Pit bull owner facing charges for fatal Auburn Bay dog attack

Pit bull owner facing charges for fatal Auburn Bay dog attack

The charges come with a mandatory court appearance and fines of up to $10,000 could be issued for each charge, said City of Calgary.

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The owner of two pit bulls that attacked several dogs, killing one, in Auburn Bay last month is facing 18 city bylaw charges. 

The attacks took place Feb. 25, when the pit bulls — which presumably escaped a yard — charged a man walking his two dogs. The man was bitten and one of his dogs was seriously injured before the pit bulls fled and killed another small dog in the neighbourhood.

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Both pit bulls remain in custody of animal services while dangerous dog designations are being sought, the city said.

Charges laid under the responsible pet ownership bylaw include animals causing death, animals biting a person and having an unlicensed animal.

The charges come with a mandatory court appearance and possible fines of up to $10,000 for each charge, said the city’s community standards chief Ryan Pleckaitis.

Pleckaitis said the dogs will undergo an independent behavioural assessment.

“There’s a possibility that based on further findings, the animals might be able to be released back to the owner under that ‘vicious dog’ designation,” he said.

The designation would mean the dogs are required to undergo behavioural modification training and that the owner has properly secured fencing, as well as ensuring dogs are muzzled if taken out.

In cases where there’s a high likelihood the animals may reoffend, or there’s concerns over an owner adhering to conditions, Pleckaitis said it makes sense for a destruction order to be issued.

“If the courts upheld the order, then we would humanely euthanize the animals.”

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“If you’re an owner of a ‘bully breed’, any dog that can cause damage if it does bite, then you know that comes with certain responsibilities,” he said. “It’s up to the owner of that dog to make sure that that dog doesn’t get out in public, and doesn’t attack.”

Pleckaitis said the charges reflect the severity of the incident. “These two dogs terrorized a number of people in that community.”

Husband and wife Greg and Jennifer — who declined to share their last name — were among the victims of the attack. Greg was walking their dogs, Joey and Davey, when the pit bulls charged.

Joey needed surgery to his neck after the incident, and is still recovering.

“We’re glad and relieved that the owners have been charged,” Jennifer said.

“This type of negligence on part of the owner, and violence on part of the animals, needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Equally important, Jennifer said, is that some type of changes occur to ensure this experience does not happen to anyone else.

“This shouldn’t be happening, this shouldn’t have to be something that we react to once it’s happened.”

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Although the city doesn’t yet have dog attack data for 2023, Pleckaitis said attacks have been declining. There were 243 in 2015, compared to 160 in 2022, which he attributed partly to COVID-19 and fewer people being out and about.

“Whatever the number is, if it’s greater than zero it’s too many.”

Pleckaitis said previously that the city’s goal is to prevent these incidents from happening in the first place. Responsible ownership information for dogs and other pets is available through the City of Calgary website, and they also host ‘Wise Whiskers’ workshops for schools, which can be booked free of charge.

The Calgary Humane Society also offers a behaviour help line, training programs and other services to help educate dog owners.

Canine behaviour concerns can come from many places, said Barbara Walmer, owner of Good as Gold dog training and former department head of behaviour at the Calgary Humane Society.

Over the years, she has dealt with many different behaviours in dogs, some of those animals undergoing bylaw-mandated behavioural modification training.

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“They are pretty stringent, as the dog has more infractions or if there is a certain level of infraction,” said Walmer.

Each dog is looked at individually, taking into consideration learning history, environment, genetics, age and medical factors.

Walmer said it’s important to remember that the bigger the dog, the more strength it has. Dogs can pull up to four times their body weight. “When we’re looking at a 90-pound dog, that is a lot that they can be able to pull.”

She said training is important, so that dogs are motivated to listen to their owners.

“When I say motivated, that’s often that we’ve reinforced that (behaviour) a lot with food, praise, toys, things like that,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re using tools that are both humane but also effective.”

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