Dog attack raises talk of ban
Man, 79, hurt Borough to look into pit bull bylaw: councillor
Sunday, August 10, 2008
A vicious attack by a pit bull that badly injured a 79-year-old man in Notre Dame de Grâce has re-ignited the debate about what to do about aggressive dogs and their owners.
The Côte des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grâce borough needs to discuss the issue before doing anything, said Marcel Tremblay, city councillor for the N.D.G. ward. He said he has asked the borough to determine if it's legal to adopt a bylaw banning certain breeds of dogs.
In the meantime, Antonio Nitti, his bloodied arm in a sling, sat at the kitchen table of his son's home on Oxford Ave., surrounded by family.
The elderly man's left hand was heavily bandaged after a pit bull bit him several times and tore off a large amount of skin while Nitti was walking his son's Lhasa Apso, named Gizmo, in a park across the street Thursday.
The dog "came at me. It was going like 200 miles an hour," Nitti said in Italian.
The pit bull repeatedly bit Gizmo even after Nitti picked up the smaller dog.
The pit bull finally knocked the elderly man to the ground and stopped attacking only after Nitti threw Gizmo into a garbage can to save him.
A neighbour rescued Nitti by holding down the pit bull until police arrived. The dog was then taken to the SPCA.
Nitti's family said doctors told them he will probably need a skin graft.
The dog that attacked Nitti, who also lives on Oxford Ave., has a history of violence, neighbourhood residents said.
Jim Eden and his wife, Gail, live on Harvard Ave., one block west, and said the same pit bull attacked their dog, a Maltese, about six weeks ago.
The pit bull "tore a big chunk of hair off its tail," Eden said.
A week later, Eden added, he was in the park and saw the dog knock down a young child. Luckily, the child was unharmed, Eden said.
Nitti's daughter, Antonia Iturbe, said the city should have impounded the dog when the canine squad found it unleashed and roaming the streets two days before it attacked her father.
"I said they're going to wait until somebody gets hurt (to remove the animal). It had to be my dad," she said.
Nitti's son-in-law, Ray Iturbe, added: "We have bills for the vet, we have bills for medication. ... We're going to look at legal counsel to go after the city because we feel they're responsible for not acting. ... This could have been avoided." Tremblay said the city can't be held responsible for not knowing everything that goes on in a borough of more than 164,000 people. "It's impossible," he said.
Down the street from the Iturbes' home, the owner of the 2-year-old pit bull and her boyfriend still hadn't heard a word yesterday about their pet's fate.
The couple, who refused to reveal their names, said their dog, named Sugar, had never attacked humans before and "it wasn't in her character." The man said Sugar was in heat and had just finished playing with another male dog before running across the street to the park.
The man, who said he was in his 20s, ran to see what his girlfriend's dog had done, but backed away because, he said, he "doesn't do well with crowds." "I didn't even recognize her. She had blood stains all over mouth," he said.
"When I saw blood and I heard the dog attacked a person, I thought, 'You did it this time.' I turned my back." He said his girlfriend should have the right to say goodbye to the animal before it's destroyed.
Alanna Devine, acting executive director of the SPCA, said the dog is in the organization's custody. She said she expects the police to order the animal to be euthanized.
Sugar was "quite aggressive," Devine noted.
Legislation to prohibit specific breeds is pointless, Devine said, as people who breed pit bulls for aggressiveness will just choose another strong dog, like a Rottweiler or a mastiff, and get the same results.
"It's not the dog, it's the owners," she said.
Instead of banning certain breeds of dogs outright, Devine said, the city should prohibit certain types of people from owning strong, powerful dogs.
People should be screened and get a licence before owning such pets, she suggested.
"I have a pit bull. She's a pussycat, she's a wonderful dog," Devine said. "I really would adopt nothing else but a pit bull."
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