Dogs are victims in a scary war -

Dogs are victims in a scary war

The magnificent Ovcharka


Dogs are victims in a scary warLooking at life from a dog’s point of view can refocus matters great and small. Take the Berlin Wall, which crumbled 20 years ago. Thousands of dogs policed that wall and just like that they were all out of a job—some 7,000 of them, apparently. The guard dog of choice was the Caucasian ovcharka, which coincidentally is a dog I hope to add to my two Hungarian kuvaszok if I am up to it. Some people rescue homeless dogs; I look for native East European breeds who share in an ersatz Jewish identity to this extent: in that part of the world, historically speaking, someone will try and do them in.

The wall fell and West Berliners feared packs of ovcharkas storming into the city. Given the dog’s size (up to 90 kg) and its heritage—tearing the throats out of wolves and escapees alike—I can’t blame them. Just a month earlier, after brutally repressing demonstrations before the October visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to East Berlin and fearing more, the murderous Stasi chief Eric Mielke stated, “I will now . . . show that our authority still has teeth . . . [demonstrators] are cowardly dogs . . . they will run like rabbits as soon as they’ve seen our dogs.”

West Berliners were spared. Most “wall dogs” are said to have been shot, some taken by guards, and a few rescued by Berliners. Though my own heart belongs to the kuvaszok, I can’t think of a more awesome or physically striking dog on this earth than the ovcharka, definitely not a breed for most but a great loss if allowed to become extinct. The Montreal children’s film festival this year showed the Finnish children’s film Myrsky, retitled Stormheart for English-speaking audiences. A Finnish family rescue a puppy for their daughter when the Berlin Wall falls, not realizing it is an ovcharka. The sweet cuddly puppy grows up to be a giant and devoted protector of its young owner. The trailer showing a full-grown ovcharka in all its glory is at

As go the Caucasus so went the ovcharka. Originally shepherds’ dogs, with an ancient history, they were loyal guardians beloved by their owners. As politics changed so did their lifespan. Ovcharkas were first murdered in large numbers by Soviet commissars who feared private ownership, then subjected to a canine population transfer, when Stalin confiscated them for his state kennels in the 1930s. More recently, 100 caged ovcharkas were kept by Georgian warlord Aslan Abashidze to protect his 13-year fiefdom in the Black Sea “republic” of Ajaria before finally, in 2004, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili managed to chase him out. ThunderHawk Caucasians kennel owner Tamara Follett lives blissfully with her seven in Ontario and I recommend her authoritative book Caucasian Ovcharka with its 300 photos if you’re interested in the breed.

My own kuvaszok were a breed also murdered by Soviets when they invaded Hungary in the Second World War. I suppose I can’t blame the Russians: being confronted by a loyal kuvasz protecting his farm territory might be unnerving, and I can’t blame the kuvasz for charging—they were unlikely to have been told of the upcoming regime change. The breed was all but exterminated.

Most flock guardian dogs belong to a group loosely known as Molossers, which include breeds as disparate as ovcharkas, kuvaszok, various pit bull types, mastiffs and Akitas. In December, the film based on the life of the idolized Japanese Akita “Hachiko,” starring Richard Gere, will be released. Hachiko was the companion of a Japanese professor in the 1920s. When the professor died at work, Hachiko, though adopted by the professor’s relatives, returned daily for nine years to the train station, waiting for the professor’s return. After the Second World War, when Akitas had suffered the usual ravages of war, a statue of him was put up at the Tokyo station honouring his devotion.

Every dog owner knows that devotion, rhapsodically referred to as unconditional love. I wallow in it myself, though I can’t help noticing that the depth of affection in my dogs’ eyes is immeasurably deeper when I have food in my hand. Dogs need food and shelter from us; we humans want their hearts. Hachiko’s tale tells us more about the culture of Japan than that of the dog. In that structured pre-war society, people often led solitary lives mirrored by their dogs. Hachiko reflected this in his “one man-one dog” behaviour. Admirable though this trait is, it makes the Akita more difficult to socialize.

