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Ontario pit bull ban spurs Buehrle family to action

TORONTO -- The first thing that popped into Mark Buehrle's mind after he was traded to the Blue Jays earlier this month is what it would mean for his family.

Buehrle is the proud owner of four dogs, including a pit bull named Slater. In many ways, the animals are an extension of the veteran left-hander's household, but not all members of the Buehrle family will be welcome in Ontario, as pit bulls have been banned in the province since 2005.

"I don't agree with the ban," Buehrle said on Wednesday, during his first conference call with the Toronto media. "It's a discriminatory law. I don't feel like that dog should be banned just because of the way it looks. We're working with some people that we know that do some stuff with pit bulls, trying to do what we can do to get some things resolved.

"As of right now, I don't know exactly what we're doing."

Pit bulls have been banned in Ontario since the Liberal Party outlawed them seven years ago because of their perceived violent nature. It was a controversial decision, and even though much time has passed, it's a topic that hasn't quite gone away.

The provincial government has remained steadfast in its policy, but opposition groups such as the New Democratic Party and Conservative Party are attempting to have that changed. Last year saw that introduction of a private members bill that, if approved, would overturn the ban. But the bill hasn't been able to go through all of the proper channels. Premier Dalton McGuinty recently announced he would be stepping down from his seat, and as a result, the government has been prorogued until a new election can take place.

That won't happen until next year, so in the meantime, there is very little Buehrle can do. He plans on working with local activist groups to bring more awareness to the issue, but the overall uncertainty will clearly have an impact on his family.

"My wife, [Jamie], has been involved since minutes after the trade happened," Buehrle said. "She knew pit bulls aren't allowed up there, so she contacted people. We've been pretty much non-stop, and we're going to do everything we can to try and get this passed."

The Buehrle family has been down this road before. When Buehrle signed a four-year contract with the Marlins last offseason, he did so with the understanding that pit bulls were outlawed in Miami. That problem, though, was fixed relatively easily because the family opted to live in nearby Broward County instead.

Buehrle doesn't have a similar option at his disposal in Toronto. Since pit bulls are banned throughout Ontario, Buehrle would have to take up residency in Buffalo, N.Y., or Niagara Falls, N.Y., and make a two-hour commute into Toronto on a daily basis in order to keep his family intact.

That's far from ideal, and as of right now, the 33-year-old lefty has yet to make a decision on what his living arrangements will be like next season.

"It depends on what we do," Buehrle said. "If the family has to stay home because of the dog and I have to go up to Toronto by myself, it's going to be tough on [Jamie]. I told her, 'Things could be worse. There's other stuff that could happen or other situations to be in. At least we're going to see each other when we can make it happen.'"

The news isn't all bad for Buehrle. The trade came as a complete shock, and while there was a lot of initial anger and resentment toward the Marlins organization, a lot of that has now subsided.

Buehrle is instead looking forward to joining a team that appears on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender in the American League East. Many players say that winning helps cure all problems, and Buehrle is optimistic about his club's chances of reaching the postseason for the first time since 1993.

That might not have been the case several months ago, but with the likes of Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck joining Buehrle in that 12-player trade -- along with the free-agent signings of Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera -- there are lots of reasons to have hope for a contending team in Toronto.

"The next day or two, it was just kind of a whirlwind," Buehrle said of the surprising trade. "I was just kind of trying to figure stuff out. Obviously, having to do a move again and everything that's involved in switching teams -- I think it was just craziness going on for a couple days.

"I think it's sunk in. It's kind of become real. I'm liking what [general manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] is doing and the guys he's signed."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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