Pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable dogs that have the potential to attack without warning, the Ontario Court of Appeal said Friday in a decision upholding the province's ban on the animals.
The Ontario government enacted the Dog Owners' Liability Act in 2005 to ban the breeding, sale and ownership of pit bulls after several incidents in which the dogs attacked people.
The Appeal Court ruled Friday that the ban on the breed does not violate any constitutional rights, as lawyers had argued.
The law survived a constitutional challenge in March of 2007, though some changes were ordered. Superior Court Justice Thea Herman said a ban on "pit bull terriers" was unconstitutionally vague because it didn't refer to a specific type or breed of dog.
But the Appeal Court disagreed, restoring the law to the form in which it was enacted.
"The total ban on pit bulls is not 'arbitrary' or 'grossly disproportionate' in light of the evidence that pit bulls have a tendency to be unpredictable and that even apparently docile pit bulls may attack without warning or provocation," the judges said in their decision Friday.
"This evidence of unpredictability provided the legislature with a sufficient basis to conclude that the protection of public safety required no less drastic measures than a total ban on pit bulls."
Lawyer Clayton Ruby, who challenged the law, called it a "sad day" in Ontario.
"Kind, loving, gentle dogs are being killed across this province for no reason," he said in a statement.
"The provincial government should focus their efforts and resources on identifying truly dangerous dogs rather than apprehending and killing dogs that pose no threat at all."
Mr. Ruby said he is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Jean-anne Moors of Banned Aid, a coalition fighting the ban, said the group knew it was fighting an uphill battle against the government, but she is still "very disappointed."
"I have three so-called pit bull-type dogs who are all legal under the law," she said, meaning she owned the dogs before the law came into effect and they are muzzled when out in public.
Still, she said, "Everybody's looking at me as if I'm some kind of criminal when I walk down the streets with my dogs. They have no history of aggression."
Ms. Moors said the law sets a troubling precedent because it's not just a pit bull issue.
"If a government ... can make such an arbitrary decision that a dog is a bad and dangerous dog and seize it under certain circumstances and destroy it ... that's a matter of concern to anybody who has a dog - period."
Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley said he was pleased the court upheld the legislation.
"We brought in the legislation because it was important to keep people safe, and our province will do whatever it takes to keep the people of Ontario safe," he said.