A group of residents in a Flour Mill neighbourhood are upset city bylaw officers and the animal control department appear, in their opinion, to be holding back in responding to a situation where a dog has attacked other dogs in the area and in one case, killed a puppy.
The issue was raised in early September when Kimberly Arsenault was out walking her leashed dog, Shadow, a four-month-old pup.
She said the trouble began when she noticed there were two shar pei dogs in the front yard of a nearby home, on St. George Street. She said the two dogs appeared to be tied together. An image of one of the dogs provided by Arsenault shows both dogs wearing collars and those collars are linked by a leash.
"They barked at us, but I never thought anything of it on the way,” Arsenault said.
As she headed back home from the walk, the black shar pei was still in the yard and barking at her.
“I didn't see the tan one," Arsenault said.
What happened next was so fast, she said she had a hard time putting the details together. The tan-coloured dog broke its leash and bolted at Shadow.
"It was just an immediate attack; grabbed him around the middle shook him like a rag doll," Arsenault said.
She said she was terrified and was "screaming, crying, hyperventilating."
A school bus driver pulled over and got out to help. A neighbour ran to the owner's door because the dogs were out and unattended, said Arsenault.
She said the school bus driver picked up her little dog and saw it was bleeding heavily and not responding.
"It was a terrible thing to witness and it was totally unexpected, totally unprovoked,” Arsenault said. “The boyfriend of the neighbour came out and said sorry, twice, but the owner herself never showed.”
She said she and her husband called Greater Sudbury Police Service but said they were told police don’t respond to animal calls. They advised calling animal control services at 311.
Arsenault said she did that and was confused by what the bylaw office told her — they wouldn’t send someone to get the required witness statements; they expected her to gather those details herself.
"Bylaw said they weren't coming in until they get the witness statements, which just didn't make much sense to me," said Arsenault, who expected somebody to at least show up and investigate.
After a period of time and a couple of follow up phone calls, Arsenault said the bylaw office advised her that no one would be coming to investigate.
"And I said, ‘So we're sitting out here on the sidewalk with a dead puppy for nothing?’," she recalled telling the bylaw office. "The neighbour gave us a towel to wrap the puppy up in and we walked back home."
However, the next day a bylaw officer did show up, spoke with the Arsenaults and advised a fine would be levied on the dog owner. By this time, Arsenault had already done as bylaw asked and gathered names and statements from her neighbours.
She said the bylaw office reviewed the comments and proceeded to issue a vicious dog order to the shar pei owners on Sept. 11.
"The vicious dog order now means the dogs are supposed to be leashed and muzzled at all times," Arsenault said she was told by the bylaw office. "(But) twice now neighbours have seen the dogs out, not muzzled, so we're trying to get proof of that."
Arsenault said she has a hard time now just walking in that part of the neighbourhood.
"I cannot walk that direction anymore,” she said. “I'm trying to find a means to have counselling because reading the witness statement of the bus driver, I read things which I forgot; I blocked it out because it was a trauma to witness … I'm traumatized from what I saw," she said.
Brye-Anne Huber is a neighbour of the Arsenaults. She, too, said she is aware of the aggressive dogs that killed Arsenault's pup. She said she lives close by.
"They have attacked many other animals and people,” Huber alleged, referring to the same pair of shar pei dogs. “My neighbour in the back has been attacked twice and she had to go and get shots. There are neighbours on the corner that have had their dog attacked; neighbours across the street that have had their dogs attacked. My son has a scar going down the length of his forearm from the dog trying to jump out at us.
“He's only five."
She is also terribly frustrated the aggressive dogs continue to live nearby.
"It's extremely frustrating to not feel safe in my own home, to not feel comfortable to leave, or come back,” Huber said. “I can't even let my kids play outside in their own yard. We have a trampoline that they can't even use."
As an animal lover, Huber said she didn't want the dogs put down, but rather be removed from what she said was a toxic environment.
Neighbour Lorraine Gagnon didn't hold back her anger. She recalled a situation earlier in the summer when she said she watched the tan shar pei running in the neighbourhood and almost get hit by a truck.
The truck screeched to a halt and Gagnon said the shar pei ran into her yard. She was outside at the time with her own dog, a small Yorkie. She said the loose shar pei ran from the street and attacked her Yorkie.
"It came over, grabbed my dog by the head and started shaking her. The man in the truck (that almost hit the dog) came and pulled the dog off,” Gagnon said. “My dog spent two days in the (animal) hospital, $2,200 in vet bills. All her bottom teeth were removed because they were hanging out and (she had) several puncture wounds, you know, on her neck and the back of her neck and her throat."
She said word on the street in the neighbourhood was the owner’s of the aggressive dog kept it hidden for several days.
She said she has seen the owner walking the dog in the laneway, without a muzzle, and didn’t get a favourable response when she spoke with the owner.
"I just asked her, I said 'Please muzzle your dog, it is a danger to everybody here.’ And she used some F-bombs and was very, very rude, and told me it was my own dog's fault that she was attacked,” Gagnon said. “And I just said, ‘Well, I'm just gonna have to call bylaw again’."
She said the municipal bylaw office needs to take more assertive action, especially when the owners appear not to care about how aggressive the dogs are.
"These people are not capable of handling these animals and bylaw really absolutely needs to do something about it before a child gets hurt," said Gagnon.
Sudbury.com asked the city's bylaw office to comment on the situation, but the city’s communications department refused and said the city would not talk about a specific case. Communications did provide the following information regarding bylaw complaints about animals.
When investigating a complaint, By-law Compliance and Enforcement Services will consider:
- The severity of the bite or attack and any resulting injuries;
- Whether there is prior record of a bite or attack, and;
- Factors such as whether the attack was an act of defense, a reaction to trespassing and/or being teased, provoked or tormented.
A vicious dog carries a set of restrictions that the owner must abide by such as:
- Post a clearly visible warning sign purchased from the City of Greater Sudbury at the entrance to their home;
- Muzzle their dog at all times, except when the dog is home and indoors;
- Securely restrain their dog at all times, except when the dog is home and indoors. Leashes are not to be more than one metre in length when the dog is off the owners property;
- Ensure that outdoor enclosures are secure, high enough to prevent escape and do not permit contact with other animals or persons;
- Microchip the dog;
- Maintain liability insurance with minimum coverage of $1 million per occurrence;
- Notify Greater Sudbury By-law Compliance and Enforcement Services within two working days of any change in ownership or address;
- Once a dog is deemed vicious, any violation of the bylaw may result in a provincial offence notice of $500, plus a $115 Victim Fine Surcharge.
If the owner does not meet the said requirements, the situation can escalate to a court process where additional conditions may be imposed, and in some cases, seizure of the animal could result.
Depending on the severity of the bite or attack, the City of Greater Sudbury may exercise its rights under the provincial Dog Owner’s Liability Act to go before a justice of the peace to request a warrant to remove a vicious dog from its home.
The dog is held in care of the municipality until a hearing before the Ontario Court of Justice determines its fate and penalties for the dog owner, said the city bylaw office.
Len Gillis is a reporter for Sudbury.com.