After watching her tiny dog, Hugo, killed last summer in a vicious, unprovoked attack by another dog, Meagan Brame is pushing to put more teeth into legislation dealing with dangerous dogs.
Brame had nightmares for months after Hugo, her 10-year-old, 10-pound Chihuahua poodle cross, was killed before her eyes last July by a PIT BULL CROSS at a barbecue they were attending in Vic West. Because the attack occurred on the pit bull’s property, there was little that could be done to deal with the aggressive dog after the attack.
“Our dog was dead within 15 minutes of being on the property. ... That dog had killed it in one bite. It was the most horrific thing I have ever seen,” Brame said.
“That dog was not deemed dangerous and it was off leash the very next day.”
Brame and Saanich lawyer Troy DeSouza, who often works with municipalities on dangerous-dog cases around the province, have crafted a number of proposed amendments to Section 49 of the Community Charter, which deals with dangerous dogs. The goal is to both strengthen it and to allow a municipality to recoup up to $5,000 a day in court costs should a court declare a dog dangerous and face a lengthy court challenge.
Brame wants Esquimalt council to endorse the provisions and forward them to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration.
“By no stretch of the imagination is this legislation amendment [designed] to put dogs down. It’s to have them assessed,” Brame said.
Under the proposed amendments, the definition of a dangerous dog would be expanded to include a dog that has killed another dog, no matter where it happened.
The definition already includes a dog that has killed or seriously injured a person; a dog that has killed or seriously injured a domestic animal in a public place or on private property other than property owned by the person responsible for the dog; or a dog that an animal control officer believes is likely to kill or seriously injure a person.
Existing legislation has provisions for the provincial court to order that a dangerous dog be destroyed.
As an alternative to euthanization, the amendments would allow the local government and dangerous dog owner to agree to an order whereby a dangerous dog could be released under certain conditions.
Those conditions may include:
• A declaration that the dog is dangerous along with an accompanying photo and detailed description of the dog to be made public. That information could be provided to animal-control officers and would follow an animal wherever it lives.
• A requirement that the owner and his or her dog receive training and a behavioural assessment and pass a rehabilitation program
• Owner compliance with dangerous, aggressive or vicious dog provisions of the local animal-control bylaw, such as an on-leash requirement, muzzle or a sign on a property’s fence
• A last-chance clause where, if the dangerous dog kills or seriously injures another person or domestic animal, the dog will be seized and euthanized without further order of the court
In Brame’s case, the owners of the dog that killed Hugo were simply given a caution that they needed to be more careful in watching their dog.
“Not always are we saying we want the dog killed. In fact in this case, I didn’t. I just wanted it deemed dangerous so that in public it had to be on leash and wear a muzzle. But because of the way our legislation lands, they had no power or authority to do that,” Brame said. “No assessment was done on that dog.
“That irked me to no end. My dog died for no reason. None.”
Going to court over dangerous dogs can be an expensive proposition for both the dog owner and local government.
Dave Smith, the owner of a dog spared from death row in 2013 by a B.C. Supreme Court appeal, reportedly spent more than $50,000 on his two-year legal battle to keep his dog, Diesel, alive. That case cost the Regional District of the Central Okanagan about $95,000 in legal costs and impound fees.
Brame’s motion is expected to be debated by Esquimalt council April 4.