Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says city reviewing dog bylaw after recent attacks

Hepner: “When you see it on the news, you wonder what the pulse of the community is. Are our penalties stiff enough?"

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said the city will review its dog bylaw following recent attacks.

SURREY — Surrey’s mayor says the city will be reviewing its dangerous dog bylaw following two attacks in just 10 days.

“When you see it on the news, you wonder what the pulse of the community is,” Mayor Linda Hepner told the Now on Tuesday. “Are our penalties stiff enough?… What else could our bylaw be saying that could potentially keep us safer from the kind of attacks we saw yesterday?”

Hepner was referring to a dog attack outside the Mac’s convenience store at 92nd Avenue and Scott Road Monday morning, where Surrey RCMP say an off-leash dog attacked a 65-year-old woman.

SEE MORE: Witness describes vicious pit bull attack outside Surrey Mac’s store

Police say the woman (pictured) was walking in the area next to the convenience store when she was attacked unprovoked, by an unleashed grey and white pit bull.

A store clerk told the Now that the damage to the woman’s arm was so bad he could see her bone. Surrey RCMP say the woman was taken to hospital with injuries to her forearm.

Police say the dog’s owner, who was inside the Mac’s store at the time of the attack, grabbed his dog and ran away.

RCMP are working with the City of Surrey’s Animal Control office to find the dog and owner. He is described as a Caucasian male, late 30s to early 40s, with a heavier build, wearing a black tank top, black sweat pants and a black baseball hat.

Anyone with more information 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 or go to solvecrime.ca.

Ten days earlier, on June 10, four women were rushed to hospital after they tried to break up three pit bulls who were fighting. Media reports say the dogs were put down.

Hepner said so far, she’s hearing from the community that most people hold the dog owners responsible, as opposed to a particular breed of dog. But she plans to bring the matter up at Monday’s council meeting and has a meeting with the city’s bylaw manager earlier that day.

“That would be the least we could expect,” she said. “I will ask staff to re-examine our existing bylaw.”

Hepner said she’d want to consider everything before looking at an outright ban on a particular breed, adding she wants experts in animal control to weigh in.

“My brother had a pit bull for 20 years and that dog was the most docile, gentle animal,” said Hepner. “But I can tell you they spent a lot of time with that dog… Even good responsible owners, if it turns, what it the catalyst? How do you control that?”

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This isn’t the first time the city has had to reconsider this particular bylaw.

Surrey’s bylaw manager Jas Rehal said most municipalities used to mention specific breeds in their bylaw, but around 2000, many began changing the wording to “dangerous dog” instead of just certain types.

“From our perspective the dangerous dog bylaw is good because it covers all breeds,” noted Rehal. “There are some dogs that are the bigger ones and are concerning to people but there are also smaller dogs that are very aggressive too, so this covers them all.”

Rehal said Surrey had 327 reported dog attacks in 2015 but added that those range from a dog lunging at another dog to full-on attacks like seen in Surrey recently.

“So these can be very minor,” he said.

So far this year, 165 dog attacks have been reported in Surrey, Rehal added.

Currently, Surrey’s bylaw defines a “dangerous dog” as one who has “attacked, bitten or caused injury to a person or has demonstrated a propensity, tendency or disposition to do so; a dog that, while running at large, has attacked, bitten, killed or caused injury to a domestic animal” or a dog that has attacked a person without being provoked.

If a dog has been impounded three times within two years or the owner has received three tickets for the dog “running at large” within two years, it is also considered dangerous.

If dogs considered dangerous attack someone and are impounded, the fee to get the animal back is $5,000. And if it has injures someone, the pound keeper can detain the dog to seek an order to have it destroyed. If the order isn’t granted, the owner must pay a $5,000 fee to get it back.

Dangerous dogs are also subject to higher licensing fees in Surrey. Licences for neutered dogs cost $41.50 in Surrey while licences for dangerous dogs cost $268.

Meanwhile, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre is seeking a ban on pit bulls and other dangerous breeds after a woman was killed after being mauled by an aggressive dog. The ban could be instituted as early as September.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

With a file from Tom Zytaruk

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