After a series of high-profile pitbull attacks including one that killed a Quebec woman earlier this month, cities like Montreal are proposing to ban pitbulls altogether.

But some residents in Winnipeg, which outlawed pitbulls 26 years ago, say there isn’t enough evidence for breed-specific bans and say that their local bylaw ought to be overturned.

Winnipeg dog trainer Ashley Reid is among those pushing to legalize pitbulls, also known as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Reid argues that bad socialization, not genetic background, causes some pitbulls to attack. The bylaw, she says, “targets the wrong end of the leash.”

“All dogs can do damage,” she added.

Dog trainer John Truss agrees that pitbulls are only particularly dangerous if they have bad owners. “The most dangerous dog is one that’s tied up in the backyard and never walked, never socialized, not around people,” he said.

The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals also opposes laws that specifically target pitbulls. Such regulations are in place in dozens of Canadian cities and towns, plus the entire province of Ontario.

The ASPCA points to Winnipeg for proof of the bans’ ineffectiveness. The advocacy group says Rottweiler attacks “dramatically increased” in Winnipeg soon after the 1990 pitbull ban, while total dog bites “decreased significantly” after a 2000 bylaw targeting any dog deemed dangerous.

Rottweilers are the second most likely breed to kill, according to a landmark CDC study that looked at reported fatalities from 1979 and 1996. The study found 70 out of 199 deaths were from pitbull or pitbull crossbreed attacks, while 31 were from Rottweiler or Rottweiler crossbreeds.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba studied Winnipeg’s pitbull ban and found that hospitalizations for dog bites went down overall in Manitoba after the ban. The researchers also found hospitalizations were lower in Winnipeg than in the Brandon, Man., which did not ban pitbulls.

Leland Gordon, chief operating officer at Winnipeg Animal Services, said he believes the ban is working and should stay in place.

“Why would we want to take that risk?” he says. “There’s lots of other dogs that would make great pets,” he added.

A recent survey by Angus Reid Institute suggests more Canadians agree with the dog trainers, however.

It found that about six in 10 of those surveyed opposed banning particular breeds such as pitbulls and Rottweilers, while only about four in 10 were in favour.

The survey also found that six in 10 agreed that “dog attacks are isolated incidents caused by bad owners, not by the breed of dog,” while four in 10 agreed that particular breeds “are inherently more aggressive and dangerous.”

With a report from CTV National News Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon