While neighbours, politicians and police have said they are frustrated by a lack of legislative authority to deal with a pack of pit bulls in Popkum that have attacked people on multiple occasions, there may be a solution.
The issue surrounds a pack of at least four pit bulls that frequently runs loose on a 20-acre property on Yale Road in electoral area D in the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).
Earlier this year, the pit bulls in question jumped the fence on the property and attacked eightyear-old Hannah Zandberg. On another occasion, the elected representative for the area, Bill Dickey, was chased by the dog.
And most recently, Hannah's 14-year-old brother Jonathan was bitten during an attack that left a puncture wound on his left leg before he escaped.
But because Popkum has no animal control bylaw, the district is unable to seize the dogs. If the dogs were caught mid-attack, the RCMP say they could destroy the animals, but because there is no bylaw, spokesperson Cpl. Len van-Nieuwenhuizen told the Times earlier this month that police "do not have the legislative authority to deal with this."
An expert source told the Times it is not true that nothing can be done and that the answer lies in the Community Charter.
In Section 49 of the Community Charter, which addresses special powers in relation to dangerous dogs, a Mountie can substitute for an animal control officer. And one definition of a "dangerous dog" is a dog that "an animal control officer has reasonable grounds to believe is likely to kill or seriously injure a person."
A justice then has to issue a search warrant for entry and seizure.
The source who contacted the Times explained that this is a good way to deal with dangerous dogs because the "reasonable grounds" don't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt or even that an attack is likely on the balance of probabilities.
The use of the Community Charter in this way came as news to the RCMP, who said that as a result of the story in the Times, a Lower Mainland animal control officer notified the force about Section 49. VanNieuwenhuizen said the police investigation is now based on this and they are in the process of gathering evidence for a search warrant.
That the dogs, or even one dog, will be seized is still far from certain.
"In this instance there are four or more dogs on the property," he said. "We have to be able to identify with certainty which dog is the offending animal."
Lorill Zandberg, whose son was bitten by one of the dogs on Sept. 4, said she is relieved something is being done to keep children in the area safe.
"We are really grateful that action is being taken and that we have an opportunity to get our neighbourhood back," she said.
There have been recent cases where Section 49 of the Community Charter was used to seize dangerous dogs in Nanaimo, the Central Okanagan Regional District and in the Capital Regional District.
In West Vancouver in 2009, a judge ordered a pit bull destroyed after an officer witnessed aggressive behaviour and an expert assessor determined the dog was dangerous. In that case, the dog had not attacked anyone let alone bitten a young person as is the case in Popkum.
In his decision in the West Vancouver case, the judge stated that even though no attack had yet occurred, the expert assessor suggested it would ultimately happen and that "I can only say you have not seen it yet, and quite frankly you would never want to see it."
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