Provincial court Judge Lisa Mrozinski watched videos of a pitbull attacking artificial decoy dogs during an application by the City of Victoria’s animal-control officers to have the dog put down.
On the first video, the liver-coloured pitbull, Bentley, is wagging his tail as it enters the room at the animal shelter where Lisbeth Plant, an expert in animal aggression, is waiting with her decoy Jack Russell terrier.
Jack, the decoy, has been rubbed against one of Plant’s own dogs so it smells like dog. It is also wearing a collar and tags.
In a flash, Bentley makes a beeline for Jack, pushes him over and bites him on the neck. Terrifying growls fill the courtroom as Bentley puts his weight on Jack and pins him down. Plant is unable to pull the decoy away.
“If that had been a live dog, that dog would be dead,” Plant testified. “Those were kill bites.”
The attack is just as fast and just as deadly in another video filmed four minutes later. Bentley runs at a decoy black lab, bites it and shakes it until its spine is broken.
“Bentley’s level of aggression is 10 out of 10,” Plant testified. “This dog is capable of killing other animals.”
And he has.
On April 21, Peter McPherson, 72, was walking Cassie, a nine-pound Maltese-poodle cross, on View Street when Bentley jumped out and attacked her.
“I’ve never seen a dog with a bigger mouth,” McPherson testified. “This dog went for the throat.”
Cassie had a laceration from her neck to her abdomen from Bentley’s claw. Her spine was also crushed.
“What did you do?” asked Jarrett Plonka, the lawyer representing the City of Victoria.
“I yelled like heck,” said McPherson, a retired engineer. “I was holding the dog and they were pulling back on the other dog. Several people were actually punching it on the nose and it showed no sign of release.”
Construction workers employed nearby rushed to help. One man gave McPherson his sweater to wrap around Cassie.
Someone drove McPherson and Cassie to the Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital.
“The vet said it was highly unlikely he could heal Cassie in any way. … Her spine was stretched and could not be repaired.”
Although he wanted to save Cassie, McPherson realized it would be cruel. He made the difficult decision to have her put down.
After her death, McPherson washed the sweater, walked over to the construction site and gave the sweater back to the worker.
“The next day, I walked outside my condo and there was this huge bouquet of flowers,” he testified.
Animal-control officer Matthew Brownlee arrived at the scene and saw Ryan Mulligan, one of Bentley’s two owners, sitting on the ground holding the dog.
“He said he was in the midst of changing collars and Bentley got away from him and attacked Cassie,” Brownlee testified.
Mulligan also told him Bentley had attacked two other dogs, Brownlee said.
Brownlee told Mulligan he could surrender Bentley to be put down or animal control could seize the dog under the community charter.
Mulligan refused to surrender Bentley, so Brownlee seized the dog.
Bentley’s other owner, Mike Desbiens, is in custody and was present in court Monday.
A dog can be deemed dangerous if it has killed or seriously injured a person, has killed or seriously injured a domestic animal, while in a public place or while on private property — other than property owned or occupied by the person responsible for the dog — or an animal-control officer has reasonable grounds to believe it is likely to kill or seriously injure a person.
“These videos show Bentley is an animal not to be trifled with,” Mrozinski said. “He almost instantly rises to the attack to the point of injury, if not death. How can such an animal be reintroduced to the community to live among adults, children and other domestic animals?”
Bentley would have to be under constant control, harnessed and muzzled with no chance of escaping into the streets in case a small child or dog passes by, said Mrozinski.
His prognosis for rehabilitation is poor. Even if he were placed in a home, his life would be so restricted it would be borderline cruel, said the judge.
Mrozinski granted the order to put down the dog within 14 days. However, Mulligan plans to appeal the order.