NEWS
09/20/2015 21:50 EDT | Updated 09/20/2016 01:12 EDT

Dog attacks spike in Victoria, says regional bylaw officer concerned with out-of-province adoptions

The Capital Regional District says it's seen a spike in dogs attacking other dogs and people this past summer, and it believes it knows what is behind the increase.

"A lot of the attacks that we're finding are committed by dogs that have come in from outside of the province, in particular California," said Don Brown, chief bylaw officer for the Capital Regional District's Animal Care Services. "Seems to be there's a lot of dogs coming in from rescue groups."

Brown has not provided the exact number of dogs attacking other dogs, or dogs attacking people, but says it has been the worst year since he started with the district 13 years ago.

He points to the ballooning costs associated with carrying out seize-and-destroy orders for pets that can't be rehabilitated.

"Last year, believe it or not, we actually spent zero dollars in legal fees, whereas this year, we're up in the $20,000 range, so it's been difficult," said Brown.

Kill shelters

He says there has been a proliferation of people rescuing dogs from shelters in California, some of which will destroy an animal if it's not adopted in a certain period of time.

Brown says these types of rescues can be risky, because sometimes an animal can have a behavioural problem that is not assessed or known.

He wants people looking to adopt to turn to the district, which finds homes for hundreds of dogs each year, or the BCSPCA.

"All of our dogs are assessed and we would never release a dog to a family if it wasn't considered to be a good family pet," said Brown.

Pit bulls

He doesn't emphatically say a specific breed of dog is associated with the attacks, however, many have involved pit bulls.

CRD officers continue to search for a pit bull that one dog owner alleges killed his maltipoo Cooper on the top of Mount Finlayson in May.

But there have been many other dangerous dogs, which have been seized. At one point this past summer, the CRD put down four dogs in one day.

"Some years we only put four dogs down in a whole year, and we bring in 600 dogs a year," said Brown.

On average 95 per cent of dogs that the CRD brings in are re-homed, but Brown admits the rate certainly won't be that high this year.

Meanwhile people involved in rescuing out-of-province dogs say the assertions made by the CRD are a surprise.

"I have heard of attacks, but never have I heard that the dogs are rescue dogs," said Alana Power, who for the past two years has found homes for more than 100 dogs from California through Su Casa Rescue.

Heart strings

Her efforts began when a friend called her about a beagle/dachshund mix named Bella from the City of San Bernardino Animal Shelter.

"She came from a high kill shelter and she had four hours to live," said Power. "From there I fell in love with this little dog and I wanted to try and do more."

Power said the heart-breaking stories of animals in danger of being killed at poorly funded shelters in the U.S. "pulls on the heart-strings" of people.

She has never had a problem with any animal she has worked on finding a home for, and mostly deals with small dogs.

Still, she says any animal-owner needs to be responsible, get proper training for dogs and do even more to help the on-going problem of unwanted animals.

"I would like to see more awareness and more responsibility of pet owners world-wide spaying and neutering their dogs, their animals, because we the humans are creating the problem by letting these dogs pro-create."