Here in Canada and America, dogs are victims in a different sort of war, that of statism versus individual liberty. Under various acts and bylaws, our local and provincial authorities have the power to confiscate, ban, “put down” or mutilate dogs arbitrarily, often without regard to individual behaviour. Entire breeds like the Staffordshire terrier have been banned or forcibly castrated according to local bylaws as if they were some lethal virus. Let some authority decide a dog looks “like a pit bull,” and off they go in the name of public safety under draconian legislation such as Bill 132—produced by Ontario’s former attorney general, Michael Bryant, that sterling symbol of public safety himself. The dreaded animal control officer can turn up unannounced on a doorstep after a neighbour’s complaint about barking (which becomes “menacing behaviour” and subject to penalties including confiscation of the dog), or a patrol officer’s view that a Labrador is really a pit bull.

Dogs have become a tool in controlling our lifestyle. Every dog large or small (except the basenjii) barks. Every dog can potentially nip or bite. Future restrictions on all breeds will inevitably evolve. Statism metastasizes. So please God, help man’s best friend. Man and governments won’t.


Dogs are victims in a scary war

  1. Every dog barks. Every dog bites. But some dogs are genetically predisposed to savagely attacking humans. It's not the dogs' fault, but the humans. However, like everything else, we are why we can't have nice things. We can't trust people to be responsible, because too many five year olds have been horribly mutilated or killed by pit bulls.

    • BULL crap. Another member of the huh? You people must be beside yourself that your "Dog Warden of The Year" Tom Skelton just got his butt booted out of office huh? ONLY YOU PEOPLE would have elected that guy to anything but picking up doggie poo poo.

    • Andrew, you've been swallowing politicians' and mainstream media propaganda whole and are terribly uninformed, or you have your own hidden agenda.
      Not every dog bites, your statement is incorrect. The correct statement is that any dog can bite, and the responsibility for that lies with the HUMAN owner.
      First, define a "pit bull" for me. Let's hear it. Differentiate among a "pit bull", a Labrador retriever, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a boxer, a mastiff.
      Next, dogs are not genetically predisposed to attacking humans. If that were the case, only one breed line would be required for police K9s which are routinely required to attack humans.
      More children are killed by their parents than by dogs. Chew on that one.

      *looks heavenward* Where do these "duh-brains" come from?

  2. Hey Andrew.

    Did you know that a "pit bull" type dog has NEVER killed a child in Canada, ever, and has only killed one person in the past 24 years? 31 people have been killed by dogs in Canada in the last 24 years (an incredibly low number of about 1.4 per year). 28 of those victims were 12 years old or younger. Of the 30 incidents (31 victims), 21 occurred at the family home, a relative's home, or a neighbour's home. Of the remaining 9 incidents that involved dogs running loose, 8 of those incidents involved stray (not owned) dogs. In all cases except 1 involving children, either the child was not being supervised by an adult or the interaction between the child and the dog(s) was not being supervised by an adult.

    How logical and fair it would be to simply educate the public on child/dog interactions and on proper supervision of young children? Instead, you, like so many people and governments throughout history, take the "genocidal" point of view: "kill them all, let God sort them out".

  3. Their is a litter of Caucasian Ovcharka in desparate need of homes in NJ Now. Please email me I will try to post the link here if it allows me so. I breed Central Asian Shepherds.
    The Word Ovcharka is used for every shepherd dog or sheepdog in Russia be it Old English or German sheperd. The Name in front of it gives the specific breed ex Caucasian Ovcharka or South Russian Ovcharka 2 different breeds. Will try link Jeannine De Palma Nice commentary. We had several Pit buls dumped at my door when the banned took affect in Ontario we are on the niagara NY side with a different breed but do care about BSL.

    • I see you live in the United States and I am in Canada. I am interested in getting a Caucasian Ovcharka puppy (or grown dog). I was wondering if you know of any reputable breeders of Caucasian Ovcharkas in Canada…more specifically Saskatchewan?


  4. Tara Miller 214-668-6163.
    Need good, responsible homes for Livestock Guardian pupsrescue
    Hi folks, I know we have discussed Livestock Guardian dogs here and I always have to bring up my beloved "Beowulf" The rescue has asked me to try to help, the puppies are 6 weeks old now (all females) and only 2 are placed. (They'd like to get them all in good homes in the 8-10 week range for proper family bonding) So there are 3 female Ovcharka puppies in need of GOOD homes. If you have ever considered getting a Livestock guardian breed, please consider one of these precious babies ! They are NOT for everyone, and you should have some experience handling dogs, but with good upbringing they are WONDERFUL dogs and will be able to protect you and your family and farm from predators as large as wolves and bear etc.

