A dog attacked Matthew Brigmantas before he died in a Hamilton street last week, Regional Coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough has confirmed to CBC News. (Matthew Brigmantas/Facebook)
Almost 2,500 people have signed a petition to Hamilton animal control imploring them to not put down a dog that was involved in attack after which a man died.
However, the petition falsely states that the dog did not attack Matthew Brigmantas before he died last week, something regional coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough debunked Thursday.
"There obviously was a dog attack," Stanborough said. "There are some injuries." Multiple eyewitnesses also reported that the dog attacked Brigmantas and several people tried to stop the attack.
Stanborough wouldn't go into detail about the scope of those injuries, and would say only that they weren't lethal.
"What role the dog attack played in the death is very difficult to say," he said. He likened the situation to this analogy: "If I'm riding my bike and someone pushes me in front of a train, the train technically killed me," he said. "But the person was still involved."
This dog, a shar pei/fila mix, attacked Matthew Brigmantas before he died last week, the coroner confirmed Thursday. (Ann Lamanes/City of Hamilton)
There have been conflicting reports about the incident since Brigmantas was found dead in the street on July 9. Many speculated at the outset that the dog attack killed him, but police announced the day after he was found that that wasn't the case.
An autopsy did not reveal an obvious cause of death, so now the coroner is waiting on toxicology reports to figure out what killed him. That could take up to six weeks, Stanborough said.
Brigmantas' sister Mandy McCullogh posted about the incident on a Facebook page called Save Ontario Dogs earlier this week, and said her brother died of "natural causes due to a completely unrelated health issue."
She also said she spoke directly to the coroner and detectives about her brother's death, and claimed his body didn't have any bite marks on it. Stanborough said that isn't the case, and that there is no confirmed cause of death yet.
"I don't think she is basing her comments on fact," he said.
McCullogh deleted her post from the group shortly after being contacted by a CBC reporter.
Brigmantas' aunt Joanne Brigmantas told CBC News that her nephew "died as a result of a fatal medical event."
"When the investigation is complete, and the family has a clear and factual understanding of this incredibly heartbreaking event, they will provide me with a statement to release to the media," she said.
So what is happening to the dog?
Initially, Hamilton animal control said the Shar Pei/Fila mix, whose owner remains unidentified, would likely be put down.
Animal control since softened its stance, and indicated the dog would not be euthanized until further examinations are made. City spokesperson Ann Lamanes told CBC News that the city plans to give an update about the dog within the next 24 hours or so.
"There are developments based on our meeting with the coroner this week," she said. Lamanes would not specify what those developments are, citing legal issues.
The dog is a Shar Pei mixed with Fila Brasileiro, a Brazilian Mastiff known to be bred for aggression. It is one of four dogs banned in the United Kingdom. Lamanes said the breed is not banned in Hamilton, and that the city does not believe the dog is licensed.
Euthanasia in cases like these is determined, in part, on a five-point bite rating scale.
The scale has a ranking from one to five, and anything above a three, when coupled with other factors such as ownership or biting history, could lead to the dog being put down, Lamanes said.
That means that if the dog punctured skin longer than the length of a canine tooth, or the dog bit and shook his head, there's a possibility for euthanasia.
The city previously announced the dog would be confined until at least July 19.