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Town to change bylaw after Rottweilers kill small dog

Gerry Furney, has been mayor for more than 30 years of Port McNeill, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Globe files/Globe files

Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney is promising immediate changes to his town's animal control bylaws after two Rottweilers attacked and killed a tiny terrier cross named Timbit in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

The incident occurred when the big dogs escaped their enclosure last week, crossed the street into a neighbour's yard, and fatally mauled the Yorkshire terrier mix as the smaller dog's horrified owner tried to fight them off.

However, since Port McNeill's current bylaws do not directly address dog-on-dog attacks, animal control officers had no authority to seize the Rottweilers or fine their owner, Mr. Furney said

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"Ours is a very standard bylaw," he said. "It doesn't have a specific cure for a situation like this in which an animal has hurt another animal. And the RCMP usually don't get involved unless a dog attacks a human."

Amendments to be considered by council Monday, based on measures already in place in Campbell River, would make it illegal to keep any dog "that has killed or injured a person or domestic animal," Mr. Furney said.

"Once we adopt that clause we will then be in a situation where we can have that animal removed from the community," he said.

B.C.'s Community Charter gives municipalities the power to seize "dangerous" dogs, but that designation requires council approval and is usually reserved for animals with a history of aggressive behaviour.

The dogs responsible for last week's attack are first-time offenders and their owner has been informed that his animals could be seized if there are any further incidents, Mr. Furney said.

Teena Slater, whose five-year-old dog was killed in the Port McNeill attack, applauded the bylaw changes.

"I didn't want Timbit to die for no reason, and if this is what it means so no one else has to go through this, then I support it 100 per cent," she said.

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Ms. Slater was in the side yard of her house last Wednesday when Timbit came racing toward her with the two Rottweilers in hot pursuit. Just as she bent down to pick up her terrified pet, the first dog sank its teeth into Timbit and started shaking it "like a rag doll," she said. "I was kicking the first dog and screaming 'Let him go! Let him go!' When the first dog finally let him go, that's when the other one took over."

The attack lasted "about 30 seconds," she said. Timbit succumbed to his injuries a short time later as Ms. Slater and her husband Dan were rushing the dog to the nearest veterinarian in Campbell River.

Assuming that authorities would seize the Rottweilers, Ms. Slater contacted the RCMP, who told her there was "absolutely nothing they could do unless the dogs destroyed my property or me."

Port McNeill's animal control department also told Ms. Slater local bylaws contained no provisions to deal with the situation. "I was shocked to find they didn't have that bylaw and that Campbell River did," Ms. Slater said. "If this happened two hours from here, I would have had the choice of getting those dogs out of town or having them seized." Campbell River's bylaw also provides for a $200 fine if a dog injures or kills a domestic pet.

In a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, Shawn and Shilo Desrosiers, owners of the Rottweilers Diesel and Jade, apologized to the Slaters for their loss. "We are very aware how much Timbit meant to their family. We would also like to assure the town that this was an isolated incident. Our dogs have never got out before and have never had any animal control issues with people or dogs of any kind. They are not 'malicious killers,' they are dogs."

However, the letter added: "I failed to protect Diesel and Jade by not reporting to animal control the countless times I have had Timbit and other free-to-roam dogs in my yard. I find it interesting how the owners take no responsibility or action when their dogs use my yard as a bathroom, bark at me on my own property and antagonize my dogs." The family has since put up a second fence around their yard and existing dog pen, the letter said.

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Nonetheless, Ms. Slater remains uneasy about living across the street from the dogs that killed her pet.

"They don't even know how they got out," she said, "so how can they think it won't happen again?"

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