"Throwing the book" at dangerous dogs in Rossland

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
March 14th, 2013

The owner of a pair of dogs that mauled a cat in Rossland has been issued a $1000 fine and risks having his dogs labeled “dangerous” if another incident occurs, a distinction that comes with strict limitations to the dogs.

A separate attack was also reported, but the owner, Dr. Roland Proctor, denies the second occurrence and the city has chosen not to issue a fine.

Coun. Jody Blomme asked for the “official update” at council on Monday evening. CAO Cecile Arnott, who returned last week from a two month vacation, said “it’s on my desk,” waiting for a break from budget work.

Deputy CAO Tracey Butler explained that the city had sent a letter to the dog owner on Feb. 28 “telling him the steps he needs to take with those dogs.” She said he was now aware of the implications of the fines involved.

Coun. Kathy Moore asked, “Will someone go up to see he’s put up the warning signs and the dogs aren’t loose?”

Butler replied, “We’re working with the owner of the dogs at this time.”

Dog attack!

The incident created a social media uproar on Feb. 7 when a person reported on Bhubble, the community’s main online classifieds website, that their mother had witnessed Proctor’s dogs, Charlie and Whitey, attacking a cat on their deck.

Whitey is a 4 year old, medium-size male with long white hair and black patches, and Charlie is a full grown white Jack Russell puppy with brown patches.

When Proctor—whose Bhubble handle is ‘Kootenay Joe’— posted his dogs missing on Oct. 28 last year, one person replied, “Jeez, Kootenay Joe, does anyone lose their dogs more than you?”

Proctor replied that his yard is very steep and rocky, and so difficult to fence, to which another person posted, “I don’t have a proper fence, therefore my dogs don’t go outside without me…some of us need to take better, closer care of our animals.”

Then on Feb. 7 last month, a post came through on Bhubble: “Hey, I wonder if Kootenay Joe was wondering where his dogs were yesterday afternoon? Well, they were in my yard brutally attacking a cat ON MY DECK!”

The graphic story elicited claims from other residents: “I had his two dogs attacking another dog on my doorstep about a month back. I had to give them a few good kicks just to get them off the poor thing,” wrote one person.

“He used to be my neighbor on Mcleod Ave. for about 2 years, and in that time his dogs attacked my two dogs two times,” wrote another.

“We ran into Kootenay Joe’s dogs last Friday on the Centennial trail,” one person posted. “They were out by themselves running from dog owner to dog owner to see who they were going to join.  They eventually took off, but before they did, the little one (Charlie I believe) lifted his leg and peed all over my 4-year old daughter boots and snow pants.”

Another said, “I have had consistent experiences of Charlie charging and attacking my dog Olaus on the upper portion of the Gulch Trail above Planer…It really is too bad these animals have to deal with my foot on a regular basis, because it’s Roland who deserves a swift kick in the head, not them.”

Amanda Hamilton of Tails Pet Supplies wrote in, “His dogs have attacked other people’s pets and I have spoken to the owners about these attacks. I have recommended that they complain to the city so that his dogs could be deemed dangerous, or at the very least that he be made to pay the vet bills and keep his dogs on leash.”

She said, “I recommend that all Rosslanders read the animal control bylaws. That way you know your legal rights and responsibilities.” She added that formal complaints were necessary: “The city and our bylaw officer can do nothing about bylaw offenses that are only talked about via local rumblings, gossip and/or Bhubble posts.”

“The book” on dangerous dogs

There is a minimum $2000 fine for dog attacks that injure a human or another animal, up to a maximum fine of $10,000 for any offence in the bylaw.

The ‘Dangerous Dog’ label requires the owner to leash and muzzle their dog at all times except in a building or enclosure on the owner’s land. These areas, however, must be signed in a way that is visible to the street or sidewalk: ‘Warning: Dangerous Dog on Premises.’

Failure to comply with these regulations results in fines from $250 (failure to erect a sign) to $500 for a dangerous dog without a leash and muzzle. In the event of a dog attack, if the owner fails to report the attack immediately, he is up for a $750 fine on top of the $1000 dog attack fine.

Dr. Roland Proctor responds

We contacted Proctor about the issue and he said, “There’s only one incident my dogs were involved in. They chased a cat near my home and caught it before it got to its own home.”

Proctor explained that the dogs bolted out of the car when he was bringing his seven year old daughter home from school, and he was unable to chase the dogs because of a problem his daughter was having.

“The cat was injured, but not extensively or seriously,” he said. “If left alone, the cat would have been fine, but they took it to the vet and the vet charged $400. I haven’t seen the vet statement. I paid $200 of the bill.”

The incident lit people’s passions on Bhubble, however, and Proctor said the “lies and exaggerations” led “other people to get on board who seem to like throwing gas on the fire, and that incites people into vigilante action and false accusations.”

Proctor said his life was threatened in a telephone call from a man he knows: “He told me, ‘I’m going to come over to your place, haul you out of your house, and beat the living crap out of you until you never get up again.’ He was extremely angry, I’ve never known him to be so rash.”

Soon afterwards Charlie was out alone on Centennial and received a face full of bear spray. “He was dripping browny-orange,” Proctor said.

