Karen Lau with her seven-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Elektra. Lau

Keeping the peace with canines

After a vicious attack on a senior, Surrey council will review whether the city's dog bylaw needs more teeth.

Surrey will be considering tougher legislation to protect residents from canine attacks, after a woman was savagely mauled earlier this week by a dog believed to be a pit bull.

On Monday (June 20) at about 10:20 a.m., Brenda Moon, 63, was walking by a convenience store at 91 Avenue and 120 Street when she was attacked by a grey and white dog that is believed to have been a pit bull, police say.

While the dog was on a leash, the owner was not holding it and the dog lunged at Moon’s forearm.

Her injuries were significant. Moon (below) suffered severe lacerations and bones were sticking out of her arm. At least one surgery was required.

While she was on the ground bleeding, she said the man with the dog grabbed it and said he was taking it home. Moon said he made no effort to assist her.

“What I was really worried about… before surgery is, ‘I hope to God I keep my arm,’ ” Moon told Global News from her hospital bed Tuesday.

Surrey Mounties are working with the City of Surrey’s Animal Control Office to locate the dog’s owner.

He is described as a Caucasian male in his late 30s to early 40s, with a heavier build, wearing a black tank top, black sweat pants and a black baseball hat.

Dog attack victim

 

The attack sparked a renewed public cry for a ban on pit bulls.

It’s a topic that is currently top of mind in many jurisdictions, including Montreal, where earlier this month a 55-year-old woman was killed by a pit bull while in her backyard.

That city is considering banning the breed.

Ontario banned pit bulls in 2005, but the province is still unable to show conclusively whether it had an effect on the number of dog bites in the province. Numbers reported from the Toronto area seem to indicate that pit bull bites dropped dramatically.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said she will be bringing a resolution to council on Monday (June 27) to examine tougher laws regarding dog ownership.

Surrey used to have a dog bylaw on the books that was specifically tough on pit bulls .

Prior to 2000, if a pit bull bit another dog or person, it was put down. Then, a new city councillor looked to change the breed specificity in the bylaw.

Then-councillor Dianne Watts, also an animal advocate, convened a committee of experts, including representatives from the SPCA, veterinarians, dog groups, and bylaw officials to create a bylaw that would be more effective.

The committee met for 12 months and created the Dog Responsibility Bylaw, which stands today.

As part of that bylaw, a dog is deemed dangerous if it has attacked, has aggressively pursued a person or animal, or has been impounded (or its owner ticketed) more than three times in two years.

The city licence fee goes from $41.50 to $268 once a dog is deemed dangerous.

The impound fee goes from $31 to $1,000 for a dangerous dog. That fee goes up to $5,000 if it is impounded a second time.

A dangerous dog must be muzzled at all times when in public and contained in a six-sided enclosure when in the homeowner’s yard.

The Dog Responsibility Bylaw was heralded by Surrey council at the time as legislation that put the onus on dog owners.

But whenever pit bulls are involved in incidents, public cries for tougher legislation grow louder. And that’s not new.

The call for breed-specific dog laws hit a fever pitch in May 2008, when there were six vicious pit bull attacks on people and dogs in Surrey (see sidebar, next page).

In one of them, an 11-year-old boy was mauled in a North Surrey school yard and required 100 stitches.

At the time, Watts reconvened the committee of experts and some changes were made to the bylaw, particularly focusing on clamping down on dog owners who had their dogs off-leash in public spaces.

West Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond have presumptive breed-specific legislation, in which pit bulls are deemed to be dangerous because of the breed.

Richmond’s bylaw describes as dangerous “a Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or any dog of mixed breeding which includes any of these breeds.”

Ted Townsend, Richmond’s director of communications, said Tuesday that city’s bylaw has been in place since the 1990s, so it’s difficult to measure what kind of impact it has.

“What I can tell you is we get a lot of feedback from people that it does provide them with a degree of comfort, when they’re out in parks, trails or wherever,” Townsend said. “They take comfort that the dogs have to be muzzled and on-leash when they’re out with their owners in public.”

 

Linda Hepner quote

Richmond is currently seeking an order to have a pit bull put down after it attacked a woman in a Steveston-area home earlier this month.

However April Fahr, executive director for Hug A Bull, a pit bull owner support group, said breed-specific legislation doesn’t work.

“It’s been overturned in many communities in the Lower Mainland and many communities around the world. It’s been overturned because it doesn’t work,” Fahr said. “It’s expensive, it causes heartbreak, it’s usually the sign of people who are making a fear-based, knee-jerk reaction.”

She said the media reports pit bull attacks because they make more sensational headlines.

“I think this is more of a media problem and a perception problem, than a dog breed problem,” Fahr said.

Many believe that pit bulls have a stronger bite and that their jaws lock when clamped down, something Fahr said is completely false.

“The force of the bite is correlated with the size of the dog, full stop,” Fahr said.

Surrey’s Karen Lau is a dog trainer who sat on the committee that redrafted Surrey’s Dog Responsibility Bylaw 16 years ago. She said nothing has changed in terms of how dogs react and said putting the onus on the owner is the most progressive way to keep the peace with canines.

“It’s always been about controlling people,” Lau said. “Breed-specific bylaws do not work.”

Hepner posted a question regarding proposed bylaw changes on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m taking the community pulse on this issue …. interested in your comments regarding recent pit bull attacks…..breed or owners?” Hepner asked. “Suggestions for bylaw changes?”

Comment at: http://bit.ly/28Qf0hC

As of Wednesday morning, 50 respondents thought the city should clamp down on dog owners, while 13 felt stronger action should be take against the dogs.

Surrey council will consider the mayor’s resolution at Monday’s council meeting on June 27 at 7 p.m.

Anyone with more information about the dog that attacked Moon, or its owner,  is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or Crime Stoppers, if they wish to remain anonymous, at 1-800-222-TIPS.

2008 – a particularly bad  year for dog attacks in Surrey:

• April 26 – A woman with a seeing-eye dog was crossing King George Highway near 94 Avenue when it was attacked by a pit bull. The Labrador required 20 stitches to mend the wounds.

• May 4 – Sean Bajwa, 11, was savagely attacked by pit bulls in a North Surrey school yard. He was hospitalized and needed more than 100 stitches.

• May 16 – eight-year-old Kumuljeet Singh Hans and his four-year-old sister Harmon were walking with their grandmother down 88 Avenue near 130 Street when they were attracted by a Rottweiler. Harmon required about 50 stitches to close her wounds.

• May 24 – A 64-year-old grandmother suffered injuries after being bitten by her neighhour’s pit bull.

• May 26 – Ingrid Noel and her collie were attacked by pit bulls in Newton.

• May 31 – A pregnant woman and her standard poodle were attacked inside the common area of a North Surrey apartment building by a pit bull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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