Keep Shire With Her Family

  • by: Gail Gallant
  • recipient: David Morgan, Mayor, Council of Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada

Please read the letter and newspaper article about Shire. Breed Specfic Laws condemn innocent dogs and their families. The hard times this dog has gone through all the while helping humans. It's time humans helped her.  It's time for all to stop the stupidity and madness. It's time the politicians stop jumping on innocent animals and innocent responsible owners and go after the bad ones. If a politician can't or won't talk to the people, then he shouldn't be in office. These people represent ALL not just "their voters". Time they made laws that is right for EVERYONE. To put fear in a family because they were given the wrong information is HIS offices fault, not this family or SHIRE. If this office can't tell the truth then get out. It's time people took a stand and take back OUR  rights as the GOVERNMENT. After all they are suppose to speak for us not dictate to us.

After speaking with this family, I also know that SHIRE has gone through more then the surgeries stated in this article.
May 3, 2006

Honourable Mayor David Morgan

Deputy Mayor Joyce Trafford


Susan Bushby

Paul Roy

Nancy Whyte McCauley

Clerk Treasurer Dierdre McLatchy

Honourable Mayor and Council Members,

On April 4, 2006, the Dog Legislation Council of Canada (“DLCC”) was notified by the deWeerd family of Florenceville, New Brunswick that they had been served with a warrant of seizure for non-compliance with the Animal Control by-laws of the Town of Florenceville. The family was given only one option: to release their dog Shire for euthanasia.
The Dog Legislation Council of Canada is a Canada-wide not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible dog ownership, assisting provincial and municipal governments to develop effective licensing and enforcement legislation, and educating the public regarding dog bite prevention. The DLCC does not support any legislation that targets a breed instead of the real problem – the irresponsible owner.
The DLCC has been advised that since 2003, Florenceville, New Brunswick has banned two "groups" of dogs, the "pit bull" and the "Rotweiller"(sic).

The DLCC has reviewed your town’s municipal bylaws and prepared a written consultation on behalf of the deWeerd family, which has been submitted to their legal counsel.
It was through no fault of the deWeerd family that they found themselves in violation of your current animal control bylaws. There was no attempt on their part to deceive your community by falsifying their dog’s breed.

Ms. Deirdre McLatchy, in her role as the town clerk failed in her duties to inform this family of the existing by-laws. This official has stated for the record that she was unaware of an existing bylaw prohibiting any breed(s) of dogs. Had the deWeerd family been informed of the existing by laws, the deWeerds would not have moved into your community, nor would they have purchased a home that they have now been forced to put back on the market for sale.
This same town clerk provided false and misleading evidence in a statement to the local real estate agent who enquired on behalf of the deWeerds about any dog breed restrictions or bans prior to the purchase of their home. The deWeerd family acted on good faith that the information they received from the town clerk via the real estate agent was accurate.

Case History
On the afternoon of April 3, 2006, the Florenceville animal control officer came to the deWeerds' door to notify the deWeerd family of the by-law, and stated that a letter had been sent to them 10 days previously (which they had not received), when they had moved into their new home only three days before.
The deWeerds were offered the opportunity to attend a village council meeting on April 11th to make a case for letting their dog stay. Despite the fact that they presented several letters from Shire's previous veterinarians, trainers and other concerned friends who attested to her excellent behaviour and her use as a therapy dog to interact with children and adults with autism and Down’s syndrome, your council voted unanimously against letting Shire stay.

It is my understanding that during the town meeting on April 11, 2006, Mayor Morgan acknowledged the town's error and publicly verified that the information stated by Mr. deWeerd regarding the licensing of a prohibited breed was accurate.

On April 24th 2006, the animal control officer reappeared on their doorstep with a seizure order for Shire. At this time, this family was informed that the dog had ten days to be removed from the community; otherwise, Shire would be euthanized. The deWeerd family refused to accept the notice, in accordance with their lawyer’s advice.

After failing in the first official attempt to remove Shire from her home, the ACO revisited the home of the deWeerds on April 25, 2006, accompanied by an official of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment.

The deWeerds were served with a writ for Shire to be removed from the home and euthanized.
The DLCC has made recommendations to the deWeerd family, should mediation between the Town of Florenceville and the deWeerds’ legal counsel fail to avert a court challenge. It is important that the dog-owning public in Canada and abroad be informed of your breed biased by-laws. Typically, responsible dog owners eschew communities that use breed specific legislation to deal with what is solely an issue of irresponsible dog ownership.

