A bloody encounter with two unleashed pit bulls could have been worse, according to a New Westminster resident who says he and a dog he was walking were viciously attacked on Aug. 11.
“I shudder to imagine what the outcome might have been if my wife had been walking Atticus (the dog) instead of me or if children had been in the area,” said the man in a statement to animal control officials.
Cam, who didn’t want his full name used, was walking Atticus, his neighbour’s eight-year-old wheaten terrier, on a leash near a grassy area at the east end of Agnes Street, he said, when they turned a corner and saw a man, woman and two unleashed pit bulls lying about 50 to 75 feet away.
As one of the dogs charged, Cam said, the man with the pit bulls shouted the dog wasn’t friendly and the woman shouted it was acting aggressively because it was pregnant.
“I attempted to keep between the two dogs and was bitten several times by the pit bull,” Cam wrote in his statement. “The pit bull then got Atticus by the back of the neck and viciously attacked him. I tried to pull it off but it had a vice-like grip on Atticus' neck and would not let go.”
He said the second pit bull joined in the attack, and, at one point, Cam, the man and the three dogs were all tumbling on the ground toward the Pattullo Bridge onramp, as the men tried to pry the first pit bull from Atticus’s neck.
“After some time, we were able to separate the dogs,” Cam wrote, “and, after looking at Atticus' neck wounds, it was apparent that the only reason the pit bull let go was because it had torn through all the flesh on Atticus' neck and had nothing left to hold onto with its teeth.”
Reports that an umbrella had been used to pry open the pit bull’s jaws were inaccurate, Cam told the Record.
The New West resident said he sustained bites to his right hand, 10 deep bite wounds to his left leg and a deep bite and tear to his left hand, which resulted in tendon damage and required several stitches to close.
Atticus, meanwhile, sustained cuts to both sides of his head that required stitches and a 10-inch tear on his neck that required surgery and the insertion of three drain tubes to repair.
The man with the pit bulls apologized and said he would help with the vet bills, Cam said, but then the pair loaded the dogs into a red Toyota and left the scene before police arrived.
“We are actively investigating this incident to determine what charges may be appropriate and to identify the owners of the unleashed dogs,” stated New Westminster Police Department media relations officer Acting Sgt. Jeff Scott in a press release. “We continue to speak with witnesses and review evidence, and we want to remind dog owners of the bylaw that requires all dogs to be on leash unless in a designated area, such as a dog park or in a fenced yard.”
The NWPD is working with New West animal services.
New Westminster animal control officer Margie Fox said, once its investigation is complete, the service will decide on enforcement actions, which could range from a warning or fine to more dire consequences.
“The most extreme thing that could happen is that we apply for a warrant to seize the dog for humane destruction,” Fox said.
Actticus’s owner, Earl MacDonald, said he is still traumatized by the attack and it’s not something he’s willing to let go.
“I think there is a public safety issue,” he told the Record. “I have nothing against the breed. I think this is a case by case issue. I know that New Westminster doesn’t discriminate against pit bulls, and I’ve met a lot of pit bulls that are really sweet dogs. I’m not attacking the breed; I’m attacking the owners right now and their lack of responsibility.”