In an act of civil disobedience, a Nanaimo woman will continue to walk her pit bull without a muzzle. Janice Grewcock was walking her 15-month old pit bull, Dominic, through a Selby Street neighbourhood on Friday afternoon when she was given a $500 fine by an RCMP officer for not having a muzzle on her dog.
In Nanaimo, dog bylaws require restricted breeds like pit bulls to be muzzled in public unless they receive a good neighbour certification from the Canadian Kennel Club. But some residents, like Grewcock, don't agree with a system of bylaws that targets dogs based on their breed.
"I'm not paying it," she said of the fine. "If I pay it, that's an admission of guilt."
Municipalities like the cities of Victoria and Duncan have dog governing bylaws that do not target specific breeds.
Grewcock said she trusts Dominic around the young members of her family, as well as the children he meets in public. The dog, somewhat shy and skittish in nature, has a tendency to eat her niece's Barbie dolls, but beyond that she swears, he's gentle as a lamb. Her decision to balk the city's bylaws could make life difficult for Dominic and his owner.
Staff Sgt. Sorab Rupa of the Nanaimo RCMP said officers will continue to do their job.
"It's a city issue, what they would do to recover their fines, I can't speak to that," he said. "If you breach a bylaw, same as a loud party or anything else, we will give you a ticket."
Nanaimo SPCA shelter manager Leon Davis said Grewcock's stance could lead to Dominic being impounded or even euthanized.
He described the city's dog bylaw as archaic and outdated. "The big problem that the SPCA has with targeting (breeds) is that any dog can be vicious, any dog can bite," he said. "People who are responsible pet owners are being targeted."
Davis called on the city to explore what he called dangerous dog legislation, a system of heavy fines to be levied against owners with canines that are known to be dangerous, regardless of the breed.
"Nanaimo's way behind the times. There's a large growing group of people who are really upset," he said.
Nanaimo mayor John Ruttan did not rule out the possibility of revisiting the legislation.
He defended the bylaw and said its purpose is to protect the public. The mayor said he understood the concerns of the legislation's opponents, but added that respect has to be given to those dogs with a track record of aggression.
"People have to give some credence to those dogs, those breeds of dogs that have a higher than normal problem factor," he said.
Coun. George Anderson said a balance needs to be achieved between governing the dogs and their owners.
"As it stands, I think that we're protecting the public," he said. "But in the case of our bylaw right now, perhaps it does need to be looked at." Dogs classified as restricted in Nanaimo include pit bulls and pit bull terriers, American pit bulls, Staffordshire bull terriers and American Staffordshire bull terriers. Mixed breeds with those bloodlines are also restricted.
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