The price of a dog's day in court - Macleans.ca

The price of a dog’s day in court

Doug Fenwick’s wife Debra Ogilvie has been in counselling ever since a pit bull killed Joey, their Yorkie poo, last November.

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Doug Fenwick’s wife Debra Ogilvie has been in counselling ever since a pit bull killed Joey, their Yorkie poo, last November. “It just grabbed our little dog and proceeded to shake. My wife was screaming and kicking it,” says Fenwick, of White Rock, B.C. A postman who saw the attack jumped on top of the pit bull, but it was too late. Joey was dead.

Making matters worse, the couple has now learned that it will take six months and cost the city several thousand dollars before a judge will decide whether to label the pit bull a dangerous dog and therefore order it euthanized. That’s because applications to have a dog destroyed go through the backlogged Provincial Courts system. Paul Stanton, the man in charge of bylaw enforcement in White Rock, says the process to have violent dogs put down needs to be vastly improved. Had it been quicker, he says, the pit bull may have been destroyed sooner—perhaps soon after the first time it attacked.

Following Joey’s death, Fenwick and Ogilvie learned from a woman living down the street that the same canine had “ripped off her dog’s leg” a year earlier. That attack was so violent that the bylaw officer (working for Stanton) banished the dog from town. Stanton says he considered getting a court order to have the dog killed then, but he was advised it would take several months.

Indeed it does. Now that the city has decided to advocate for the death sentence, it’s been told the earliest available trial date is July 25. Until then, the city must pay kennelling costs, estimated at $4,500, plus legal fees. That’s on top of the cost of Stanton’s time and the bylaw officer’s time. Stanton is frustrated that this issue can’t be settled sooner and that local taxpayers will get stuck with the bill. “It’s an eight-month process just to get to court,” he says. “So my sense is, we need a better process.”

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