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Local woman continues fight to muzzle pit bulls

By: Sylvia Cole

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 12:48 pm

Diana Fletcher takes her dogs for a walk Jan. 4 in the Cemetary South off-leash park. She said dog fights aren't breed specific and has witnessed on her walks, attacks provoked by small dogs. After a number of recent pit bull attacks in Calgary, another Airdrie resident, Allison Prentice, is hoping to see legislation that would require the breed be muzzled when on pathways and in off-leash parks.
Diana Fletcher takes her dogs for a walk Jan. 4 in the Cemetary South off-leash park. She said dog fights aren't breed specific and has witnessed on her walks, attacks provoked by small dogs. After a number of recent pit bull attacks in Calgary, another Airdrie resident, Allison Prentice, is hoping to see legislation that would require the breed be muzzled when on pathways and in off-leash parks.
Sylvia Cole/Rocky View Publishing

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The fight to muzzle pit bulls in Airdrie isn’t over. A number of recent pit bull attacks in Calgary have brought the issue to light in Airdrie once again.

Resident Allison Prentice launched a petition last September asking City council to create a bylaw that would require this particular breed of dog to wear a muzzle in all off-leash parks and pathways.

The campaign started after she said a pit bull attacked her daughter’s labradoodle in an off-leash area on Aug. 25, 2012. The dog suffered damage to her legs and ear and needed to take antibiotics and painkillers.

“I’m not prejudice about the dog,” said Prentice, adding since launching the petition she’s received several angry phone calls and emails from people opposed to her idea.

She said she doesn’t want to see the animal banned, but wants to see more teeth in the animal control bylaw dealing with aggressive dogs.

She has a Maltese Pekingese and said if her dog were to bite another dog, the damage wouldn’t be near the same as that caused by a pit bull. She said the muzzle would go a long way in making people more comfortable in Airdrie’s parks.

While the petition wasn’t successful, Prentice is now hoping to rally public support and engage in conversation in a different way.

This week, she is getting posters printed asking people who are in support of muzzling to contact her.

In the coming weeks, she hopes to have posters put up in various locations around town. She also hopes to speak at a council meeting where her and other residents can discuss the issue.

Christina Holland, an Airdrie vet technician, warns against muzzling dogs, particularly pit bulls.

She said while pit bulls have been bred to fight and are seen as an aggressive dog, their behaviour is dependent on how they are brought up.

“The muzzle makes them look more intimidating,” she said, explaining it reinforces the stereotype that pit bulls are dangerous dogs.

She said typically a dogfight is the result of a set of misunderstandings between the animals and in some instances, it can be the dog displaying signs of fear that initiate an attack.

“If you have a dog on a tight leash and there’s no where for the dog to run, he is going to attack,” said Holland, as an example.

Holland added the dog can sense its owner’s emotions and if the owner is tense, the dog will likely be tense as well.

Instead of muzzling a particular breed, she said an emphasis needs to be placed on training and teaching appropriate manners. She said socialization, such as through doggy day cares or off-leash parks, is a way for dogs to burn energy and get used to other dogs’ body language.

Diana Fletcher, dog owner in Airdrie, agrees.

She said she has witnessed dogs getting into fights on a few occasions and doesn’t believe it’s breed specific.

“We tend to run into hyper dogs who stir up emotions and can cause fights,” she said, adding that another instigator for fights is when people take their dogs too off-leash parks when the pet is in heat.

“If I see a fight, I call my dogs and get them to stay close.”

As to strengthening the animal control bylaw, Darryl Poburan, manager of municipal enforcement for the City of Airdrie, said the intent last September was to work on a new dog control bylaw that would include a clause for violent dogs.

However, those plans are currently on hold, according to Poburan, who explained council turned down a request for a permanent team leader and a bylaw officer during December meetings.

Poburan said because of this, he doesn’t have the manpower to draw up the bylaw and present it to council.

“If we bring in a bylaw, we need to do the proper research, host open houses,” he said of the extra work.

He said the dog control bylaw is one of the City’s older bylaws, having been created sometime in the 1980s and updating it would give officers more tools to deal with violent or aggressive dogs more efficiently.

As an example, he said municipalities can control in their bylaw to ban aggressive dogs from off-leash parks.

He said as the city continues to grow and with it the number of dogs increasing, creating a bylaw to deal specifically with dangerous dogs will benefit the community. Currently, there are approximately 7,500 licensed dogs in Airdrie.

Poburan didn’t have breed-specific numbers available at the time of the interview, but said the city deals with reports of dogs biting dogs a few times every year.

How to respond to a dog fight:

Vet technician, Christina Holland offers the following advice for owners who find their dog in a fight with another dog:

• Don’t put your body in the fight. To break the dog out of the fighting mode, using something nearby such as a water hose or a long stick to get the animal’s attention

• Look for signs of fear such as avoidance, licking lips or yawning. Aggressive signs include mounting, being over top of another dog.

• Ensure strong verbal relationship with pet before taking to an off-leash area. Holland said a dog should respond to an owner’s command even if they’re 30 feet away.

• If there is a dog attack, get the name, and contact information as well as rabies information from owner. Contact local bylaw officer.


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