The media has already released news of the deWeerds’ treatment by your community. The DLCC has been approached to lead a boycott against your community and McCain's, which to our knowledge is your community’s largest employer.


Below you will find a brief summary of the DLCC’s position regarding breed specific legislation.

As an organization comprised of dog owners, professional breeders and trainers, veterinarians and members of the general public, the DLCC does not support the banning or restriction of specific breeds of dogs. There are a number of reasons why we do not support this approach. I will summarize them briefly here:

1. Breed identification is virtually impossible, especially identification of the "pit bull" type dog because it is NOT a breed, but rather a catch-all term for a dog of crossed or mixed breed heritage, often an unknown combination of breeds. Even DNA testing has not been proven capable of identifying a dog's breed. Visual identification is at best subjective, and has been proven time and time again to be inaccurate. There are web sites on the Internet dedicated to the "pick the pit bull" game, where photographs of various breeds of dogs are displayed and the viewer attempts to pick the "pit bull". Even seasoned dog professionals have had serious difficulty with these games, so you can imagine the difficulty that your average Animal Control or Law Enforcement officer will have and, even more so, the average victim of a dog bite who often is the sole identifier of the breed, since the dog is not available for scrutiny.

2. Many communities in the United States and countries such as Britain and Germany have found themselves mired in lawsuits challenging breed identification. Lawsuits have also been launched challenging statements such as "pit bulls are prone to aggression", "pit bulls bite harder than other dogs", and "pit bulls are born dangerous". Not only have many of these lawsuits been successful, but also the court costs to the communities involved have been astronomical. Hundreds of communities in the United States have repealed or rejected breed-specific legislation, based on cost figures alone. Many US states have made breed bans illegal on constitutional grounds. Britain and Germany have backed off from their original, incredibly strict breed-specific bans and are now allowing these dogs to be bred again.

3. Communities that have implemented breed-specific legislation have discovered that bite incidents in their communities did NOT go down. Rather, those irresponsible owners who may previously have been attracted to the muscular "pit bull" type dog because of its "tough" image and who tended to be the people that produced the badly bred, badly socialized, poorly trained animals that seemed to be causing the problem simply moved to another breed that was not banned, and the dog bites moved along with them. Again, many of the communities in the United States have recognized the "slippery slope" of banning one breed, then another, then another, and have now implemented non-breed-specific laws instead. Unfortunately, there are still countries like Italy who have chosen to go down that slippery slope and now have banned or restricted 93 different breeds, including the Corgi (the Queen's ankle-high herding dogs), the rough Collie (Lassie), and the Newfoundland dog.
4. Statistics initially used to support breed-specific legislation are extremely suspect, primarily for the reasons mentioned above. Given that identification of a breed is difficult, often impossible, statistics reporting bites by breed must be considered at best unreliable and probably just wrong

5. In addition to being arbitrary, inaccurate, expensive, and virtually unenforceable, breed-specific legislation does something else that is even more insidious. It lulls the public into believing that they will now be safe from serious dog bites. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Canada, there are approximately 480,000 dog bites per year. Of these, approximately 80,000 bites will require an emergency room visit with some sort of medical intervention. These could be considered serious bites. Since there is absolutely no reliable data indicating how many of these bites were inflicted by "pit bull" type dogs and since unscrupulous or irresponsible owners will just move to a different breed, there is absolutely NO concrete evidence that legislators will be able to reduce this number. In fact, by looking at communities and countries that have already tried breed specific legislation, we can see that the number does NOT reduce and, in some cases, actually goes up.

6. In the last thirty years, approximately thirty people have died from dog bites in Canada. These deaths are tragedies, and it is the deepest desire of every one of our members to ensure that the thirty-first death never happens. Over a dozen breeds have been responsible for deaths in Canada

7. For politicians, breed-specific legislation is an answer that will immediately satisfy the demands of an enraged and fearful public, but for the DLCC, an organization that dedicates itself to reducing the number of dog bites in this country, breed specific legislation is an approach based purely on emotion which has been proven to have no permanent effect on the number of bites in a municipality, a province or this country.

The DLCC supports the implementation and enforcement of zero-tolerance dog licensing, zero-tolerance leash laws, and heavy fines for non-compliance.

The DLCC supports financial and, in some cases, criminal repercussions for those owners whose dogs, when not in compliance with existing laws and without very real provocation, cause injury to a human being or to another animal.

