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Children's book about friendly pit bull looks to shatter breed stereotypes

Last Updated Oct 25, 2017 at 11:57 pm EDT

Dangerous and aggressive? Or maligned and misunderstood? A new children’s book called Galunker has reignited the debate about pit bulls.

Many people wouldn’t dream of using the words lovable, gentle, cuddly — and pit bull  — in the same sentence.

But Toronto raised author Douglas Cooper does. In Galunker, he and illustrator Dula Yavne, seek to dispel some of what they say are myths about pit bulls.

In the book, a pit bull named Galunker looks mean but is as threatening as a marshmallow, Cooper notes. The author says he bases this stance on the latest research.

“It’s not really my opinion, this is scientifically demonstrated. A woman named Bronwyn Dickey spent seven years researching a book called “Pit bull.” She looked into the history, the biology and she demonstrated that these dogs simply are not more dangerous than any other dog,” Cooper told CityNews.

Cooper has garnered a lot of support. Knowing that a conventional publisher would likely not go near a project featuring a friendly pit bull, he and Yavne launched a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $20,000.

Instead, it brought in $62,000 enough for a 5,000 print run which will be out in time for Christmas.

Cooper’s position is that the provincial legislation that has been in place for 15 years banning pit bulls and pit bull-like dogs doesn’t work.

The Toronto Humane Society (THS) agrees.

“I think we need to put the onus on the owner. Responsible pet ownership, that’s what we need to promote, it’s not the breed,” said Phil Nicols, the operations manager at THS.

National Post columnist, Barbara Kay, has written extensively about pit bulls and has the opposite view.

She says pit bulls can be aggressive and vicious and that more than half of all attacks come from the family pit bull who has been raised with love.

She believes that a book that encourages children to want and get pit bulls as pets is a terrible idea. “It’s beyond irresponsible,” Kay says

“He is marketing pit bulls to toddlers … more than half of the very serious injuries to children from dog bites are pit bull-type dogs.”

Cooper argues that since the breed specific legislation came into effect in 2005, dog bites have increased, but Kay says in spite of those numbers the legislation has made the public safer.

“I never talk about bites when i talk about pit bulls. I talk about maulings. I only talk about serious injuries,” she said. “So all dog bites together, yes there are more dogs now than there were in 2005, but serious grave injuries have gone down.”

Stats show that 20 to 30 people die from dog attacks in the U.S. every year.

In Canada, its one to two.

Cooper contends that in fact German shepherds kill more people than pit bulls. And their goal with the book Galunker is to teach children the basic rules of responsible pet ownership and how to properly interact with all dogs.

“We are trying to keep children safe around dogs.”

Cooper says the model to follow is Calgary’s, where there is no ban on any breed but owners are held responsible for their dogs and laws are strictly enforced including stringent leash laws.