03/12/2013 11:55 EDT | Updated 05/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Tranquilizers might have prevented deaths of 2 dogs shot by police

A Quebec animal control centre is saying the deaths of two dogs could have been prevented if tranquilizers were more accessible in the province.

On the evening of Feb. 27, Châteauguay resident Lisa Dickson called the local animal control centre for help when she arrived home and found her two dogs had gotten tangled together in the backyard after play fighting.

But Dickson says she didn't expect the visit would end with both of her pets being shot and killed by police.

The director of the animal control centre, Refuge A.M.R., said they received the call at 11:30 p.m. from Dickson, who told them that her one dog which was part bull mastiff was too aggressive to approach.

Director Christina Williamson said Dickson asked the centre to pick up her mastiff and take him back to the shelter.

Williamson said it was explained that the dog would have to be euthanized, and Dickson agreed.

"We do not put aggressive dogs up for adoption," Williamson said.

But Dickson says the animal control officer should have done more. When the employee arrived, he stood on the back deck and tried to break up the fight by throwing snowballs at the two dogs.

The employee felt the situation was too dangerous for his own safety and concluded there was no way to separate the dogs.

But Dickson and her husband said they don't understand why the officer didn't use equipment to separate the dogs

"He never went into the yard to check on them," Dickson said.

According to Dickson, the animal control officer concluded that one dog was biting the other on the throat and wouldn't let go.

In fact, it turned out that Harley, who was part bull mastiff, was caught on the choke chain being worn by Timber, who was part collie.

Police called for support

The animal control officer decided to contact the police for extra support, which Williamson said is common practice for Refuge.

Dickson said when the officers arrived, they asked her and her daughters to go inside the house.

Soon after she said they heard gunshots and went back outside to discover the dogs were dead.

"The girls were traumatized. They were hysterical," Dickson said.

But, according to Williamson, police officers had told the pet owner her dogs would have to be put down.

Châteauguay police spokeswoman Nadia Grondin said using a firearm is a last resort for police, but when an animal is suffering or represents a threat, they have to consider putting it down.

Stephen Howse, Dickson's husband, was at work during the incident.

When he came home, the dogs were already dead. He said he used his bolt cutters to separate their tangled chains.

Howse wonders why the animal control officer didn't use his equipment to help pin down the dogs and untangle them.

"He's supposed to be a professional dog catcher," he said.

Tranquilizers could have prevented dogs' death

In response to the incident, Williamson said better access to tranquilizers could have made a difference.

"If we had access to tranquilizers, none of this would have ever happened."

Williamson explained that tranquilizers are currently a controlled substance in Quebec and are only accessible through a veterinarian.

But Williamson said they were contacted by the pet owner at about 11:30 p.m., long after most veterinarians close their offices.