TORONTO – Jon Dunnill wants justice for April, his 12-year-old Havanese dog that was killed by a neighbour’s dog that he says was a pit bull – a breed banned in Ontario.
April died inside Dunnill’s downtown condominium on April 19, 2016.
His sister-in-law, Adelina Amaral, was standing in the hallway when another dog jumped at her, Dunnill said. As Amaral rushed to get inside the apartment, so did the male dog named Brownie, which belonged to a neighbour two doors down the hall, he said.
“I thought the intruding dog was simply going to sniff April, but before I knew it the pit bull had April in her jaws, head high, and proceeded to violently shake April side to side like a rag doll,” he said. “I heard an awful scream come from April.”
By the time Brownie’s owner, Kathleen Callaghan, came to the door, April was dead, Dunnill said.
A neighbour called police and Toronto Animal Services.
The next day, Brownie was euthanized. Toronto Animal Services didn’t lay charges, saying the owners co-operated by giving the dog up.
Elizabeth Glibbery, a manager at Toronto Animal Services, said Brownie was “substantially similar to an American Staffordshire Terrier,” a type of pit bull.
Toronto police also investigated, according to Const. Jenniferjit Sidhu, but she said the Crown decided there wasn’t a reasonable chance for conviction, so they also didn’t lay charges.
Dunnill has now filed a small claims lawsuit against Brownie’s owners, Callaghan and Daniel Hill, and Dog Tales – an animal group from where the pit bull was adopted. Dunnill is seeking about $24,000 in damages, including the cost of cremating April and $7,500 each for mental anguish for him, his wife and his wife’s sister who lives with them.
“The dogs are like our children,” Dunnill said, choking up. “It’s tough, it’s tough to take. I think about it all the time.”
He said he filed the suit because “there should be consequences for killing my dog.”
In his statement of claim, Dunnill alleges Dog Tales should have known Brownie was a pit bull, and therefore the animal shouldn’t have been given for adoption. He also alleges Dog Tales should have known the dog “displayed an extremely high drive to harm other animals” and shouldn’t have been placed in a home.
According to the claim, when Callaghan showed up to find April in Brownie’s jaws, she said: “I have to call the shelter where I got her … they said if anything like this were to happen, I should call them right away.”
Dog Tales has denied all the allegations, which have not been proven in court, and said it will defend itself “vigorously.”
The dog and horse rescue organization, located in King City, Ont., north of Toronto, is owned by Danielle Eden and Rob Scheinberg, whose family is among the richest in the country, according to Canadian Business magazine.
Dog Tales’ rescue missions periodically make news: the group brought 260 dogs from a shelter in Israel last year, and last month it took in 63 dogs saved from a Chinese meat festival.
Last week, Dog Tales rolled out a campaign featuring celebrities like Don Cherry, actor Adrian Grenier and Paris Hilton in an effort to save 21 dogs seized during raids in October 2015 that are on death row.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which requires court approval to destroy animals for behavioural reasons, has said an evaluation of the animals concluded that the 21 “pit bull-type dogs” are a menace to society and cannot be rehabilitated.
Dog Tales tried to intervene in the court case, but a judge denied its request in December.
A spokeswoman for the animal group called April’s death “a tragic event.”
“Our hearts go out to April’s family, who went through something that no dog parent should ever go through,” Clare Forndran said in a statement.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t think of Brownie – a sweet, lazy, senior dog who was loved dearly by our staff and volunteers,” she said.
“We take every precaution to ensure that our dogs are adopted into responsible and loving homes, and we have many unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding the event.”
Dunnill also alleges that Brownie’s owners should have known their dog was dangerous and therefore it should have been on a leash.
Brownie’s owners did not respond to requests for comment.