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Recent dog attacks has bylaw services suggesting policy changes

Last Updated May 13, 2015 at 7:11 pm MDT

After five dog attacks in five days, Calgary’s chief bylaw officer said the incidents have now turned into a public safety issue and Calgary City Council should discuss potential policy changes.

“In particular, the viciousness of these bites, I can tell you having seen pictures of all of them over the last three or four days, that these are not pretty results,” Ryan Jestin said Wednesday.

Multiple charges have been laid in three of the incidents, beginning on Saturday when a male pitbull was seized after killing a yorkie/bichon and two charges were laid.

On Sunday in Martindale, a woman was walking two small dogs when a pit bull-at-large killed one of them. While the pit bull is still being sought, five charges were laid.

On Monday, a great pyrenees was seized and five charges were laid in an incident in Abbeydale involving two children.

There were two incidents Wednesday, including one in Dover in which a 14-year-old girl was bitten on both of her legs after a dog owner lost control of his pit bull, which then lunged and attacked.

The owner and dog fled the scene.

Officials are looking for the public’s help in finding a man, possibly in his 60s, described as wearing white hair and a white beard, while the dog is described as white with a black patch over one of its eyes.

Also on Wednesday in Rundle, Animal and Bylaw Services Operations Manager Alvin Murray said two dogs at large attacked a woman at a bus stop and they have been seized.

“One is a German shepard cross, the other is a labrador-type cross, we are currently trying to touch base with the actual victim,” he said. “We haven’t confirmed with the victim, but the witness said that it was bites and that the lady was actually thrown on the ground with the dogs on top of her.”

Jestin said the incidents are even more alarming considering their locations.

“None of these incidents have been in off-leash parks, I am talking about kids walking along a street and being attacked by a dog that lives in that property or close to that property or certainly in that neighbourhood,” he said.

Jestin also discussed the possibility of a breed ban, specifically regarding pit bulls.

“There’s a reason why places like the City of Toronto have banned them outright. I believe Denver has also banned pit bulls. Is that a way we want to go in Calgary? I’m not so sure,” he said. “But quite clearly, we have to take additional steps to make sure owners understand the ramifications of owning a breed that may potentially harm somebody.”

Jestin said there may be pit bulls coming from certain U.S. states and puppy mills from other areas in western Canada, in which bylaw officers do not know their lineage and social skills.

Along with license fees going up, Jestin said other potential restrictions include putting muzzles and bandanas on particular breeds.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s certainly open to looking at stiffer penalties, but he disagrees with a breed ban.

“It’s been proven over and over again that breed-specific bans don’t work and in fact people from around the world come to Calgary to look at our responsible pet ownership bylaw as an example for what really does work,” Nenshi said.

So far in 2015, there have been 18 vicious dog bite investigations, with 15 including bites to people, but those don’t include the last five incidents.