  5. Support Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo
    She has introduced a Private Member`s Bill to amend the Dog Owner`s Liability Act and the Animals for Research Act which will remove the Breed Specific Aspects…

    Send your letters of support to her here

    It doesn`t matter where you live,
    And Tourists boycott Ontario,Canada until their Liberal Gov`t stops slaughtering innocent puppies and accords the same rights to their dog owners as they are according to their former Attorney General who killed a cyclist this year…..the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    Let their Provincial Premier know how you feel.Urge him to support MsDiNovo`s Bill 222

    • Testimony by Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

      "…An argument is sometimes made that, while all dogs bite, only a few breeds cause serious injury when they attack. Again, this hypothesis does not withstand scrutiny. A study by the Canadian hospitals injury reporting and prevention program examined the dog breeds involved in attacks that were serious enough that the victim sought medical attention at one of eight reporting hospitals. The study revealed that 50 different types of purebreds and 33 types of crossbreeds had been involved in the attacks,

      *** the most common breeds being German shepherds, cocker spaniels, Rottweilers and golden retrievers.

      What about the most serious of attacks, those resulting in the death of a person attacked? Since 1983, there have been 23 reported human fatalities in Canada due to dog attacks. A total of 55 dogs were involved in these attacks, and only one of these dogs, an American Staffordshire terrier, would be banned under the proposed legislation….

      To summarize, there is no scientific data on which to base the conclusion that a breed-based ban is the answer to dealing effectively with the dangerous dog issue. Although such bans might comfort individuals who have had unpleasant experiences with particular breeds or who have heard of attacks by specific dog breeds in the media, the bans do not act to effectively regulate the behaviour of any breed or of dogs and their owners collectively…."

      Canadian Canine Fatalities at this link

    • I live in Illinois, USA. I am boycotting Ontario. If Ontario does want my dogs, it does not want me or my money either.

  6. It has nothing to do with ‘slaughtering puppies’. People are not allowed to own pit bulls because people can’t be trusted with them. They are not the only breed that has attacked humans, but they have the strength and tenacity to do serious harm, that a dalmation or jack russel does not.

    It’s the same reason why we restrict handguns. They are not inherently dangerous if used by properly trained, educated and responsible adults. In careless or malevolent hands, both guns and dogs can be turned into weapons. It’s the fault of the owner, but the firearm/dog is what ends up restricted.

  7. Number of people killed by pitbulls in Ontario … zero. Number of people killed by the Attorney General that banned them…1. Who is the real unpredictable ticking time bomb?

  8. How many have sustained serious injury due to pitbulls? You’re making the mistake people do in wartime: assuming the only casualties are those that die. Losing limbs, eyesight, hearing, etc. are not counted.

    • There have been many more maulings committed by dogs other than "pit bulls" than by "pit bulls", at the time of the ban the only real bite statistics came from the individual cities public health organizations, In Toronto the top of the list of serious bites reported were done by German Shepherd dogs, in Ottawa, Black Labs.. The Ontario Government REFUSED the proposed amendment to keep a bite registry, why would they be afraid to do that?

      • Of course they could not have created a dog bite registry, then we would know that breed specific does not work. This way, they can say their lies re the ban working.
        Let us hope that this stupidity will end and that all dogs will be assessed as individual, and not banned because they have a look. Right now any dog in this province who is short haired, fairly muscular with a short muzzle is a target of this liberal government headed by Mr. McGuinty. I cannot wait until 2011 when we can get rid all of these dog haters.
        One of the breeds in this ban, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, has long been considered one of the best dogs with children, and the University of SouthHampton listed the staffie bull in its top ten of all breeds with children, but in Ontario, sorry, banned. There have been no incidents of a staffie biting anyone in Canada, let alone a child, but in Ontario, but a muzzle on that dog, its a banned breed. Crazy.

    • And are you saying that people injured by "pit bulls" are more deserving of sympathy than those attacked by dogs of other breeds?
      Do you have no sympathy for people injured by dogs of other breeds?

      Don't haul out the pounds of pressure argument, it has been proven false.

  9. How many die or get injurd due to drivers texting? So please with the Pit bull crap. Are we going to stop tels from texting? No we are going to put people in jail that are careless with anything in their life.
    Same applies for owning a dog or a horse or a car.
    You at least have a better chance with a dog making a better decesions on not hurting someone than a car drive by a careless humabn. Humans are the careless ones that cause more injurires do to lack of common sense or drinking, or drugs or just plain evil.
    No dog is EVIL, NO dog is drunk or drugged and they are mans best friend for a reason they have heart. Not much more I can say for the humans posting thou.

