Straight Talk
MICHAEL PLATT - No control, not breed to blame in fatal dog fight

Credits: Scott McDowell/Handout/QMI Agency

MICHAEL PLATT | QMI AGENCY

Take the word “pitbull” out of the equation, and you have to wonder if three dogs currently caged in Calgary would be in custody at all.

 

Yes, a small dog is dead and a girl is nursing a bite to the hand — and no one is disputing some of the teeth in question belonged to three pitbulls now panting away behind bars.

But the pitbulls aren’t solely to blame for the bloody fight which took place near an Ogden off-leash park on Monday — and indeed, evidence points to the trio being victims, rather than aggressors.

“Even before they reached us, I was calling to them, saying ‘can you call your dogs back,’ but they kept coming,” said Steve Jaquish, owner of the three pitbulls.

Jaquish has been charged with causing a dog’s death and for failing to license an animal, and Calgary Animal Services is conducting behaviour tests on the pitbulls.

If they fail, the dogs will be put down — a devastating prospect for an owner who says he was doing everything right with his pets, when trouble found them.

Exhibit No. 1 — or rather Exhibits one through three — would be the leashes attached to the pitbulls as Jaquish and his six-year-old son strolled by the Ogden off-leash park.

Note that location: Jaquish, who owns one of the dogs and has been caring for a friend’s pair for over a year, was not inside the city dog park, but on the path outside the boundary.

It meant that the three animals being treated as victims had to leave the dog park to reach Jaquish — and both sides agree the pitbulls were minding their own business until that moment.

Scott McDowell, who owns the fatally-injured Pomeranian as well as the boxer and Great Pyrenees, told the Sun that his dogs barked at the pitbulls and then ran over.

The two people in control of the Pom, Pyrenees and boxer were McDowell’s teenage son and daughter, and according to Jaquish, the dogs weren’t listening.

He blames the Pyrenees — a massive eight-month-old puppy — for running up and nipping one of the pitbulls, after which all hell broke loose.

“I had my dogs on a short leash, all sitting down when the Pyrenees ran up — I was hoping they’d all just sniff each other out, and that would be it,” said Jaquish, whose past record as an owner is unblemished.

The two sides differ, with Jaquish blaming the Pyrenees and McDowell pointing the finger at aggressive pitbulls.

In either case, the melee ended with the Pomeranian dead, and the Pyrenees requiring 16 stitches to close more than a dozen wounds.

As well, the girl was bitten on the hand as she tried to separate the dogs, requiring medical treatment.

As an example of dog ownership gone awry, it’s a simple case of not being able to control the dogs in your care — but the larger part of that blame has to be with the animals running off-leash.

Neither owner could stop the biting once it had started, but one side was in clear violation of a bylaw stating dogs must be in control, even in an off-leash area.

Indeed, the co-ordinator for Calgary’s animal and bylaw services says the Pyrenees owner could be facing charges too, for failing to control the three dogs.

“The owner is responsible for their dogs and their could be possible charges against both parties,” said Doug Anderson.

Fines are fair enough, but putting family pets on death row? The three dogs currently caged in Calgary are suspected of being vicious brutes — but it seems that may have more to do with their breed than behaviour.

Pitbulls deserve their reputation as a magnet for moronic owners, but there’s nothing to suggest these terriers were anything but model canine citizens — at least until an unruly pack left a park to bother them.

To seize the dogs and leave a six-year-old boy wondering if his pet will die seems like a heavy-handed reaction to an unfortunate dog fight — especially when the Pyrenees remains free.

If it’s a question of making sure no dog involved in the fight is vicious, all of them deserve cages — not just the breed with the bad reputation.

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