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Woman attacked by pit bull encourages Calgarians to fill out city pet survey

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WATCH: The City of Calgary is looking for input on potential changes to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. While the survey covers a lot of subjects, the part regarding pit bulls is generating some controversy. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Aug 23, 2020

Editor’s Note: A photo previously shown at the top of this story incorrectly showed a dog belonging to Chantelle Mackney.  Mackney’s dog was not involved in the attack in question and Global News regrets the error. 

WARNING: This story contains graphic images.

The city is looking for input on potential changes to Calgary’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.

While the survey covers many subjects, the part regarding pit bulls is generating some controversy.

The scars on Stephanie Browne’s arms are a reminder of the day in 2014 when she was attacked by a pit bull cross while jogging in McKenzie Towne.

“It bit on me, and as it was lunging for my throat, it shook and it tore a huge hole in my flesh,” Browne said.

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Read more: Calgary pet bylaws: What changes would you like to see?

Fortunately, a neighbour who heard the commotion kicked the dog loose.

“I thanked him profusely later on because if he had not saved me, I would probably be dead,” Browne said.

Browne said the dog’s owner was fined and the animal was euthanized because of the severity of the bite. Browne was told by bylaw investigators that the year-old dog did not have a record of aggression.

“The bite was classified as a level five. There are only levels one to six and six causes death,” Browne said, referring to an assessment tool used by the city called the Dunbar Dog Bite Scale.

Stephanie Browne’s injuries in 2014. Courtesy: Stephanie Browne

Because of her experience, Stephanie is now urging Calgarians to fill out the city’s new survey on possible changes to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.

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In one section, there are questions relating to specific rules for pit bull-type dogs, like additional insurance and muzzle requirements, obedience training and banning the animals from off-leash parks. There is also a question about higher fines for pit bulls involved in bylaw offences.

Read more: University of Calgary research shows severe dogs bites more likely to happen at home

The Calgary Humane Society does not support breed-specific legislation. The senior manager of animal cruelty investigations said it’s been proven not to work.

“It doesn’t take into account the individual animal. It’s genetics, the owner’s responsibility for socializing the animals for setting it up for success. There certainly are other breeds that are prone to aggression as well,” said Brad Nichols, senior manager of animal cruelty investigations with the CHS.

“You can see on the survey how a pit bull is defined. It’s very wide open. Anything that looks like a pit bull essentially. You would hate to see some great dogs that are covered by that definition lose out on some of their quality of life because they can’t go to a dog park or be muzzled all because of nothing within their own doing.”

Read more: Woman walking dog attacked by 4 pit bulls: Calgary police

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The founder of Alberta-based Justice for Bullies, a group that lobbies for breed-neutral laws, said the city is giving people the belief that special rules for pit bulls will make the community safer. Chantelle Mackney said education and enforcement of current legislation would be more effective.

“Prior to the last few years, the legislation was enforced heavily. There were a lot of incentives for owners for being compliant and registering their dogs. There were a lot of outreach programs and there were dog bite prevention programs for children. So I think we just need to get back to the core of the bylaw that we already have,” Mackney said

Mackney said she would like to see the city focus on the risk factors associated with dog bites.

“The known factors are poor breeding, lack of socialization, lack of training, and really, that is where we need to put all of our focus into in this community to keep our dogs and the people safe,” Mackney said.

The survey mentions that “while pit bulls are not involved in more bite incidents than other dog breeds, the reason they are listed is because a pitbull’s strength allows the potential for a more severe bite.”

Read more: Stiffer fees suggested for Calgary pit bull owners

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Browne has had plastic surgery and suffered permanent tendon damage. She said the trauma she went through could have been prevented.

“If that dog were muzzled that day, I would not have received these injuries. It’s as simple as that. Just preventing injury and death,” Browne said.

Stephanie Browne’s injuries in 2014. Courtesy: Stephanie Browne

The pet ownership bylaw survey covers everything from backyard chickens to stray and roaming cats, and is open until Sept. 17.

“[The survey] definitely has the potential to be controversial, but at the same time, it’s public engagement and it is the public’s opportunity to tell the city what they think of it,” Nichols said.
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Read more: N.S. woman dead after pit bull attack in Middle Musquodoboit: RCMP

Feedback will be used in potential amendments for city council’s consideration and proposed administrative changes.

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