  10. The dog that bites people the most in Canada is the Golden Retriever, pitbulls are 5th from the BOTTOM of the list. The 2 cases of dog attacks that the A.G used over and over to base his case for the ban both turned out later to have no pitbull in them whatsoever. The government knew that the ban would be appealled as wherever BSL is intoduced it is met with an appeal, this is exactly how they steal our money. The government lawyers have made their millions by going to court and insulting a breed of dog they know nothing about while thousands of dogs have paid with their lives due to nothing but their physical appearance. How dare the liberals try to wipe such a magnificent breed of dog as The American Pitbull Terrier due to greed, fear, ignorance and votes from idiots.

  11. As a average professional working mother with children and grandchildren I have now had "pit bull type" dogs in my family for over 20 years. The Canadian Pet Trainer's Association picked them as one of the TOP TEN dogs to have with children IF raised in a caring family environment. I quote them here, "if raised in a family environment these dogs can be virtually BOMB PROOF with kids". I CAN testify to that!

    Ontario is SLAUGHTERING Puppies and as there is no such breed as a pit bull, ANY short haired puppy, whose heritage is unknown iis getting caught up in this thanks to the "substantually similar" clause. Two people that I know have had their boxer mixes identified as "pit bull type" dogs and animal control has come to their door demanding the puppies.

  12. There are 32 different breeds of dogs that are commonly mistaken for pit bulls. If one adds the MIXES of these dogs BSL IS canine genocide. REVERSE ONUS means YOU have to PROVE to the government what the dog is and for many people with mixed mutts this is impossible. ALL kinds of dogs are getting caught up in this nightmare. It's time people's EYES were opened to what is really going on.

  13. Andrew, your ignorance is showing. Did you know that it was a pit bull named Sgt. Stubby that was decorated by two US presidents in WW2. The pit bull was the mascot for the army for WW1 and WW2. They assisted with bringing food and water to soldiers in the front and locating the wounded. Our canine friends as well assisted the firefighters in locateing persons buried in the rubble during the bombing blitz in London England. They were named the NANNY DOG, for thier excellent disposition with children. It was only when MAN for monatary reasons, started abusing them by fighting them for profit, that has brought about a recent bad image. NOT exactly thier fault. Breed bans, don't' create responsible dog owners. We need laws that enforce sensible laws, punish irresponsible owners and dog fighters and abusers. Bill Bruce in Alberta has proved that with his successful program that does not buy into banned breeds.

  14. Discussion on this or any issue should be based on facts, not perceptions. Andrew, yours is unfortunately a perception that is not backed up with any facts. "Everybody knows that ……." is not a valid argument. Your perception is based on a lot of myths spread by people who, just like you, talk about things they don't know a thing about – the fact that you think they were bred to attack people is just one demonstration of your lack of knowledge. The fact is that any dog owned by an irresponsible owner can kill or maim. "Pit bulls" are not a breed at all. The dogs so commonly referred to as such are just dogs with the same basic physical traits as many other dogs. They are not any more or less capable of causing damage than any other dog. I've been working with dogs professionally for 15 years, and the stories I could tell you that haven't ended up in the news because the dog was a Golden or a Collie (yes, a Lassie dog very nearly caused a fatality in my business, the victim was very, very lucky).

  15. Angela you took the words from my keyboard and I have little to add on the "pit bull" myth front. The article is thought provoking and I hope makes the point that Bill 132 is only very nominally about "pit bulls". The government thought they could look proactive and concerned by passing a draconian law they figured no one would care about. After all, in Canada, even if you include similar-looking mixes, there are very few dogs that would be considered one of the banned breeds. In reality, in Canada serious dog attacks are so incredibly rare it is a non-issue.
    The real problem with this law is, as Amiel pointed out, is the push for "statism". After Bill 132 McGuinty became well-known as Ontario's "dad" figure banning everything from sushi to cell phones. Bill 132 leaves the door WIDE open for gov't abuse with its reverse onus (you are guilty if accused unless you can prove yourself NOT the owner of a pit) and its sweeping powers for Animal Control officers and the police over our private property. Want proof? The experts consulted in the hearings were over 90% against BSL. The only 3 people for it included two ordinary citizens that had run-ins with loose dogs and a dog walker. Every real expert (behaviourists, trainers, vets, SPCA officers, etc) was against it. The Libs did not care. I don't own a pit bull type dog but this law gives me chills. It seems the Libs are willing to trample all over the law-abiding in order to gain more powers for the state and to make points in the media. And we voted them back in. Shame on us.

