A woman was walking her chihuahua along a sidewalk in a residential area of Abbotsford when a large dog ran out of an adjacent house and towards them.
The woman tried to pick up her small dog, but it wriggled out of its collar and was chased and attacked by the larger dog. The chihuahua died of its injuries.
The larger dog, which was staying temporarily in Abbotsford but resides in Alberta, was deemed “dangerous” and now must conform with applicable bylaw restrictions whenever it is in Abbotsford.
In another instance, two dogs escaped from a fenced yard and attacked a woman, causing injuries so severe that she required emergency hospitalization.
Both dogs were euthanized.
These are just two examples of the types of “dangerous dog” situations that have occurred in Abbotsford in recent years.
Last year, 14 dogs in the city were designated as “dangerous,” meaning they killed or seriously injured a person or domestic animal. As such, they are now required to follow certain guidelines, including being muzzled while in public and being confined indoors or in an enclosure when on private property. If the requirements are not followed, the dog can be seized by an animal control officer, who may also apply to the provincial court for an order that the dog be destroyed.
None of the dogs deemed dangerous last year in Abbotsford have been euthanized.
The issue of dangerous dogs recently came to light in Abbotsford after neighbours of the Auguston area expressed concerns about a pit bull that had attacked two pugs and a German shepherd malamute.
The owners of the dog received two tickets for having a “dog at large,” but the injuries to the other animals were not severe enough to have the pit bull deemed as dangerous.
Neighbours say they are worried about their safety and that of their dogs, and they would like further action taken against the owners of the pit bull.
“I speak for many families, and we are fed up with this situation,” said Mitch Duckett, the owner of the two pugs who were involved.
“Dangerous dog” legislation falls under the provincial government’s Community Charter and becomes part of a city’s animal control bylaws. Although that legislation can only be altered provincially, the City of Abbotsford is reviewing portions of its bylaw and changes will be recommended.
City clerk Bill Flitton said the animal control bylaw has been under review for some time and includes consolidating the dog-licence, kennel and pound bylaws into a single bylaw.
“We are also looking at provisions for including more rules around nuisance dogs, aggressive dogs and dangerous dogs with the idea that if we were dealing with an aggressive dog, we might be able to get to it sooner before it actually became a dangerous dog under the bylaw.”
He said staff will be recommending more detailed fines for infractions, similar to what occurs in Chilliwack, where the Fraser Valley Regional District handles animal control services.
There, fines are issued for numerous offences, including $250 for a dog “pursuing or harassing,” $250 for a dog causing injury, and $500 for an aggressive dog not on a leash or not securely confined.
Those types of infractions are not currently covered in Abbotsford’s bylaw.
Flitton said he hopes the recommended changes to the bylaw will be brought before city council sometime in April.
Animals must be muzzled in public
In 2013, 14 dogs in Abbotsford were designated as “dangerous.” Thirteen had bitten a person or an animal, while one – a husky – killed a dog.
The 13 were broken down into:
• four pit bulls;
• two American bulldogs;
• two Australian shepherds; and
• a lab, a presa canario, a German shepherd, a rottweiler, a husky and a bullmastiff.
Once deemed dangerous, the dogs must be muzzled while in public or kept enclosed while on private property. There is a $500 fine per bylaw breach.
An animal control officer initially does daily patrols, followed by monthly checks and, then, random patrols for as long as the dog remains in the city.
Pound in Chilliwack
Abbotsford’s pound currently operates out of Chilliwack, with the city paying $5,200 a month to rent space, and have the impounded animals cared for, out of the facility on Wolfe Road.
The city signed a five-year agreement on April 1, 2012. Before that, stray Abbotsford dogs were housed in Aldergrove at Mainland Municipal Animal Control Services, which ended its agreement with the city in early 2011.
The City of Abbotsford pays for one full-time staff member to answer Abbotsford-related calls at the Chilliwack facility and one full-time animal control officer to patrol the city and respond to calls.
About 500 calls are fielded each month for Abbotsford, mainly for barking/noisy dogs and stray dogs.
Of those, about 150 calls require an animal control officer to come out.
The officer is also responsible for removing dead animals on city property, including in parks and on roads.
After-hours and emergency calls are handled through the police non-emergency line.