The City of White Rock has confirmed that an investigation by bylaw officers into a pit bull attack on a city resident and her small dog is continuing – although no further details on the Saturday, Aug. 20 incident have been made available.
But Coun. Lynne Sinclair – who notified city staff about the White Rock incident after being contacted by a family member of the victim – said she understands from a report to councillors that the pit bull in the White Rock attack has not been impounded at this time.
“My understanding is that it has been designated aggressive and has to be muzzled at all times when it’s let out in public,” she said.
City communications assistant Ashley Gregerson told Peace Arch News that the woman, in her 70s, has asked that no details identifying her be released.
The woman was taken to hospital with serious injuries to her hand following the incident, in which she had acted to save her pet from the unleashed pit bull, according to the city. Her dog has been taken to a veterinary hospital twice for treatment of its wounds.
The victim said the aggressive dog appeared from a nearby property as she and her dog were taking a morning walk.
Information on the incident was passed on to city staff the same weekend, however a media release was not issued until Aug. 29.
The media release said the city is “considering taking serious action against the owner of the pit bull, as well as the dog itself.”
Questioned Wednesday about the area of the city or neighbourhood in which the attack occurred, and the progress of the investigation, Gregerson said staff could not supply any other information.
“There are no updates at this time,” she said.
Sinclair said that while she wishes to respect the victim’s privacy, she understands that residents might continue to be alarmed at the incident.
“I’ve had people reach out to me about this issue, telling me they have a pit bull in their neighbourhood and that they have children,” she said.
The victim in the incident is small in stature, she noted, adding she knows from experience how traumatic being bitten by a dog can be for the victim.
“This dog came out of nowhere. It could have been a lot worse, and it could have been a small child.”
Sinclair said, however, that she was “extremely pleased by the strong and swift response by the city, and the victim was very pleased at how kind and supportive staff were.”
News of the White Rock attack was followed quickly by reports of a dog attack in Langley’s Noel Booth Park on Aug. 30.
In that incident, being investigated by the Langley Animal Protection Society, a man fought to protect his Labrador retriever from an attack by an unattended dog – described as a Cane Corso – which perished due to suffocation during the struggle.
Sinclair said she has been following the issue of dog attacks – and municipal responses in Canada – closely.
“It’s happening everywhere – I knew it was only a matter time before it happened here,” she said, adding that she is hopeful that resolutions going before the Union of B.C. Municipalities Sept. 28 could be the first steps toward establishing a broader strategy for dealing with the issue.
“We really need a provincial approach, or at least a regional approach,” she said.
A resolution from Pitt Meadows calls for the establishment of a provincial dangerous dogs registry, while another from Esquimalt seeks to clarify situations in which dangerous dogs could be impounded or euthanized and set conditions under which some could be released.
“There are also people pushing for a ban on certain breeds,” Sinclair said. “Not that this would mean you’d have to put your pit bull down, but that certain breeds would ‘die out’ in time.”
She said she believes that the majority of dog owners are responsible and that she would not want to promote “generalities” about them.
While White Rock has bylaws providing some measures for dealing with dangerous dogs, Sinclair said the broader issue of public ownership of pit bulls and other aggressive breeds is one that is beyond the scope of individual municipalities to deal with.
“For instance, in White Rock we’re surrounded by a whole other city that has its own issues with dogs. We can’t handle it alone, we can only do what we can do within the limits of our own bylaw.”
Sinclair noted a case in White Rock in which a pit bull killed another dog, but was subsequently claimed by an owner from Surrey, complicating what measures could be taken.
“There’s only so much a municipality can do by itself.”