The DLCC believes in significant repercussions, both financial and criminal, to dog owners who, in the opinion of a judge, could reasonably foresee the occurrence of an injury based on the previous behaviour of the dog or based on previous multiple infractions of existing laws. We also believe that people who have consistently and repeatedly proven themselves to be irresponsible dog owners should not be allowed to own a dog.

We suggest that, as soon as possible, the province and its communities implement the thirty-five recommendations from the coroner’s inquest into the death of eight-year-old Courtney Trempe of Stouffville, Ontario. We would be happy to provide you with a copy of these recommendations. We believe that only one has been implemented in the province to-date.

We suggest that, as soon as possible, the province and its communities implement the recommendations from the coroner’s inquest into the death of four-year-old James Waddell of New Brunswick.

We would be happy to provide you with a copy of these recommendations.

We suggest that, as soon as possible, the province and its communities implement the recommendations from the "Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention" report by the American Veterinary Medical Association's Task Force on Canine Aggression. We would be happy to provide you with a copy of these recommendations.

You also may not be aware that breed-specific legislation has been rejected by every major dog organization in North America. Each and every one of these organizations, most of which have boards and memberships filled with people whose lives have been dedicated to understanding dog behaviour, have publicly stated that they do NOT support breed-specific legislation and that they do NOT believe that it works.

Some of these organizations are:

· The Canadian Kennel Club;

· The Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers;

· The Dog Legislation Council of Canada;

· The Canada Safety Council;

· The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association;

· The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies;

· The National Companion Animal Coalition;

· The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;

· The Pet Industry Advisory Council;

· The American Kennel Club;

· The Center for Disease Control; and,

· The American Veterinary Medical Association

It is the hope of the deWeerd family and the members of the DLCC that your council reconsiders its stand both on the use of breed specific legislation and in regards to allowing Shire to remain in Florenceville with her family.

We respectfully ask that your town work with responsible dog owners and not against them.

LeeAnn O'Reilly RN,PBMH
Pres. Dog Legislation Council of Canada

Used with the permission of LeeAnn O'Reilly

For updates on this story visit

Sirs and Madams,

I cannot be here this evening due to another family commitment out of the province.
However it distresses me greatly that I cannot be in attendance personally,and did
request a hearing at the next town meeting in order to be better prepared. I wanted
you to meet us as a family. We are quiet law abiding citizens with an adorable one
year old daughter.
I could start this letter by stating our attachment for our family member SHIRE,
but I don't think that is the information that will serve us best at this time. So I
instead would like to state by explaining our family situation, then talk alittle
about Shire's breed.
We moved here from Ontario with much planning. Shire has been working with
me during her life span in the field of pet therapy. I have experience working with
a multitude of special needs children ranging from Autism to Rage Disorsers and
duel diagnosis adults as a Case Manager. However,my field of expertise is Autism
and more specifically Intensive Behavioral Intervention. My understanding is that
is someone currently flown in from B.C. in order to consult in this field. I can only
work part time due to health issues and am currently at home with my toddler,
however, I still consider myself to be a potentially valuable contributor to this
My husband had thoroughly researched the restrictions RE: keeping Rottweilers
in each town that we considered moving to,in addition to having our realtor do so.
We have spent approximately $15,000 dollars on surgeries alone for Shire in the
past three years for various reasons. I can obtain copies or proof of payments if
requested. She is a fantastic with children and as a therapy dog, she is a family
member and after all her suffering, she deserves the right for a few years of
quality life. My husband and I moved here in good faith and after making all
of the pertinent enquiries, purchased and renovated our house.
My husband would never have knowingly placed our family in this current
situation. Our daughter is one year old and if we are forced to leave here, he will
be jobless and we will have no home. Euthanizing or removing our dog is not an
option, and John researched thoroughly with regard to our move. We knew the
stakes would be to high if we didn't.
Rottweilers have a bad reputation. Two hundred years ago they were used to
guard masters purses and were used to escort children home from school. They
have become much maligned and mistreated. As a breed they are the most loyal
gentle animals. Other dogs are far more likely to bite but Rottweilers are not
percieved as being soft and cuddly. As a breed, have been owned by some
irresponsible, abusive owners.
In addition, Rottweilers don't just "turn". Any abused animal may strike out if it's
owner has physically mistreated it at some stage, as people have also been known
to do when they have suffered long periods of physical and mental abuse.
We are good people, looking for nothing else tham a quiet family life. Please give
Shire an exemption. I'd like to reiterate that we will not allow Shire to be killed
and we will not give her up. This is a meeting about an entire family, not a dog.
If you do not grant an exemption then consider with conscience, the
ramifications upon our family. We have invested in a life here, that and much more
is at stake. The rest is up to you.

