The story of Maddie, Carter, and Capone
UPDATE Sept 21 2009: All three dogs have been determined to not be “pit bulls” and have been released to their owners. See my update here.
ORIGINAL STORY September 19 2009:
The Dog Legislation Council has been dealing with an issue that, up until yesterday, was kept under the radar in the hopes that things could be worked out amicably between the dogs’ owners and Sarnia Animal Control.
Since the story hit the local newspaper yesterday, September 18, I feel it’s necessary to let everyone know what’s going on.
First, the contact information for Sarnia so that it doesn’t get lost in the stories below.
Mr. Brad Loosley, Deputy City Clerk
519-332-0330 ext 351
Mr. Loosley has been identified by the dogs’ owners as the Chief Animal Control Officer, although the city’s website identifies him as the Deputy City Clerk.
Mike Bradley, Mayor
519-332-0330 ext 312
Dave Boushy, City Councillor
Jim Foubister, City Councillor
Bev MacDougall, City Councillor
Anne Marie Gillis, City Councillor
Andy Bruziewicz, City Councillor
Jon McEachran, City Councillor
Mike Kelch, City Councillor
Terry Burrell, City Councillor
If you choose to contact these people, keep in mind a few things:
- Other than Brad Loosley, the people listed above may not have any idea what’s going on.
- Treat them with respect and politeness, simply requesting their intervention in this matter.
- Point out that there is no requirement in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act for a city to identify a dog as a “pit bull”. The only reason to do so is to kill the dog, period.
- Stress that Alan Bennett has looked at these dogs and determined them to NOT be Staffordshire Bull Terriers or any other breed banned under the Ontario law. Mr. Bennett is a Canadian Kennel Club judge, qualified to judge ALL 175 breeds registered by the CKC, and a former Director of the Canadian Kennel Club.
OK, so here’s the story:
On Sunday, August 30, 2009, an eleven month old puppy escaped the property of its owner. Her name is Maddie. Despite the owner’s search, Maddie could not be found.
On Monday, August 31, her owners finally traced her to the Sarnia Humane Society. Apparently, she had been picked up by Animal Control.
Despite the owner identifying her as a Boxer/Labrador mix, Sarnia Animal Control refused to relinquish her to her owners, stating that they had identified Maddie as being similar to a Staffordshire Terrier, a breed banned in Ontario. Because of her age, Maddie was an illegal dog and was being confiscated.
(Note from chicobandido: It’s unclear exactly which breed Animal Control is using for comparison, since the breeds listed in the law include the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. There is no “Staffordshire Terrier” listed. However, this is semantics and I’m sure that, if pressed, Animal Control would just pick one or the other.)
Her owner promptly returned to the Humane Society with papers from the breeder stating these puppies were born of a Labrador and Boxer breeding. The dam is a CKC registered Boxer, the father an unregistered Labrador.
She had to return home without her puppy. Sarnia animal control stated that her proof wasn’t good enough.
On Tuesday, September 1, a recent new resident to the city of Sarnia was walking home with her eleven month old Boxer mix puppy, Carter, who was on leash. As they were walking, she happened to notice that she was being followed by a white car. She was afraid she was being stalked. The car stopped.
A Sarnia animal control officer jumped out of the car, grabbed the owner by the arm, and took her dog. The only explanation given by the officer was that Carter looked like a Staffordshire Terrier.
It is interesting to note that Carter is the littermate of Maddie, who was seized two days earlier. Extreme coincidence aside, Animal Control could only have been acting on information provided to them by Maddie’s owner in an attempt to prove her heritage. This assumption is even more likely to be accurate when we consider the subsequent confiscation of the puppies’ father later the same week.
Subsequent paperwork from the city of Sarnia stated that the owner need only provide a veterinarian’s statement of proof regarding the breed(s) of the dog. They stated that if she provided this identification, her dog would be released.
The following morning, the owner returned with the requested documents and was told by Mr Brad Loosley that “it wasn’t good enough” and that she would be required to provide further proof by means of an assessment by a CKC licensed judge with their full credentials and written report provided. Mr. Loosley is referred to by the owner as Chief Animal Control Officer although his title on Sarnia’s web site is Deputy City Clerk.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Canada arranged to have an all breed judge with impeccable credentials visit to assess the dogs. Mr. Allan Bennett was refused entrance to the shelter by Mr Loosley. Apparently, he was refused entrance because Mr Loosley “thought he was testifying for the city”, despite the fact that, according to Mr Bennett , he stated no such thing. The Dog Legislation Council of Canada intervened and smoothed the way for Mr Bennett to enter and do the required assessment.
