To the editor:
I feel compelled to step up and lend a voice in regards to the Regional District of Central Okanagan dog control function and how it can and did work when my family was faced with an issue that involved a dangerous dog.
My voice will hopefully shed some light on the side that is all too often disregarded in this highly charged, emotional debate, and that is the voice of the victims of dangerous/aggressive dogs/breeds and those who own them and choose to advocate for them.
In August 2011, my son was attacked by a pit bull, one that had been deemed aggressive by the RDCO dog control function because of it’s previous actions. When the RDCO chooses to deem a dog less than safe to be in the community, but allows the owners to continue to keep the dog, the responsibility the owner has to do all they can to protect the public must not be taken lightly, all things possible must be done by the owner to maintain public safety, leaving a child like mine in the wake of anything less than that is socially irresponsible.
It is no one’s responsibility but the owner to ensure fences are built, dogs can’t escape, muzzles are worn and short leashes used. To demand the RDCO dog control officers use their time to do follow ups on this type of owner, is like demanding the RCMP make sure those cited with reckless driving attend courses teaching them to drive with more caution.
The responsibility falls hard on owners of those who keep dangerous/aggressive dogs/breeds, as it should.
After the attack on my son, I leaned into becoming an advocate for those in similar situations, and I learned a lot, very quickly. I became far more aware of how often people are irresponsible with their dogs and how all too often they expect that to be OK.
Examples such as leaving dogs tied up outside businesses while owners rush inside, leaving dogs tied unattended to trees in public parks, dogs off leash in areas not deemed off leash, dogs loose in the back of pick ups and dogs escaping their yards are just a few example of behaviour less than responsible in regards to dog ownership.
All of these are problematic and complaints the RDCO dog control function would likely respond too. And when they do, sadly too often, they have to deal with confrontational owners, ones likely about to be ticketed.
Bylaws are in place, and should be enforced, even at the expense of some delicate feelings.
The surest way to avoid having to have a chat with RDCO dog control function is to simply comply with bylaws, most of us do, and will never have any issue with the RDCO dog control function.
What I also saw after the attack on my son, was the level of empathy, compassion and professionalism showed by the officer who attended our case. Alan Duncan was nothing short of a pillar of what I would hope someone in his difficult position should be, and that is fair to all parties involved.
All too often, complaints or issues that involve less than safe dogs become a cyclone of emotions, it’s amazingly difficult for those owners to see past the big cute eyes and see that perhaps they have a serious risk on their hands. It’s easy to blame everyone else, but it’s your dog, your responsibility, your liability.
Is the system perfect? No it isn’t.
Does the system need to be fine tuned?
But not towards the side of owners who choose to be less than responsible. Those involved in this issue know the consultant suggested a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy for aggressive dogs. If that was the case, would my son have been number two?
Who would put their hand up to volunteer their child to be number three?
The officers of the RDCO dog control function suffer malicious attacks on their character, I can’t allow that to continue without saying this—if not for Alan Duncan, I don’t know how much longer our healing would have taken, likely, much longer.
I also need to express this to dog owners who choose to shirk the system: That is your choice, but when the hammer falls, it’s also yours to deal with. But please, take a moment to think of who or what you could be leaving in the wake of that decision.
Dogs are a great part of our society, they do so much good for so many, when they are cared for and housed responsibly and not at the expense of anyone.