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B.C. judge orders pit bull to be euthanized

A B.C. tribunal has ruled that a man whose puppy died is not entitled to further compensation from the breeder. (Image: Shutterstock) A B.C. tribunal has ruled that a man whose puppy died is not entitled to further compensation from the breeder. (Image: Shutterstock)
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Warning: This story contains details that readers may find distrubing. 

A B.C. judge has ordered a five-year-old pit bull to be euthanized, saying there is no other way to manage the risk the dog poses to other animals and people.

The case was heard in Abbotsford earlier this month, with the judge's reasons posted online Wednesday. The court heard that the dog, named Bruno, was taken from his owner Nicole Carlson in January of this year after a series of violent incidents dating back to when he was a puppy – including one that was described as "horrific."

The Animal Control Officer for the Fraser Valley Regional District argued that there was no way to safely rehome Bruno and applied for a court order that he be declared dangerous and destroyed.

Ultimately, Justice Gregory John Brown agreed.

"When I examine Bruno's past behaviour and the owner's ability to control that behaviour, I find there is a significant likelihood Bruno could kill or seriously injure an animal or human in the future," he wrote. "Indeed, the incidents got worse as time progressed."

BRUNO'S HISTORY

Bruno, the court heard, was one of several pit bulls Carlson owned. However, his siblings and mother were rehomed after being involved in attacks on neighborhood dogs in which they were "acting like a pack." Bruno was involved in at least one of these incidents when he was three months old in 2017.

However, Brown noted that even when Bruno was the sole dog in Carlson's possession, the aggressive behaviour continued.

In 2018 Bruno was not wearing a leash, a witness told the court, when he charged at her puppy and her 11-year-old pit bull.

"Bruno latched on to her dog's face and ear, and her dog was bleeding from its mouth," Brown wrote, adding that the dog's owner "began punching Bruno and he let go after the fifth or sixth punch."

That incident prompted an animal control officer to visit Carlson at home in 2019 and declare Bruno an "aggressive dog." When a dog is designated as aggressive, it is subject to "leashing, muzzling and containment requirements," Brown said, adding that there was no evidence any of these requirements were adhered to.

THE 'HORRIFIC' ATTACK

The incident that Brown described as both "horrific" and "the most serious" happened in June of 2021, and left a Jack Russell terrier dead.

Carlson's roommate was walking Bruno, who was wearing a harness and on a leash but was not muzzled, according to the decision. The dog walker told the court that the Jack Russell was tethered in a yard and "lunged" at Bruno. The judge said that regardless of whether this was true, the dog was nothing more than an "ankle biter."

The chaotic scene described in the court documents involved screaming neighbours and bystanders' attempts to stop the attack.

"Other people came with shovels and hit Bruno to get him to release. A person was bitten trying to break up the fight," Brown wrote.

"Bruno would not release his lockjaw grip on the Jack Russell, notwithstanding the fact he was being hit on the head with shovels. Bruno eventually released his grip only to grab the Jack Russell again and essentially shake the dog to death … This was a prolonged and vicious attack on a smaller dog, and no one was able to prevent Bruno from causing serious injuries to the Jack Russell."

BRUNO IS SEIZED

Two months after that, in August, another friend of Carlson's was walking Bruno when the pit bull attacked a standard poodle. That dog's owner testified about what unfolded next.

"The pit bull bit his dog in the face, and it took two to three minutes to pry the pit bull off his dog's face. His dog had a rip from its ear to its neck," Brown summarized.

While animal control officers had some difficulty locating Carlson, who the court documents describe as "quite transient" and also as moving around in a way that "essentially hid" Bruno because she was fearful that the dog would be taken from her.

Bruno was seized in January of 2022.

MANAGEMENT PLAN REJECTED

Carlson, for her part, presented a "management plan" to the court laying out how she would prevent future incidents. In support of that plan, the court heard that Bruno was "very affectionate towards and protective of his owner and other people" and that he was a "great support" to Carlson. The judge also noted a petition was submitted to the court saying in part that the dog was a "net positive dog for our planet."

However, the judge was not persuaded that Carlson, even with support from others, would be able to manage Bruno or comply with the conditions of the plan, including muzzling. The court heard from an expert veterinarian who recommended against returning the dog to Carlson and also said it would be incredibly difficult to find the dog another home.

THE JUDGE'S DECISION

The decision quoted from the expert's evaluation of Bruno, which recommended the court order him to be destroyed.

"What motivates Bruno to bite people and dogs? Based on a review of the evidence provided to me and Bruno's behavioural assessment in care, it is my opinion that Bruno is motivated to bite people: when they approach his territory, when they get close to him, when they intervene in a dog attack on their pets involving Bruno," it read.

"It is my opinion that Bruno is motivated to bite dogs: when they approach his territory, when they get close to him and finally, without provocation."

Brown noted that the only options legally available were to declare Bruno dangerous and order him to be put down or to return him to Carlson. Given those two options and the evidence before him, he ordered the dog to be "humanely euthanized."

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