Thank you for your time.
Jane deWeerd.

After living in our home for only two days, the dog catcher arrived at our door
and has since returned with the RCMP to serve a writ stating that we must remove Shire within ten days. (despite requesting that they communicate through our lawyer).
We are terrified for our beautiful, loving family dog who has done no harm.
Jane, John, & Lily (age 1) deWeerd.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------NEWSPAPER ARTICLE

Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 10:37 AM
Subject: Text of Article in May 2nd Edition of Woodstock Bugle-Observer

The text of the article about Shire is below.  Not sure about copyright, but you may need permission, or at least need to give credit to the reporter, Marc Hudon, if you plan to reprint any of this.  In the meantime, please use it to help get the word out.
Our thanks to all of you for your help.
John, Jane, Lily & Shire
A Florenceville woman, who owns a Rottweiler used as a therapy dog for autistic and special-needs children, says she is being forced out of the community by village officials over a dangerous dog by-law. Jane deWeerd, who works with patients as an intensive behavioural interventionist, moved to Florenceville from Ontario three weeks ago. She says town officials failed to inform her and her husband about the ban despite repeated requests for information concerning Florenceville's dog bylaws. Now, the couple, who have spent close to $15,000 on surgeries and medication for the 126-pound female Rottweiler named Shire, say their house is up for sale. Both Hartland and Florenceville have by-laws banning Rottweilers and pit bulls from the village limits. "It was very important to us that we thoroughly research any bylaws," says deWeerd. "So what we did was we found out about the Hartland case and the situation there. We had a Realtor call the (Florenceville) village clerk's office and she [the Realtor] was told quite specifically that there was no issue at all." The dog by-law, which came into effect in November 1998 and amended in January 2003, clearly states no person shall harbor, own or keep a pit bull terrier or Rottweilers within the village limits. But deWeerd says her dog, who has undergone three arthroscopic knee surgeries and two knee replacements is not a threat to anyone. In fact, deWeerd believes her background with special-needs youth and Shire's ability to connect with children should be welcomed as assets to the community. "She's so patient," says deWeerd, as her one-year-old daughter Lily hand feeds the dog in the family living room. "She has a calm temperament. She's extremely intelligent. She seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to understanding kids. She's very gentle." deWeerd says she was in her home for less than two days when animal control arrived with a summons for the dog's removal. She says repeated requests to Mayor David Morgan for a bylaw exemption have fallen on deaf ears. Morgan, who was contacted at his home in Florenceville Friday, refused to provide details of the bylaw to the Bugle-Observer only to say that the bylaw has been on the books for years. A clearly frustrated Morgan says the village has no plans to discuss the issue with the media. "I have no comment," says Morgan. "If you want to put that in the paper, go ahead. And don't call back." Clarence Walton is responsible for animal control in the area. Like Morgan, Walton is staying tight-lipped on details surrounding the dog's removal. "I'm not allowed to comment at all on this," says Walton. Dr. Mildred Drost is a veterinarian in Florenceville. She says Rottweilers bred by conscientious breeders are stable and know the difference between blind attacks and defending their territory. She says much of the fear and hype surrounding Rottweilers is the result of negative media attention. According to Dr. Drost, a wide-ranging ban on Rottweilers and pit bulls is not the solution. "What I believe is not banning certain breeds," says Dr. Drost. "I believe in banning vicious dogs. I won't say that every Rottweiler is vicious. If you're going to ban, then ban dogs that bite." Ruth Hartmann, who has spent more than a decade breeding Rottweilers in the Kingston Peninsula, agrees with Dr. Drost. Hartmann admits Rottweilers can be a protective breed. However, she says poor breeding and training techniques are to blame for the aggressive nature of some Rottweilers. In order to be happy and well adjusted, Hartmann says Rotweilers need to work and be kept busy. "They are very responsive to human command and very easy to train," says Hartmann. "They love being with people and trained to take commands. People I know who own them return to the breed. They are so loyal and good with people."   deWeerd says she is loyal as well – to Shire and that she has no plans of giving the dog up. The mother of one, who is currently expecting her second child, says both she and her husband are currently debating whether to search for another home outside Florenceville or leave the province. "We are not being given an inch," says deWeerd. "She has never bitten anybody, never menaced anybody." deWeerd, who has multiple letters of support for the dog from past patients and local residents, says she is currently seeking legal advice on the matter. deWeerd says if all else fails, Shire will be left with a friend until the couple find a new place to live.

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