A DRIVE to get a dog moved to better living conditions took to the boardroom as supporters rallied to make their voices heard at the regional district meeting Aug. 10.
Dog owner Paul MacNeil asked the regional district board to let his German shepherd Cain be moved from the Thornhill animal shelter to the Kitimat Humane Society where he and his supporters believe the canine would have better care until its trial day in December.
He explained that Cain bit a child when cornered after being chased down the street by children with hockey sticks and three diesel trucks.
The child’s skin wasn’t broken, he wasn’t taken to the hospital, didn’t have a bandaid put on and later on that same day was playing in his backyard, said MacNeil.
“He did bite [the child and I’m not excusing that] but the Thornhill pound is not the place for a dog to be for a long time,” said MacNeil, adding he didn’t want to debate the case but just wanted his dog moved to the Kitimat shelter.
Cain is in a four foot by 10 foot kennel and he’s an 85 pound German shepherd, said MacNeil.
“I’m not allowed to see my dog on my terms,” he said.
The Thornhill animal shelter is open from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and he works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., he explained, adding that Cain passed an assessment for his temperament that was videotaped by dog trainer Kelly Ruff.
Phyllis Gregg of Kitimat, who came up to help support MacNeil, said the Kitimat Humane Society was willing to take the dog and work with it as it had a lot of success rehabilitating dogs and would sign papers saying it would take full responsibility for the canine.
If provincial court doesn’t order the dog destroyed, Cain can have a second chance and go to one of the German shepherd rescue groups that the shelter works with, she said.
The group can then find the dog a suitable home, she added.
Earlier in the day, regional district bylaw enforcement officer Murray Daly confirmed the dog was seized in April and said bylaw was seeking a destruction order for the dog.
Daly didn’t want to speak about specifics of the case but did comment on the shelter keeping Cain.
“I will say the dog is in our possession and until we’re ordered to do so by a judge, it’s not leaving our possession,” he said. “The dog is not being treated inhumanely,” he added, saying Cain was being fed and watered.
“It receives all the treatment it would probably get at the Kitimat shelter.”
Commenting on the size of Cain’s current kennel, Daly said that Cain’s kennel is an inside and outside kennel and Cain does go outside into “a small containment area.”
“It’s a vicious dog in there (shelter) for obvious reasons,” he said, adding that for safety reasons, staff wasn’t going to take it out, let it run loose or take it for a walk. There were witness reports and the police report as to what happened and the dog fell under the criteria of the regional district bylaws and Community Charter to hold him. An assessment on the dog has been done but since the case is before the courts, Daly couldn’t go into detail.
The owner hasn’t been denied visitation and has been instructed about the steps he needs to take to see the dog, said Daly.
“We don’t want him [just] showing up at the shelter,” said Daly, adding it’s a legal matter so certain protocols are in place.
Kelly Ruff, owner of Diamonds in the Ruff Canine Training, said she assessed Cain and videotaped it.
She said Daly and Stacey Kennedy, animal control officer of the Thornhill Animal Shelter watched the assessment; she offered them a copy of her videotape but they declined it.
While not going into specifics of what she learned from the assessment, she said MacNeil indicated he would agree to her findings.
“He told me if I went into an assessment and I felt the dog was aggressive, he would put the dog down,” said Ruff.
The behaviour dogs show when they’re in kennels for a long time depends on the individual animal, she said.
“Generally, you see increased barking. You can see increased aggression,” she said, adding dogs protect the area they’re in and the smaller the area the more fiercely they protect it.
Some dogs will become depressed, and can have health issues with weight gain if they don’t get exercise, she said.
If a dog in a kennel gets a significant amount of exercise it can use up its excess energy, which otherwise can turn into problems if not used it up.
And it’s not only about exercising the body, it’s also about exercising the dog’s mind, she said. For example, herding dogs like Cain are thinking dogs and they have to have interaction and things to think about, she said.
“Dogs are pack animals. When you have one basically in solitary confinement, it’s not part of their genetic makeup,” she said.
A lot of times, shelter staff have to euthanize an animal at some point because that dog can’t stand being there any longer, she added.
“You know how you react to any amount of time at a kennel so think of the dog in there,” she said about the constant barking and how it can be bothersome.
She added that every pound or shelter isn’t the same; some are set up for long term care and others aren’t.
After his presentation to the regional district board, MacNeil walked outside with his arms in the air as in victory.
He told his supporters he felt “really good” about how it went.