Pitt Meadows council chambers was packed with people Tuesday, and at least a dozen dogs.
Together, they were howling for tougher bylaws in the city for dangerous dogs.
The group filled the gallery to standing room only, and brought a banner, a beagle and several other breeds. The banner read “Justice for Buttons,” referring to the Shih Tsu cross who was killed by a bull mastiff on Sept. 28 at the patio of the Harris Road McDonald’s restaurant.
The delegation was led by the dog’s owners, John and Yvonne McDonald. Yvonne spoke about Buttons’ work as a therapy dog, about the attack, and the couple’s recommendations for tougher laws.
Their supporters included several other dog owners whose pets had been injured or killed in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.
Yvonne urged the city to do more to ensure dog owners are responsible for their pets. She said the mastiff’s handler was running home with the dog, and would not have been identified if she hadn’t been followed home by a “good Samaritan.”
The dog’s owner expressed condolences, but then refused to pay $1,200 in veterinary bills, she said.
Pitt Meadows should put animal control back in the control of the SPCA, said Yvonne.
“The city of Pitt Meadows has failed its citizens terribly,” she added.
She also recommended: that a dangerous dog have an implanted microchip that details its history, so that it follows the animal to other communities; that the fine for an unprovoked dog attack start at $500; and that the municipality seize the offending dog until the victim dog’s vet bills are paid.
“As it is, they’re walking away,” she said.
And the McDonalds say dangerous dogs should not be allowed in public places, including trails and parks.
Yvonne said the city was negligent in allowing a dog that was already determined to be dangerous to be out in public.
The dog had been reported to be aggressive, but was not deemed dangerous under the bylaw.
According to city staff, the bylaws officer recommended the dog be muzzled in public, and the owners were complying with that request.
But the muzzle had been removed so the dog could get a drink of water.
The McDonalds’ position is that if a dog kills another, it should immediately be put down.
The couple got sympathy from councillors.
“I have two dogs and I can only begin to try and understand how you must feel with the loss of Buttons, particularly in terrible, horrific circumstances in which it occurred,” said Mayor John Becker.
He responded that one of the new council’s first initiatives was a “more robust” dog bylaw. Staff are following those new protocols, he said, and while they may not be enough, they are tougher than the preceding bylaws.
“We are going to be revising the whole animal welfare situation,” including getting SPCA service back, he said.
He called the SPCA presence “a very significant budget item.”
Becker clarified that the city cannot force the dog owners to be financially responsible for the damage their pets do.
“We, as a local government, do not have the jurisdiction to impose liability on the dog owner in this kind of situation,” said the mayor.
Coun. David Murray said he owns a Shih Tsu that almost mirrors Buttons and called the dog’s death tragic.
“This created a lot of stir on council. It really hit home,” said Murray. “I’ll tell you one thing – we’re going to get something done.”
Coun. Tracy Miyashita asked for a destruction order.
“This dog needs to be put down,” she said.
That got a huge round of applause from the audience, that was punctuated by a deep bark.
City CAO Kim Grout responded that such an order could only be pursued through a provincial court order.