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Council approves new pitbull fines, fees
Burnaby council and pitbull advocates do appear to agree on one thing: it's irresponsible dog owners who are the problem, not the breed itself.
It's how to address the problem where they differ.
On Monday, council unanimously approved changes to Burnaby's animal control bylaw that sets out increased fees and fines for infractions by vicious dogs, of which pitbulls are the only breed specified.
Before that, biologist and animal behaviour expert Jason Jones reiterated what others have said, that the focus should be on irresponsible owners' behaviour and not on the breed itself.
Alisha Robie, manager of a Tisol pet supply store in North Burnaby, expressed concern the proposed changes had some customers stating they wouldn't support city hall by shopping at Burnaby businesses.
Mayor Derek Corrigan was skeptical of such an impact since Burnaby's bylaw, which requires pitbulls to be muzzled in public, has already been in place for 11 years.
In the end, council believed the restrictions are the best way to protect the public from the behaviour of irresponsible dog owners.
Coun. Nick Volkow said he was torn on the issue after hearing both sides but was reminded of what pitbulls can do after seeing a news report of a two-year-old boy mauled to death by five pitbulls in California.
"I think this breed has earned the reputation to be singled out," Volkow said.
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal noted that a pitbull's bite is "totally different" from that of other dogs and capable of causing devastating damage or a fatality.
While there has been a "vocal minority" opposed to breed-specific legislation, Coun. Pietro Calendino said there is a "very silent majority" who support the restrictions.
Some of those in support have written to council in support of the move. Coun. Anne Kang noted one parent wrote her expressing concern that another parent brings their unmuzzled pitbull to her kids' school.
A few months ago a responsible dog owner complained his leashed dog was attacked by a pitbull-type dog in Fraser Foreshore Park and "the owner just gave him the finger," recalled Coun. Paul McDonell, adding it's those sorts of owners the bylaw is targeting.
McDonell said in recent weeks he's met two people with muzzled dogs, a great dane and a cross, and in both cases they said their dogs didn't like it at first but soon got used to it.
They didn't want to take the chance that either their dog would cause a problem or that they would be blamed if something happened to another dog, he said.
Corrigan read out a letter from Coun. Colleen Jordan, who was away, expressing her support for the bylaw amendment.
If someone were hurt after the bylaw were weakened, she said, "I would feel personally as responsible as the owner of the animal."
Jordan likened the bylaw to criminal laws which still have to be enforced for the small minority that don't act responsibly.
Corrigan said while good dog owners have managed to make pitbulls a good pet, there are still those who breed them to fight and kill.
"Unfortunately, though there are people out there who use this dog as a weapon, there are people it's part of their macho image to have a dog that strains at a leash wearing a collar with points on it illustrating they are someone to be feared," Corrigan said. "Just like bad gun owners, dogs can be used in that way. Pitbulls when used in that way can be particularly dangerous to humans. "