Leanne contacted us a couple of months ago about a challenge with her dog, Peanut. As a responsible dog owner, she has registered her dog with the City of Richmond and attempts to comply with their breed-specific bylaws. However, doing so severely compromises their quality of life. Leanne has attempted to work collaboratively and respectfully with City Council, asking only for the opportunity to prove her dog is no danger to the public. She has been met with closed minds and closed hearts. We asked her to share her story on our blog.
My husband and I rescued 6-month-old Peanut in October 2012. Well, a wonderful rescue agency did the rescuing and we gave her a forever home.
We didn’t know it at that time, but Peanut was born with Progressive Retinal Atrophy, an inherited disease, in which the rod cells in the retina are programmed to die. By age 1½ or so, Peanut was functionally blind but you wouldn’t have known it! Blind dogs adapt very well to familiar situations and with time and training, she began to use her other senses to compensate for her vision loss.
Peanut has become well known in our neighbourhood in Steveston and we can barely walk down the street without people, children and other dogs stopping to say “hi”. We have been told by many people that the ability she shows through her adversities is inspiring, and we certainly feel the same way.
Peanut is a very gentle mixed-breed showing characteristics of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and due to the City of Richmond’s current Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) we registered her as a “dangerous dog”.
One of the City’s BSL requirements is that all “dangerous dogs” must wear a muzzle outside of their home. Peanut relies heavily on her sense of smell and her whiskers in order to navigate in the outside world and we were unable to find a muzzle that doesn’t hinder those senses. All muzzles of all types/materials interfere significantly with her whiskers, which she uses to feel a wall before she hits it, or feel the edge of stairs or our car before falling.
An animal’s whiskers are sensory in nature and are rooted much deeper than normal hair. They can sense distance and space, and they feel through vibration. These whiskers are very sensitive and are good for detecting objects and picking up air currents. Dogs with reduced vision are especially dependent on their whiskers.
We keep a muzzle on Peanut as best we can when we are outside of our home, but have resorted to walking her in other municipalities and leaving her at home more often in order to avoid injury. This has continued to be a very heartbreaking thing for us to deal with and prompted me to take action.
I wrote multiple letters to the City, provided a large information package including many support letters and have attended at a council meeting in an effort to ask the City to consider a review of their current Bylaws to allow dog owners to apply for an exemption to the dangerous dog bylaw, particularly for dogs with special needs. This exemption would, of course, only apply if the dog is deemed dangerous because of breed only and if the owner proves their dog’s good temperament.
My suggestion to the City was to consider a similar system to what the City of Nanaimo provides. The City of Nanaimo differentiates between a “restricted” dog and a “vicious” dog. It allows for pet registration through the Canadian Kennel Club to obtain a Canine Good Neighbour Certification and to subsequently have the restricted classification removed if they pass.
I was very disappointed to be recently advised that the Richmond City Council has not provided any indications of intent to amend the Animal Control Regulation Bylaw and at this point will not even consider allowing Peanut, or other dogs like her, the opportunity to prove that a muzzle is not necessary.
I am a lifelong Richmond resident, home owner and tax payer who is now forced to move out of the city I work in, have grown up in and love in order to keep my dog (who just happens to show the “characteristics” of a pit-bull) happy and healthy.
We hope that in sharing Leanne and Peanut’s story, we can raise awareness of how BSL affects the lives of responsible community members. We would like to see Richmond follow the lead of surrounding communities and adopt breed-neutral, evidence-based animal control bylaws that can protect the community without punishing responsible owners and good family dogs. But if this is not an option, there should – at minimum - be an exemption for dogs who can be shown to be of sound and stable temperament, and no risk to the community. Particularly if these dogs suffer by the city’s muzzle requirement.
Please show your support by signing Leanne’s online petition. It’s a small step but we hope it will encourage Richmond City Council to re-evaluate this issue.