Note to Mayor John Tory about prong and chain collars

Dear Mayor Tory:

I am writing to express my grave concern and opposition to the city’s recent adoption of a complete ban on chain and prong collars for dogs.

If the intent of recent updates to the dog by-laws is to enhance public safety, you should be advised that this will have the opposite effect. The ban takes away a whole range of tools that have proven to be extremely effective in training and controlling dogs, and will result in more incidents, more injuries to both dogs and humans, more pointless work for city staff, and more dogs being euthanized. In effect, while the city is purporting to encourage owners to maintain control over their dogs, this by-law makes it that much harder to do just that. This is not the way to craft public policy.

Chain and prong collars are used by thousands of professional dog trainers all over the world. They are not cruel, inhumane, or barbaric; they are not about controlling your dog through fear and pain; and they are not comparable to barbed wire around your neck, as a certain councillor would have you believe. (The exemption for Toronto Police dogs should speak volumes in this regard.) They are simply part of a broad spectrum of tools, approaches, and philosophies informing dog training. Not every dog responds the same way to the same approach. Some trainers recommend halti collars. Some prefer harnesses. Some trainers believe in purely positive approaches, and have enjoyed some success that way. Others believe in more balanced approaches that involve positive reinforcement, redirection, and correction when necessary. I have tried a number of different approaches myself and have found merit in all of them, depending on the context. Most owners will, I believe, affirm the importance of having this kind of choice. If, however, you pursue an outright ban on certain approaches for arbitrary or ideological reasons, you are effectively signing death warrants for dogs who do not respond to those approaches that are left. It is difficult to see how this qualifies as “humane.”

The manner in which this ban was enacted is also profoundly disturbing. While the councillor driving it claims to have been acting on expert advice, he was in fact overriding such advice. This arose in the context of a move to prohibit the use of such collars while tethering; while there was broad consensus in support of such a move, staff very specifically declined to recommend a total ban. My conversations with other dog owners and city councillors suggest that the total ban was introduced quietly and late in the process, giving councillors little opportunity to reflect on it or consider the implications. To the extent that it was discussed at all, I gather that the arguments were emotionally based and crafted in such a manner as to make anyone opposing the measure look like a monster. In fact, however, any suggestion that staff were in support of such a ban is deliberately misleading. Once again, this is not the way to craft public policy.

The same councillor’s conduct with regard to both his colleagues and the legislative process, and his resort to emotional arguments that have no basis in reality, are not the only disturbing things about this, however. My understanding is that he does not even own a dog; it is a fair question, then, to ask just how he knows what he’s talking about, or whom he’s listening to. You will note, I trust, that the Canadian Kennel Club has described the ban as misguided, extremely disappointing, and falling short of its intent to target irresponsible owners.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing, I hope: safe, humane, and effective training methods, ensuring our dogs are happy, healthy, and well-behaved in public. Prong collars and chain collars are humane and proven options in this regard. I would appreciate your personal commitment to seeing that council revisits this matter and rescinds this ill-considered ban.

Respectfully,

Sol Chrom