabilitated, that these 21 cannot and need to die instead.

At this point, we can only wait and see what transpires in court on Friday, March 18th. To me, the greatest tragedy in this case would be if these dogs were robbed of the opportunity to become loving members of society and/or a family and never given the chance to be a best friend to someone, as only dogs can.

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As we stood waiting to hear what was taking place inside the courthouse, it started to pour with rain. The colourful ink on my protest sign, which read “Victims Should Not Have to Fight for Their Lives”, began to smudge and was soon running down the bristol board. My husband said “your sign is crying”. I believe it was.


Published inAdvocacy for Targeted Dog Breeds (BSL)


  1. Heather Heather

    Again Nicely Done Emily! You’ve captured the thoughts of all of us who stand there with you! These dogs do NOT deserve to die & instead of fighting over who’s allowed to do what & stupid paperwork, we should all be worried about what this is doing to these dogs! OSPCA is suppose to be protecting these dogs with instead they are doing everything they can to kill hem. The government says there’s nothing they can do, yet the misnister saying that, is the one that has to sign the paperwork to help these dogs!

    I hope we save these dogs before the confinement , stress makes things even worse. Let’s hope!

    Thank you again! See you Friday! xo

  2. Liz Liz

    Thank you Emly for this upate on what occurred on March 10th. In Chatham. It is inportent the day is documented and shared. So many advocates like yourself, my sister and I and dozens of others got up in the wee hours of the morning driving for hours to attend. Standing in the rain for hours to be a voice and show their support for the dogs. There are many who could not and will truly appreciate reading this article. You have spoken for so many of us.

  3. cheryl faubert cheryl faubert

    “your sign is crying” how ironic….as many of us are doing for these dogs, and over the incredible abuse of power from the OSPCA.
    Sadly, every day these dogs are kept in cages diminishes their chances of rehabilitation, not because they are from a dog fighting ring or are “pitbull type” dogs, but because no dog can stay caged for a length of time without some negative effect.
    Thankfully, dogs are resilient and unlike humans they forget and love like they were meant to.
    We will win this fight and the OSPCA will be forced to be accountable some day, and BSL will be abolished…I just pray it happens in my lifetime.

  4. Sharon Hull Sharon Hull

    Take heed from the Vick Fighting Dogs Ontario…Almost ALL of those Dogs were given a chance at rehabilitation and THEY HAVE PROVED TO BE LOVING , HEALTHY, HAPPY and AWESOME DOGS. Why can’t we, as a Society, STOP THE MADNESS. Pitties are NOT vicious….The Ontario21 were trained by Ignorant Humans to fight…..They did NOT ask to join in..they were forced and underwent Abuse unlike any you can imagine. All we want is a CHANCE TO SAVE THEM…please Stand Together for these Dogs Ontario (and Everyone) . Why NOT give them to a Group that is So Willing to Give Them a Second Chance..a Chance at Cage Free Living…A Chance to Give a Family Unconditional Love…a Chance to Become a Therapy Dog….a CHANCE AT A NEW LIFE..NO PAIN..NO FIGHTING…JUST A CHANCE AT LIFE.

  5. Fran C Fran C

    Another nightmare for domesticated animals in Ontario. In 2010 Yasir Naqvi, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections Yasir when on record saying the government could do nothing when the OSPCA wanted to put down all 350 animals in its Newmarket facility. Thus former MPP Frank Klees put a bill forward that would give “regulatory and legislative authority” to DO something. The Liberals then voted down oversight and NOW Liberals are giving the same excuse again for not being able to act this time out also? Shame on the OSPCA and double triple shame on the Ontario Liberal Party for constantly letting down Ontarians on issues of animal welfare. While animals don’t vote, those that respect the lives of animals do. Looking forward to 2018 when I can vote the Liberal self-serving individuals OUT OF OFFICE (and there are a number of them).

  6. Joanne Sweers Joanne Sweers

    A great summary and commentary of what is happening in this case and what most of us are feeling. Thanks for putting it out there so we can share it and hopefully draw even more attention to this deplorable situation! We have to keep the momentum going!

  7. Great piece. Thank you for continuing to be the voice for the voiceless #SaveThe21

  8. Aneik Wilson Aneik Wilson

    It always takes me a few goes to read one of your posts because I cry so much reading them.
    This just doesn’t make any sense to me. The OSPCA could have the whole thing taken off their plate. Why are they being so stubborn? Do they actually believe what they are saying? Why are they lying about Vicks dogs? Are they simply concerned about losing face and are digging their heels in because they can’t admit they have made a mistake? Tragically whatever the reason 21 lives are being impacted while people argue over something that doesn’t require argument. What a bloody waste.

  9. Lola Olive Lola Olive

    Emily,your sign depicts thousands of tears of despair,anger,hope and love for these sweet innocent creatures who were and are continuously violated to the core. Physically and emotionally. Tears being shed by passionate pit bull advocates. By animal lovers. By people with common sense. With compassion. With a loving heart.
    We MUST do right by these 21 dogs. To prove to them they matter. They’re loved.

    “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
    Steve Maraboli

  10. Kathy Green Kathy Green

    Emily, you are truly an amazing lady to capture your passion and conviction to save these dogs in this brilliant piece of work. On March 10, 2016 and several other dates of peaceful protests at OSPCA Headquarter in Newmarket, Ont. I was truly honoured to stand beside you and so many others. We share the same objective, and stood united, to be the voice of these 21 victims of such a heinous crime (dog fighting). That objective is to “SAVE THE DOGS” from a fate that the Ontario SPCA, has in store for them….EUTHANASIA. This from an establishment who’s mandate is to prevent animal cruelty within the Province of Ontario. OSPCA’s actions, abuse of authority and waste of millions of our taxpayer dollars is absolutely shameful. I will always be proud to stand beside you at our peaceful rallies for this Important Mission. We must #SAVETHE21.

  11. Lesley Lesley

    I commend all who are advocating for these dogs who have no voice. Bless you all for your support. Emily, you are relentless in your advocacy and I sincerely hope someone out there is listening to reason. Hope hope hope for a solution.

  12. Lidia Tarzynski Lidia Tarzynski

    Why can’t we give these dogs a chance??? I own a rescue pitbull and he is a darling! To deny these dogs the chance to see if they can be at the very least, therapy dogs is beyond ludicrous. What about a loving family member?? We have K9s for Warriors in the US and the dogs are rescues, yes pitbulls too!!, and these dogs have saved numerous soldiers’ lives who suffer from PTSD and/or see suicide as the only way. Shame on you OSPCA if you don’t give the 21 a chance!

  13. karla gunnyon karla gunnyon

    what the hell is wrong with people, these who CHOOSE to ignore and just disregard these animals, who at no fault of their own, have been so badly abused, would we do that to a woman who has been abused, only she ,sometimes, had a choice! what makes it so different between an animal and a person that has been hurt, they to deserve a chance to be loved and healed! who in the hell do these ignorant peopkle think they are to just take the life of an innocent animal that never had a chance! So I geuss in essence, we are telling the world that an addict who has done very wrong, broke the law, maybe hurt their own children, or the abused woman who at times had a choice but stayed, we tell her sorry, ur not capable of rehabilitation? we arent doing this shit to the refugees, no, we take care of them? Im so mad and moreso confused at the ignorance and lack of compassion, may GOD have mercy on those who are no better than the abusers, who just turn and walk away! Shame on yall and i hope every one of yall rots in hell!!!

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