  16. Great article! Thank-you Barbara! I'll never forget the first time I saw an Ovcharka, at the World Dog Show in Vienna, magnificent !

    We need more great articles like this, not whipped up media hysteria based on fiction not facts, feeding off of peoples viseral fear of dog attacks.

    Cathy Prothro

  17. Thanks so much for bringing forward what plagues us all with pitbulls.My bailey is the sweetest most well mannered dog and best friend so she has changed many people on what a pitbull is.Due especially from medias trash has caused people to scare and have misconceptions about this loyal breed.So thanks for writing something true and positive as there is never enough.

  18. Thank You Barbara it is long over due that dogs get a bit of positive press. All over the world many of mans best friends are abused , neglected and now legislated to undeservedly suffer or be killed. Many times because of myths and media hype.
    In the case of Bill132 it was introduced by a man now charged with criminal negligence causing death of a cyclist. Public Safety indeed.
    Yes God save our dogs of all breeds because they have few political friends anywhere in the world at this time in our history..

  19. Excellent article, Ms. Amiel, and reflective of the sad treatment of animals worldwide. Your sentence, "Dogs have become a tool in controlling our lifestyle." rang so true with me. I spoke to a woman a couple of weeks ago who is frightened to travel with her Boston terrier within Ontario, in case some rabid animal control officer seizes her dog. Other law-abiding people have moved out of Ontario to keep their dogs safe. Others have had their dogs' leashes grabbed from their hands when they were out for a simple walk. Had the dogs done anything wrong? No. They just look politically incorrect.

    Bans do not affect irresponsible owners. Irresponsible owners just change breeds, and their dogs continue to be allowed or trained to bite. Bans only affect law-abiding people. Now, how effective was Prohibition?

    It is a sad day when a government legislates law-abiding people into second-class citizenship and kills animals based solely on appearance, all for political gain. Even the Ontario Liberal Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne, must think it's acceptable to discriminate based on appearance, since she supports the Fibs' BS-L. Liberal MPP Laurel Broten owns a category (e) "pit bull", and I cannot see an exemption for purebred dogs that meet the description of "pit bull", but she does not muzzle and leash her dog.

    The Ontario Liberals' breed-specific law is unfounded, unjust, inhumane, shoddy, vague and fiscally irresponsible. It kills dogs because of look, not behaviour, and breaks peoples' hearts. It subverts the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    If all the mouth-breathing "kill da 'pit bull' types could get their one brain cell to function, they'd start to understand the great wrong of this law.

  20. Never thought I'd see the day when I'd be agreeing with Barbara Amiel. This column was too true.

  21. Great article and the comment by Steve Barker impressed me a lot and it also looks very informative.

    Did you know that a "pit bull" type dog has NEVER killed a child in Canada, ever, and has only killed one person in the past 24 years? 31 people have been killed by dogs in Canada in the last 24 years (an incredibly low number of about 1.4 per year). 28 of those victims were 12 years old or younger. Of the 30 incidents (31 victims), 21 occurred at the family home, a relative's home, or a neighbour's home. Of the remaining 9 incidents that involved dogs running loose, 8 of those incidents involved stray (not owned) dogs. In all cases except 1 involving children, either the child was not being supervised by an adult or the interaction between the child and the dog(s) was not being supervised by an adult.

    How logical and fair it would be to simply educate the public on child/dog interactions and on proper supervision of young children? Instead, you, like so many people and governments throughout history, take the "genocidal" point of view: "kill them all, let God sort them out".

  22. Although this is a wonderfully written article, it does have a huge sense of sadness and to my liking misuse of a powerful dog. The shooting of these animals is sickening as is the training that must have occurred in order for the mass of these huge dogs to kill and maim entire populations. Wow! Our history is tainted and any wonder there is such a lack of trust in our world today!

  23. Dogs have become a tool in controlling our lifestyle. – Very much agree withe the point you had given.

  24. I think that every creature has a right to defend itself when it thinks it is being attacked. So the humans need to communicate with other creatures better rather than killing any creature that tries to protect it's food, it's young or itself
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