Snoopy Bylaw Overdue


Murder in cold blood.

Video surveillance.

DNA testing.

Police investigation.

Criminal charges.

Civil lawsuit.

Incredibly, these aren’t the elements in a story about people or from an episode of CSI. Rather, this is the story of a dog and the passionate and persistent efforts for justice from a grieving pet owner.

As explained in Mark Nielsen’s story in Thursday’s Citizen, the dog in this case is Snoopy, a small, adorable Shih Tzu, killed by a pit bull owned by the neighbours in July 2013. If this had happened in Prince George city limits, the animal control bylaw, particularly as it pertains to dangerous dogs would have taken effect. Unfortunately, it happened in the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, where no such bylaws exist. Snoopy’s owner then went to the RCMP, who told her that unless she had video or photographic proof that the pit bull killed Snoopy, there was nothing they could do, since the neighbours insisted their dog wasn’t the killer.

Snoopy’s owner was not satisfied, so she followed up on a suggestion made by the sympathetic police officer. Snoopy’s corpse spent the night in the family freezer and was brought to a veterinary clinic the next day for an autopsy and to have samples taken of DNA from Snoopy’s wounds of the attacking dog.

Snoopy’s owner then convinced the neighbours to provide saliva from their dog to either prove its guilt or innocence as the killer. She also installed video cameras on her property to show the pit bull was spending time on her property when its owners were not present, terrorizing her remaining Shih Tzu, Peanut, who by this point was refusing to go outside.

The DNA evidence from Snoopy and the accused dog was sent off to a lab in California. The analysis proved the pit bull was the killer. She turned it over to the police, who brought charges forward to Crown counsel. In December, seven months after Snoopy’s death, the court issued a destruction order for the dog.

It was a shallow victory, however, since the pit bull’s owners had put it down a week earlier, after it had attacked one of the other dogs the owners owned. Furthermore, Crown dropped the criminal charges after the neighbours put up a fence to contain their three other dogs.

Snoopy’s owner successfully sued the neighbours, however, in civl court to compensate her for the vet’s autopsy, Snoopy’s burial, the video surveillance, the DNA testing and the gates she installed on her deck so Peanut could go safely outside.

This whole drama would never have occurred if the regional district would adopt an animal control bylaw such as the one in place in Prince George and other municipalities across B.C. Snoopy’s owner actions to address the problem were commendable and respected the law. Many rural residents in a similar situation would not have been so gracious. They would have taken care of the offending pit bull with a well-placed bowl of hamburger marinated in antifreeze. Two wrongs don’t make a right but when citizens see government unwilling to impose and enforce laws to protect them and their property from the negligence of others, then they are tempted to take the law into their own hands. Philosophically, even morally, Snoopy’s owner could easily have justified the hamburger/antifreeze solution as a horrible but essential action to protect herself and her family.

Thankfully, she didn’t and, even better, she believes there is still one more step to get true justice for Snoopy and that’s for the regional district to put an animal control bylaw in place that provides protection for residents and other animals from dangerous dogs. Like most laws, such a bylaw would not be written for the majority of citizens but rather for the small minority who believe their freedoms supersede everyone else’s and who refuse to take responsibility for their behaviour, which includes controlling their animals.

Until the regional district directors pass such a bylaw, Snoopy’s death and the responsible actions of his owner will have been in vain.

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