Pitt Meadows couple supports dog law changes

Pitt Meadows couple pleased with proposed changes to provincial laws.

John and Yvonne McDonald with their new dog Angel.

John and Yvonne McDonald with their new dog Angel.

A Pitt Meadows couple whose Shih Tzu was killed by a bullmastiff are pleased with proposed changes to the province’s laws surrounding dangerous dogs.

“To make people accountable is what we wanted,” said Yvonne McDonald, who, along with her husband John, lobbied Pitt Meadows council for a tougher bylaw regarding dangerous dogs.

Council made changes to the city bylaw earlier this year, then forwarded a resolution to the UBCM annual meeting.

“If a dangerous dog does something in Pitt Meadows, it can’t go to another community and do the same,” John added.

A year ago, their therapy dog Buttons was mauled by a bullmastiff outside the McDonald’s restaurant in Pitt Meadows. The injuries were so severe, Buttons had to be put down.

The dog owner, at the time, told them his girlfriend was walking his dog, tied it up to go inside the restaurant,  then a friend came by and untied it, and removed the muzzle it was required to wear.

About 75 people supported the McDonalds when they went to a council meeting at city hall, asking that the bullmastiff be put down, and that the owners be held financially responsible.

They noted the dog had been deemed dangerous already under the city bylaws.

They were told council would not be able to have the dog destroyed without the owner’s consent, nor could the city force them to pay the vet bills.

“Where is the guy? Where is his dog now?” asked Yvonne. “I can’t find him.”

The bullmastiff owner refused to pay nearly $2,000 in veterinarian expenses. The McDonalds have not been able to contact him since.

Last week, at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Victoria, a resolution from Pitt Meadows to start a dangerous dog registry was approved.

Another resolution passed last week would require the owners of dangerous dogs to have liability insurance, so that if their dog injures another pet, livestock or a person, any costs incurred will be covered.

“If you want to have a dangerous dog, there’s going to be consequences,” said Coun. Janis Elkerton.

“It’s the first step,” she added. “We’ve still got to get the acts in the legislature, and get them passed.”

She said the province will have to determine whether the best system for tracking dogs will be microchips, tattoos, photographs or some combination.

“This all has to be worked out. There has to be a process.”

In addition to its successful resolution on the registry plan, the city has also toughened up city bylaws, making it more expensive to purchase a licence for a dangerous dog.

“The city has done well to follow it up. John and I are happy,” said Yvonne. “Now we just have to hope it’s passed by the province.”

It has been a traumatic experience.

Talking about the issue in his living room, John pointed to a book with a photo of his old dog on the cover.

“That book on the table is about Buttons. I haven’t read it,” he said.

But they have received a “tremendous amount of support,” both in comments and even hugs from strangers, said Yvonne.

After Buttons passed, they were given a year-old Shih Tzu by a breeder.

They named her Angel.