“So a dog chases a cat, it’s what happens, what is the big deal?” Proctor asked. “I don’t get it. I mean, it’s not right and it’s not good, but it’s the kind of thing that can occur. It’s not as serious as threats on my life or attacking a dog with bear spray.”

“I’m very shocked and frightened by it,” he said. “It’s very alarming.

Since the bear spray incident, Proctor reported that he has not allowed the dogs outside unless he’s with them. Before then, Proctor said he was letting each dog out 2-3 times per week, but always just one dog at a time “so they weren’t together.”

Responding to accusations of multiple incidences with his dogs, Proctor said, “People may be saying that, but anyone can come over and see them. Whitey is the gentlest, softest dog with other dogs and with people, he’s the antithesis of vicious. He has a very serene, calm presence. People come up all the time, of all ages, and say, ‘What a nice dog, he’s so gentle, even with little kids and babies.”

Proctor said his location plays a role: “I back onto the Silverstar Gulch Trail which goes up to Centennial. There’s a lot of traffic back and forth.”

He also said he feels singled out. “Five other dogs live up here on Planer Crescent that are out all the time and don’t stay on their property. They come to my house and they’re out on their own up on Centennial. I see them wandering around, but nobody’s telling those people. The treatment is not the same around town.”

He blames the attention to his dogs on social media “histrionics” and a changing culture in Rossland.

“I’m shocked with the change in attitudes that have occurred in Rossland in the 10 years I was away,” Proctor said.

He moved here in 1982 and brought up his “first set” of children before moving to Johnson’s Landing for a decade and then moving back to Rossland in 2011.

“It used to be very much live and let live,” he said. “Now there’s a rule and regulation for everything and they’re policing everyone. It’s not supportive. Now people are looking for fault with their neighbours and others, it’s person against person.”

“The majority of people complaining loudly are not those born in Rossland or they’ve moved here from elsewhere,” Proctor said.

“The problem with social media is that it’s a double-edged sword,” he continued. “It’s great to connect people or help you find something, but certain issues like this get populated by people who get their kicks out of making things worse with false claims and inflammatory statements.”

For those who have noted Proctor’s absence from Bhubble recently, he said it’s because he “got a very bad, destructive virus” from the site and now a pop-up that warns of more when he tries to log on. “I haven’t actually read anything that’s been written for a long time.”

Dr. Roland Proctor and the City of Rossland

Proctor claims the dog catcher also targeted his dogs last fall. “Between September and Christmas I paid about $2000 for dog wandering loose fines.”

He said he would let the dog out just after 7 a.m., and later in the morning would find out his dogs were at the Trail SPCA. He also found the dogs had been picked up around 7:15 a.m. He said this happened several times, “each time with an increasing fine.”

“It turns out the dog catcher lives right across the street from me,” Proctor said. A worker at the SPCA told Proctor that she had asked the dog catcher why Whitey was picked up so often, and he claims the response was, ‘He’s easy, I just open the door to my truck, and he jumps right in.” Proctor claims the catcher “might have been feeding him cookies, since he goes right over to the dog catcher’s house.”

He brought his complaint to the city and reported, “The dog catcher lady never picked up Whitey once after that. It’s weird.”

Now the city has issued a $1000 fine for the dog attack and warned Proctor that a further occurrence will result in “dangerous dog” limitations.

“The email from Tracey Butler was not written clearly, and I think she did it purposely,” Proctor said. “The email said that ‘dangerous dog’ could be applied, so there better be no more trouble from my dogs. She outlined the dangerous dog bylaw, but didn’t actually come right out and say, ‘You have to muzzle your dogs.’”

Proctor said he responded to the city that he will not pay the fine. “If they want to take me to court, I will to defend myself,” he said. “I think it’s quite outrageous.”

“I’ve sought legal advice from a very competent and highly respected legal person,” he said. “We can’t have one person—i.e. Tracey Butler—being prosecutor, jury, and sentencing judge. If they want to impose the restrictive things in the dangerous dog bylaw, then it will have to be a court order.”

Furthermore, he said, “The cat was free roaming as much as the dogs were free roaming. Cat owners have to accept dangers from cars, raccoons, coyotes, and so on.”

“I gave a lot to this community,” said the anaesthetist, “more than most people would ever now know. I was on call—never paid in those days— and into hospital night and day because people needed help. It doesn’t seem to be worth anything now.”

Councillor says city should tighten the leash

Coun. Kathy Moore said, “I wanted to talk about the letter we sent about dangerous dogs. I felt the letter should have said, ‘We will do inspections and we will impose fines.’ We should take these situations really, really seriously, especially as we loosen other parts of our dog laws.”

“We need to throw the book at people who have dangerous dogs in the community,” Moore said.

Mayor Greg Granstrom responded, “There’s a process to follow as well, we don’t just throw the book at somebody. There’s a procedure, and this issue has been going on for a while. There’s a detailed file with what staff are aware of.”

“They can’t just go and shoot the damn dog; they have to take steps,” Granstrom said.

Moore did not disagree that there’s a process to follow, but noted that the city could have imposed a stiffer fine than $1000 for a “dog attack” that does not cause physical harm. At the very least, she suggested, each dog could have been fined an additional $100 for being at large.

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