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Dog ‘vicious’ only in Pitt Meadows

A dog that has been labelled vicious after a fight in Pitt Meadows is not considered such in Maple Ridge.

After her dog was bitten several times and injured in Pitt Meadows, Shelley Forsyth was shocked to learn that the vicious dog designation given to the offending canine won’t follow it into Maple Ridge, where the owner lives.

Forsyth, a Port Coquitlam resident, was with a friend walking dogs along the dike in Pitt Meadows. They had three dogs between them.

What happened next is disputed.

Forsyth says an oncoming dog lunged for hers, broke its leash, and grabbed Charlie – her lab/golden retriever cross – by the throat. She tried to pull her dog away, and the collar slipped off its head.

The two dogs fought, uncontrolled.

It ended with Charlie on the ground, submissive, with the other dog on him.

Forsyth’s friend gave the man responsible for the other dog one of her leashes, so he could get his under control.

“We were all shaken up,” said Forsyth.

She maintains that only rolls of fur around her dog’s throat saved it from being killed, so savage was the attack.

The dog owners exchanged contact information. The dog owner, Tom Read, agreed to cover her veterinary bills.

Charlie had three puncture wounds on each leg. On one leg, the bone was “dented,” but not broken. He needed about 13 stitches to close a gash in his chest. And, he needs dental work, as the other dog had a steel collar, and in the fight Charlie broke several teeth.

The Pitt Meadows bylaws department investigated and determined Read’s dog is vicious.

However, that designation will not follow him into Maple Ridge.

“He’s only deemed vicious in Pitt Meadows,” said Forsyth. “What’s the point of deeming him vicious then?”

“That’s ridiculous, in my eyes,” she added. “If a dog’s deemed vicious, it should be province-wide.”

Forsyth said people would be upset to learn that a dog could kill another dog in one city and be designated as a threat, but be allowed to run loose in another municipality.

This situation seems even more ludicrous in two communities as close as Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, she said.

Pitt Meadows’ bylaw was recently rewritten. Among the requirements for vicious dog owners are a warning sign at their property, keeping the dog muzzled and leashed in public, the dog not being allowed in designated off-leash areas and requirements to keep the dog confined.

In addition, the owner must hire a dog trainer to remediate the dog’s violent behaviour, and give the city written confirmation.

It allows for a dog to be determined as vicious based on reports to bylaws officers

Leslie Elchuk, bylaws enforcement officer in Pitt Meadows, said it’s a good bylaw for dealing with dogs, but has no authority over what a dog owner does with his pet in Maple Ridge, or any other municipality.

Elchuk said municipalities do share information about vicious dogs, as they want to know if there is a problem animal in their community. But there is no provincial or regional database.

What’s more, the policy of the Maple Ridge SPCA is to not transfer vicious dog designations from other municipalities, said assistant manager Carolyn Smith.

She said if a dog has been found to be dangerous, it is in the owner’s best interest to keep it muzzled in public.

However, “We can’t enforce it in Maple Ridge.”

Read is not happy with the process Pitt Meadows used to determine that his dog is vicious.

“How did they determine that it was my dog? They spoke to me for 60 seconds,” he said of the other two dog walkers. “They fought – dogs fight.”

Elchuk interviewed the two parties involved, and the one witness.

The total vet bill is estimated at almost $3,500, and Read is disputing that he should be responsible for that entire amount. He maintains that both dogs were off their leashes fighting, and his dog got the better of it.

Forsyth characterized his dog as a pit bull/boxer cross. Read said it is a purebred boxer.

Read said it was the first such incident involving his dog, and the incident bothered him for days.

“I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what happened.”

The two parties are in communication, trying to work out an arrangement.

Elchuck said dog owners are generally responsible for the actions of their pets.

“From what I’ve seen, if people have a vicious dog, they don’t want that dog to hurt another person or dog. They’re generally responsible, I find.”

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