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Owner reeling after vicious dog ruling

The city has taken what it calls “necessary steps” after a bylaw officer was bit by a loose dog in Grande Prairie.

When officers responded to a report of loose dogs on May 2, 2018 they found one pit bull, Dexter, and one presa canario, Marley, running free. One of the responding officers was bit by Marley before the dog was captured and taken into the pound.

Bylaw officers told the Infrastructure and Protective Services Committee Tuesday that the injured officers wound was a level four bite, according to the Ian Dunbar Scale. The scale, which assesses the level of damage left after a dog bite, goes as high as level six. A four shows evidence the animal “clamped down and shook or slashed victim.”

Dexter was returned to owner Joshua Gougeon but Marley has been held at the Grande Prairie Regional Animal Care Facility since the incident. Both animals have been deemed vicious, and Marley can’t be returned as only one with that designation can be located at a single address.

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Gougeon was hoping the city would re-consider Dexter’s vicious label so he can keep both pets. He says officers initially didn’t seem to be concerned about him.

“What I think is they looked into my history. They seen (sic) that I have records; they’ve seen that I’ve had several quarrels with dogs in other municipalities and they just get this judgement on me and then all of a sudden the story changes.”

Bylaw officers brought forward information and evidence that they had received from other municipalities regarding the dogs’ history. It showed they were involved in attacks both in Edmonton and Evansburg, Alberta as well.

Superintendent of Public Safety with Enforcement Services Chris Manuel says they will work with Gougeon to re-home one of the dogs if needed.

“It’s not that the animal has to be euthanized or anything like that. It’s frankly that we can only have one at the property. We’re going to have to work with him to find an alternative housing solution.”

He also explained the “vicious” designation comes with other guidelines as well.

“The vicious dog licensing requires all sorts of additional provisions such as enclosures and insurance and a variety of mitigation [efforts] to reduce the risk to the community.”

That’s something Gougeon says he was aware of and in the process of preparing for.

“I’ve already 70 per cent completed my dog run. Even though one of them would be vicious they would still be living under the same conditions. It’s not like I’m going to leave one dog outside and have one dog in there. There would have been no difference; they would have been kept under the same rules.”

The committee denied Gougeon’s appeal. He received a verbal notification Tuesday but a formal notification will also come from the city’s legislative services branch.

The vicious dog legislation is meant to take the place of breed specific legislation. Manuel says they try to treat each animal as an individual.

“What we try to do is work with professionals that can determine whether it’s the environment, whether it’s the temperament of the dog. All sorts of factors are taken into consideration as to whether or not an animal is an acceptable risk to the community.”

Manuel believes there are about five dogs in the city that are currently classified as vicious. He says it’s only something the city tends to deal with once or twice a year.

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