Shelley and Mark Thorpe coddle their Jack Russell Terrier

Bylaw has no teeth in regional district, Alberni dog owners say

A licensing bylaw would have improved the way the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District handled a recent dog attack.

A licensing bylaw would have improved the way the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District handled a recent dog attack, says Beaver Creek resident and dog owner, Shelley Thorpe.

But with no such bylaw on the books nor on the horizon, she fears further attacks will likely take place.

The matter arose after a pitbull boxer cross attacked Thorpe’s nine-year old Jack Russell Terrier on March 16.

The dog had wandered onto the Thorpe’s property on Friday and spent the night. Thorpe had never seen the dog before, she said.

The dog was still around on Saturday morning so Thorpe tried to lead it off the property and send it on its way.

Thorpe’s husband Mark came out of the house holding onto his toddler daughter with the couple’s dog following. The smaller dog approached the bigger one, which attacked the terrier, grabbing it by the throat, Thorpe said.

The couple managed to pry the larger dog off the smaller one. Thorpe tethered the dog to a dumpster until police arrived and took the animal to the SPCA.

The Thorpes drove their bleeding dog to an animal hospital in Nanaimo, where it was treated for injuries to its neck. The medical bill came to $750.

The attacking dog has since been retrieved by its owner from the SPCA, Thorpe said. But privacy issues prevented disclosing his identity.

“I think he should have to pay for our dog’s medical bill but we can’t find out who it is,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe’s residence is in the ACRD’s jurisdiction but there have been challenges in trying to rectify the matter, Thorpe said.

The ACRD has a vicious dog bylaw that was crafted in 2006. The bylaw requires the animal control officer to handle “dangerous dogs”, which it defines as dogs that have killed or injured a domestic animal in a public place or private property other than property owned by its owner.

ACRD bylaw officer Bob Astin confirmed the bylaw, saying further that the dog was a roaming dog, although the bylaw doesn’t define such.

Astin responds to several nuisance calls about dogs, and says that he’s only responded to one other dog attack since becoming the bylaw officer.

The real issue, Astin said, is that the ACRD doesn’t have a licensing program requiring dogs to be licenced and their owners identifiable.

“If we don’t know where a dog comes from then the bylaw is difficult to enforce,” Astin said.

A licensing program was discussed by ACRD directors at one time but the matter never advanced beyond this, Astin said.

Compounding matters is that the ACRD doesn’t have a contract with the SPCA to impound stray or vicious dogs.

Astin is working with the SPCA to try and find out who the owner of the attacking dog is so he can proceed with resolving the matter within the ACRD mandate, he said.

As for the SPCA and licensing program, the power of the people would have to drive it. Further discussion is up to regional directors, he said.

ACRD chair Cindy Solda said she wasn’t aware of the attack at the Thorpes’, but was familiar with a licensing program.

The City of Port Alberni has a licensing program which operates on a cost-recovery basis, Solda said. But even so there is a cost to taxpayers and that would be the lynchpin in an ACRD program.

“It will be difficult to implement because of the cost involved. It would be a tough sell,” she said.

As for the attacking dog, “I understand that it started wandering again after it was released from the SPCA,” Thorpe said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews