Council rescinds “˜potentially dangerous”™ designation in dog-bites-dog incident

After hearing evidence in a case of dog bites dog, town council has cancelled a “potentially dangerous” designation levied on a local canine by the municipality’s bylaw officer.

The designation was placed on a Newfoundland dog owned by Lawrence and Edna Martin after a June 30 incident at their Harriston-area farm.

Minto CAO Bill White explained Toronto resident Doug Matinna had contacted the bylaw officer after the incident, in which his dog was bitten by the Martins’ dog.

White said a complaint was also made to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, which issued an order that the Martins’ dog be vaccinated.

The town’s “potentially dangerous” designation would allow council to impose a variety of restrictions on the dog, such as requiring it be muzzled or confined to a kennel.

Daniel Veinot, a lawyer acting for the town, explained at the July 21 council meeting that the Martins appealed the designation, resulting in the hearing held that evening.

Veinot said he was in touch with Matinna, who advised he could not attend and requested another date be set.

Council elected to proceed with the hearing after White pointed out Lawrence Martin requested the hearing and made the effort to attend. White also advised councillors they had the option to adjourn the hearing to a later date to gather more information after hearing from the Martins.

Veinot said it was his understanding the parties agreed the Martins’ dog bit Matinna’s much smaller dog, a pug terrier.

“There is some dispute perhaps as to whether a human was bitten or not. I don’t think that was agreed upon by the parties,” said Veinot.

Edna Martin told the hearing the incident occurred when Matinna stopped at the couple’s farm to conduct a business transaction.

“I was selling maple syrup to this man and he let his dog out of the truck without a leash on it and our dogs attacked it,” she stated.

The Martins’ other dog, a sheep dog cross, was also outside at the time of the incident, the hearing heard.

“His dog was bit, but I think being farm dogs they’re protective of their turf somewhat, and being Mattina is from the city he didn’t realize this and let his dog run about outside and they didn’t accept that,” added Lawrence, who indicated he was not present at the time of the incident.

Following the attack, Matinna’s dog received veterinary attention, including stitches, in Harriston. Lawrence said he spoke with Dr. Terry Fisk, who advised him Matinna’s dog sustained, “several bite wounds but not life-threatening injuries.”

Asked if Matinna was injured in the incident, Edna said, “not more than, I don’t think, the injuries from stumbling through the yard” after separating the dogs.

While acknowledging the injuries to Matinna’s dog,  councillor Mary Lou Colwell said, “I am more concerned with humans.”

She asked the Martins, “if someone strange pulled up to buy maple syrup at your home do you feel quite comfortable? Has this dog approached people and how did the dog react?”

“I’m absolutely comfortable with strangers with this dog,” said Lawrence, adding the dog is “very friendly.”

Because they sell maple syrup, Lawrence noted unknown visitors are common at the farm.  “Definitely people do bring their pets with them when they come to buy at the farm gate, but I’m not aware that anyone has let their dog run loose before,” he said.

“In my mind the Martin dog was provoked,” said councillor Judy Dirksen.

“I think if the dog was vicious it would have shook the other dog and one shake would have done it. I think if the dog was dangerous or vicious we wouldn’t be having this discussion, he would have killed the other dog.”

Council unanimously approved a resolution to cancel the “potentially dangerous” designation.

“I declare this business closed,” said deputy mayor Ron Faulkner, who chaired the hearing in Mayor George Bridge’s absence.