At least one dog involved in a vicious attack at a Pembina Highway motel Saturday is an American pit bull terrier, a breed prohibited by the city.
The dog was one of four found near the Capri Motel, where two men were attacked and taken to hospital with what police called "severe, life-altering injuries." Two dogs were found and put down by police, while two others were hit by a car.
The pit bull terrier, who is fully grown, was one of the dogs hit. The other, a puppy, is too young for animal services to confirm its breed, a city spokesperson said. The dogs who were put down won’t be examined to determine the breed, they added.
Since 1990, after the city had dealt with a series of incidents involving the breed, pit bulls were made a prohibited dog breed within Winnipeg. The responsible pet ownership bylaw now includes bans on American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and the American Staffordshire terrier.
Keeping or harbouring a prohibited animal in Winnipeg is subject to a $1,000 fine.
Bans on specific breeds have been opposed by animal organizations, and the Winnipeg Humane Society has previously called for the policies to be revisited. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has opposed breed bans outright.
"The reality is that dogs of many breeds can be selectively bred or trained to develop aggressive traits," the ASPCA position states. "Laws that ban particular breeds of dogs...create the illusion, but not the reality, of public safety."
Instead, the ASPCA calls for breed-neutral "dangerous dog" laws, which put the onus on owners instead of the canines. Advocates in Winnipeg have been calling for the ban to be lifted for years, with some calling for similar guidelines for ownership as the ASPCA.
Javier Schwersensky, the Winnipeg Humane Society’s CEO, said any dog can be trained to be aggressive. If that happens, it can be difficult to shift their behaviour, he said.
According to the city spokesperson, none of the dogs had been spayed or neutered, and it’s not believed that any had rabies. The spokesperson didn’t say whether the animals were thought to have been trained to be aggressive.
Bystanders and motel employees told the Free Press Saturday that the incident was a gruesome one. Doors at the motel were splattered with blood, as was the parking lot.
"It was a no-win situation," a tenant said.
The department of animal services declined an interview despite multiple requests, but its chief operating officer told other media that the attack wasn’t random.
"This was dogs that turned on their owner and turned on an acquaintance of that owner who was trying to help," Leland Gordon told CBC.
He also said that all the dogs involved were pitbull-mastiffs, even though the city spokesperson said the breed of three of the four dogs is unknown.
The city spokesperson said that no charges have been laid under the responsible pet ownership bylaw, and that an investigation is ongoing.
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Updated on Monday, March 2, 2020 at 8:13 PM CST: Updates headline