Thursday, March 4, 2010

Owners' Pleas Ignored As Two 'Pit Bulls' Seized

Two Brampton dogs may face a date with the executioner unless their owners can prove they are not pit bulls.

The dogs, 2-year-olds from the same litter, were seized from separate homes last month by animal services officers who told the owners they had characteristics of the banned dogs.

"They're not pit bulls," said Rui Branco, whose dog Brittany was one of the two dogs seized on Jan. 13. "No matter what we say, no matter what documents we show them, they won't believe us."

The Branco family owns Jersey, the purebred boxer that gave birth to the litter of nine pups that included the two seized animals. The family also once owned Tyson, the brood's sire, who Branco said is an American bulldog. The city says Tyson was registered with Brampton as a pit bull and claims that a veterinary certificate proves it, said spokeswoman Miriam Mesbah.

But Branco and Joe Gaspar, whose family pet Rambo was also seized Jan. 13, have letters from four veterinarians and a company that inserts microchips under a dog's skin supporting their claims there is no pit bull in either dog.

One Brampton vet wrote that he would stake his 51-year veterinary reputation that Tyson was an American bulldog-boxer mix.

"There's no pit bull in him at all," said Gaspar, whose Portuguese-born mother, Maria, struggled to find words as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The city initially gave the two families until Friday to decide whether to have the dogs euthanized or pay to have them shipped to another province that allows pit bulls.

On Tuesday, the city granted an extension to allow Branco's lawyer to challenge the dogs' lineage in court.

"Under the Dog Owners Liability Act we are required to seize those dogs," Mesbah said. "Because we have that evidence, we are not legally allowed to release the dogs."

The act took effect Nov. 29, 2005, banning pit bulls from the province.

In Brampton, a dog is considered to be a pit bull if it is a pit bull terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American Staffordshire bull terrier, an American pit bull terrier or any dog "that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those ..." according to a city bylaw.

Both Branco and Joe Gaspar said their animals have never been loose, nor the subject of complaints from neighbours.

Gaspar said the seizures came after an animal services officer saw Rambo standing atop its doghouse on a deck in the family's backyard and thought it looked like a pit bull.

"He's never hurt a soul. Kids come by and pull his ears, play with him all the time," Gaspar said. "I don't know what more we can do to prove that Rambo isn't a pit bull.

"They say it doesn't matter what we show them. In their eyes, he's a pit bull, so these papers mean nothing to them. We've got nothing to hide. He's just a sweet dog."

Branco said confusion about the dogs' lineage is the result of Tyson being wrongly labelled a pit bull when it was licensed by Brampton in 2006.

He said he only later learned of the error and couldn't change it.

"If they thought Tyson was a pit bull, why did they license him in the first place?" he said. "He was born after the ban was in place. If he was really a pit bull, they couldn't have done that. It was their mistake."

Mesbah said Brampton municipal lawyers are considering charges against the two owners for owning an illegal pit bull. Branco said he has been warned he could also be prosecuted for permitting a pit bull to breed, failing to license a pit bull and transferring a pit bull without consent of the city poundkeeper.

**Taken from the Toronto Star