A Nelson man whose dog was attacked by another dog on Thursday is concerned about the safety of the off-leash dog park located on the Nelson waterfront adjacent to the airport runway.
Nelson’s Brian Shields is a retiree who has been walking his two dogs, Angus and Max, at the park for years.
On Thursday (November 12), Shields claims that an unleashed pit-bull attacked his dog Angus, an eight pound yorkie, and he now fears for the safety of his pets and said he will no longer be using the park.
“I went to the Dog Park with my dogs Angus and Max and we encountered an unleashed Pit-bull who was poised in the predator position,” Shields told The Nelson Daily.
“I was a little nervous but the owner shouted ‘don’t worry he’s a good dog, don’t worry’.”
Shields continued, saying, ”Then we got a little bit closer and as soon as we got close enough for him to get to Angus, he grabbed him in his mouth, ran into the woods and was shaking him. My friend said ‘oh he’s dead for sure’.”
Shields said that his dog was on a leash, and the pit-bull, who was unleashed, tore the lead during the attack.
“She said ‘your dog should have been on a leash’ and I said ‘my dog was on a leash, until your dog took it in his mouth and ripped it off’.”
After being knocked the ground, Shields said his friend ran over and rescued Angus. Although the dog is fine, Shields refuses to risk repeating a similar incident and now walks his dogs on another trail.
According to Animal Regulation & Control Bylaw No. 2333:
“No person shall cause, suffer or permit any Vicious Dog owned or harboured by such person to be on a highway or in any public place, or to be on any private lands and premises without the consent of the occupier of such lands and premises and unless such Vicious Dog is on a leash and effectively muzzled.”
The bylaw also states that a vicious dog includes “Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or any dog of mixed breeding which includes any of the aforementioned breeds.”
“Any terrier breed has to be on a lead and muzzle, anywhere in the city of Nelson,” said Fred Thomson of the Nelson City Bylaw Dept when asked about the bylaw.” “Including the off leash area. It’s the same for any breed of dog that’s been deemed as vicious. They have to be muzzled and on a lead, that’s part of the vicious dog bylaw.”
Shields was quick to point out that he is not by any means “anti-pit-bull” and despite the bad press the breed has received over the years, he believes that regardless of breed, a dog is only as good as the owner has trained them to be.
“I’m not anti-pit-bull. I’m anti untrained dog, bad owner. I know lots of pit-bulls that are nice dogs and would never hurt anything because they’ve been raised right and trained and they listen to their owner,” he said.
“The rules of the park are that the dog must be in the care and control of their owner, and if that’s followed I don’t care what dogs are down there.”
Unfortunately, due to the spontaneous nature of these incidents and the “he said, she said” narrative that stems from them, it’s difficult for the Nelson Bylaw Dept. to enforce these bylaws and investigate these events.
“There’s a lot of dogs and usually it’s long after the fact, that somebody contacts us.,” Thomson explained.
“It happened a week ago, or two weeks ago” and there’s not really a whole lot we can do at that point; especially if they don’t the person or know who it is.”
Thomson also stressed the difficulty of properly identifying the dog, and adding this was another reason these bylaws are hard to enforce.
“You can’t just say a black pit-bull, for example, because you could see somebody down there and it might be a different black pit-bull, so you don’t want to start accusing somebody of something that serious unless you’re positive you’ve got the right person,” he said.
Nelson City Council changed bylaw this year to allow owners to bring dogs into the downtown core.
Animals must be attended at all times and cannot be left alone tied to parking meters or poles on city property.
Owners must also pickup their dog’s feces. The City has provided a variety of spots where owners can find doggie bags.
Shields said this was one of the reasons he decided against reporting the attack.
“I haven’t because I got no ID from the person. I don’t know who they are; I don’t know the dog’s name. I was lying on the ground.”
Because of these problems, and the varying seriousness of the attacks, it’s difficult to state definitively how often these incidents take place.
According to Thomson, the Bylaw Dept. receives “a half-dozen complaints a year, maybe,” and that number may even be on the high side.
As for Shields, this latest attack was the final straw, and despite his fondness for the park, he now feels it has become unsafe and walks his dogs elsewhere.
“This is not one incident that happened yesterday. My friend had an incident a few months ago; I had an incident before and now this. That’s why I’m making this comment; this is not a safe place to be. If you’re getting a list of attacks, these aren’t safe conditions. I’m not going back there, I go up to the (Great Northern) rail trail (above town) now.”