Meanwhile, the puppy’s sire , a Labrador, was also seized and identified as being similar to a “Staffordshire Terrier”. Interestingly, when Animal Control attended this house, there was also a legal “pit bull” in the house. This dog was in full compliance with the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. It appeared to the dog’s owner that Animal Control wanted to seize the “pit bull” as the puppies’ father, but could not because the dog had been neutered four years ago and could not possibly have sired the puppies. In the owner’s words, “it looked like he really wanted to take the pit bull and was disappointed”.
On Friday, September 11, Mr. Allan Bennett attended the Sarnia Humane Society to examine all the dogs in question. On Monday afternoon, September 14, his written report was submitted to City Hall.
Mr. Bennett concluded in his report “that the characteristics of all the dogs examined are consistent with poorly bred Boxers and are not “Pitbull” breed, nor do they have the appearance or physical characteristics similar to the “Pitbull” breed”.
(Note from chicobandido: Mr. Bennett was using the term “pitbull” as defined in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, which includes pit bull terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and any dog with substantially similar physical characteristics to the aforementioned breeds.)
Mr. Bennett continued, “My professional and expert recommendation is that these dog be returned to their owners spayed and neutered “.
On the Monday of the report, Mr Loosley was not in the office and nothing further could be done to bring the dogs home.
On Tuesday, September 15, Mr. Loosley decided that he wanted to bring in his own expert because Mr Bennett’s assessment conflicted with that of his officers, neither of which have any credentials whatsoever in judging any breed of dog.
On Wednesday, the city’s expert attended the Humane Society to examine the dogs. The report from this expert was due on Friday, September 18.
To date, Sarnia animal control has refused to provide this expert’s name or credentials. They have refused to allow the owners of all three seized dogs to see this person’s report until a final judgment on the life or death of these dogs is made by Mr Loosely on September 21, some three weeks after their incarceration.
If you recall, we have had three other situations occur in Sarnia since the introduction of the 2005 Dog Owners’ Liability Act.
The first occurred in March 2006. A dog named Tidus was identified as a “pit bull” and ordered destroyed under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. The dog’s owner took the case to court and, in April, the destruction order was set aside.
“This legislation is very vague because it doesn’t give direction,” said Justice of the Peace Helen Gale in making her ruling to release Tidus following the two-and-a-half hour trial. She noted that the Canadian Kennel Club does not even recognize pit bulls as being a specific breed. “There needs to be a clear definition,” said Gale. “There are some real problems with the act.”
The second incident in Sarnia occurred also in April 2006, only a few days after the ruling. A Hungarian Vizsla (a purebred hunting dog) was identified as a “pit bull”. The owner had papers from the United States identifying the dog as a Vizsla. Ultimately, this dog was released to the owner on a “gentleman’s handshake” on the condition that the dog leave the province immediately.
The third incident, which attracted attention across North America, occurred in June 2007. Sarnia Animal Control (again, Mr. Brad Loosley) confiscated three seven week old puppies and their mother (yes that’s SEVEN WEEKS OLD) who were identified as Staffordshire Bull Terriers and confiscated for being a “threat to public safety”. They were scheduled for destruction that same week.
The public outcry in this case, the significant assistance of their pro bono lawyer, Mr. Chris Avery, as well as offers of help from Advocates for the Underdog and the Dog Legislation Council of Canada, persuaded the city of Sarnia to eventually change their mind. Note, however, that even with that change of heart, the dogs still had to be shipped out of the province in order to stay alive, as was the case with the Vizsla.
Here are the articles I wrote at that time:
In this latest case, it certainly seems that Sarnia Animal Control has gone on a “witch hunt” to confiscate and destroy all three of these dogs. NONE of these dogs have shown any aggression or been involved in any biting incident and TWO of them were confiscated directly from their owners who were doing nothing different than what millions of dog owners across Canada do every day with their dogs.
According to previous reports, the Mayor of Sarnia, Mike Bradley, is not in favour of the breed-specific Dog Owners’ Liability Act. He and the city councillors need to be made aware of this situation immediately. They must intervene, not only in this case, but in their city’s Animal Control policy, to ensure that law-abiding citizens with safe, non-threatening dogs are left in peace to enjoy their pets.
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