Saint John — A bylaw intended to curb the use of pit bull terriers by local gangs is going back to city council for a rewrite thanks to a spelling error.
“It was supposed to say pit bulls, not pet bulls,” Saint John Mayor Mel Norton acknowledged just before press time. “There was apparently something wrong with the spell-checker in our new bylaw creation software. It’s usually point, click, and out pops your new bylaw, but this was an epic fail. We’re considering having a member of staff actually review the bylaws before they get approved, but these are tough economic times and we’re all really busy.”
The error came to light when a charge laid by Saint John City Police under the new bylaw was tossed out by provincial court Judge Dawn Chambers LeBlanc on Thursday.
“That might be one nasty dog, but I know a bull when I see one, and that’s no bull,” she said in handing down her decision. “One has a head, four legs and a tail, while the other has a head, four legs and a tail. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell the difference.”
The judge says the spelling error means the bylaw doesn’t refer to “canines, but only to bovines. Case dismissed.”
“Canine means dogs,” explained D. Wayne McMullins of D. Wayne McMullins Consulting of Upper North West South River. “And bovine means bovines, like cows and stuff. The judge is right — they pretty much all have heads, four legs and a tail. But that’s where the similarity ends. Canines chase sticks and cats and slobber on you, while bovines tend to hang around and eat grass pretty much all day. That’s one of the easiest ways to tell them apart.”
The province’s lawyers, meantime, say this is further proof that fully automated bylaw-writing software is not reliable: “It’s obvious that poorly generated bylaws and regulations are tying up the police, the court system, and giving taxpayers another reason to question our political leaders,” Law Society of New Brunswick executive director Walter Glendenning wrote in an email.
“It’s time to put an end to this myth that cheap software is able to do the work of highly trained professional liars,” he said. “You just can’t trust non-human spell checkers and office automation to live up to our standards.”
The revised bylaw is expected to be approved by council at next week’s regular meeting.