Saturday, January 7, 2017

Canada: Cowichan grandfather calling for pit bull ban after attack

CANADA -- A Cowichan Valley grandfather is calling for action to reduce the number of pit bull dogs in the community.

Pat Baker said Wednesday that members of his family were hurt and traumatized during a pit bull attack on a family dog in the early afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

“It happened to my son and his two boys,” he said.

There’s a small park in Maple Bay where dad and the two boys, one five, one nine, go to kick a ball around.

“We didn’t hear about it until [my son] came back from the hospital about six hours later.”

The man and his kids were with their own dog, a German shepherd/collie cross, when a couple came to the area in a half-ton pickup truck.

“My son said the man stayed in the truck but the woman had the pit bull running loose in the park.”

His son’s dog was attacked by the pit bull, Baker said.

“It had one of those collars on it that you can buy with a remote control that gives it a shock or something like that to make it stop. [The pit bull] locked its jaws onto the [family’s] dog. Then she couldn’t find the remote control in her pocket so she got on top of her dog and my son tried to unlock the jaws of the pit bull. At this point my oldest grandson was screaming and crying.”

The tussle was a painful one for Baker’s son.

“He got his dog released but he lost part of the palm of his hand and he’s got bites on two of his fingers,” he said. “He couldn’t get stitches because there was nothing to stitch up and he has to have the bandages replaced every day. And he has said my grandson’s been having nightmares ever since.”

What really bothers Baker is that “the couple just took their dog and took off” rather than stopping to offer an apology and perhaps an offer to help pay the vet bill for the family’s dog.

Baker said his son didn’t try to go after them for information at the time, taking his kids and dog home instead, then heading to the hospital for rabies shots and a painkiller.

Baker himself was concerned for the wider community when he heard about the incident.

“I don’t want this to happen to any other person. I thought: ‘I’ll do what I can to make sure it doesn’t.’ The vet said my son’s dog was lucky he didn’t lose his hearing. And also, he’s got bites at the back of his neck. The vet gave him shots and pills they have to put in his food.

“This kind of thing has to stop. We should follow the example of Quebec and Manitoba and ban some of these dogs. The ones that are here can stay here but they shouldn’t allow any more into the province. There are six states in the U.S. that ban these dogs, too, so it’s working its way around. We need to do more here. There are so many people who shouldn’t have animals,” Baker said.

Sandi Trent, manager of the Cowichan branch of the BC SPCA, said she doesn’t think pit bulls, as a breed, are the problem.

An owner of three of them, she knows pit bulls well.

“In my opinion, there are more problems with owners who are ignorant. And unfortunately, these people should have done the right thing, but we’ve seen, that it happens more often than not. People just don’t step up to the plate, ensure the person who’s been injured is safe, offer to help with medical bills. Most people tend to run away, which is the worst thing you can do,” Trent said.

“It’s a personal opinion, but I think shock collars are a really adverse training method. You can instill some really negative behaviors in a dog, particularly if you don’t know what you’re doing with them. And very few good trainers will use those. I know a lot of people swear by them, but a lot of people, unless they are really educated in the use of a product, may do more damage than they expect.”

Sometimes the problems are exacerbated by the expectations of prospective dog owners, too, she said.

“From what I find even at the shelter is that people will come in to adopt a dog and they’ll have a list of prerequisites of what they need, want, and desire but not the willingness to actually follow through with the training and the socialization and everything else that’s necessary to make a dog a good canine citizen.

“It’s interesting. I was at the shelter yesterday and there was a couple came in and they live on a rural property, which is great, except that the property is not fenced. They want the dog to chase off the feral cats and the deer and not leave the property and they also want it to be good with their chickens and the resident cats. When you hear that, you’re thinking: the dog doesn’t know the difference; on one level it’s being praised for chasing off wildlife and what they deem as unnecessary cats on their property but they’re supposed to be good with the existing animals. It’s a big, tall order.”

Being a responsible owner takes a lot of work, Trent said.

It’s important to research the breeds before getting any kind of dog, she said.

“For example, if you’re looking at a German shepherd dog, they are innately protection dogs, they will guard their people. And pit bulls are terriers; whether it’s a Yorkshire terrier or a pit bull terrier, they also come with their own predisposition of behavioral traits.”

While some places, following the example of Montreal, are banning certain breeds of dogs, Trent does not expect to see any improvement in dog-bite statistics.

“The Montreal thing is a disaster; it’s a disaster for people who have dogs already and the dogs that are in care and shelters will have to be euthanized. And it doesn’t prove anything, it doesn’t change the statistics for actual dog bites in the province,” she said.

She is incorrect. Studies show that attacks and maulings by pit bull type dogs drop when there is BSL in place - whether it's an outright ban or restrictions placed on bully breeds.

(Cowichan Valley Citizen - Jan 5, 2017)

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