Pit bull has bitten three people but young owner fights to save it from death
By Louise Dickson, Times Colonist
An air of palpable sadness hung over Victoria provincial court yesterday as a young man with only a Grade 8 education fought to save his dog from being destroyed by court order.
With animal control officer Dustin Daly waiting in the back row of the Western Communities Court House, Justin Lutz argued against an application by the City of Victoria to have his five-year-old pit bull Tyson destroyed.
Lutz, who was often in tears, tried to persuade Judge Judith Kay that his dog is not aggressive -- despite biting a woman in 2007 and, more recently, biting a four-year-old boy and his mother in Central Park. The child was bitten on the afternoon of June 13 when it approached Tyson, then tied to the bleachers. The mother was injured as she pulled her child away from the pit bull. Four days later, Tyson was seized by animal control officers.
Whether Tyson will be euthanized is up in the air. Kay told Lutz and Troy DeSouza, who is representing the City of Victoria, that she has done a great deal of thinking about the case since the first day of the hearing on July 7.
"Some things have bothered me about the evidence I have heard," said Kay. "If I grant the application, it's irreversible. I have witnessed Mr. Lutz in the last few days, and he has very limited ability either financially or by education to mount a defence."
Kay said she was struck by DeSouza's contention that Lutz should have hired an animal behaviouralist to assess the dog, given that he clearly could not afford to hire one.
Over DeSouza's objection, the judge then ordered the city to obtain an assessment by an animal behaviouralist of the danger Tyson poses to the public.
"If he is deemed to be dangerous, I want that report to contain an opinion on what steps could be taken, short of destruction, to protect the public and Mr. Lutz's most prized possession," said Kay.
During afternoon testimony, Lutz called his mother, Sharon, to the stand. Sobbing, the frail-looking woman, who has a hearing impairment, told the court Tyson is a member of the family and means everything to her son.
"I got this dog when we had so much sadness and tragedy in my family," she cried. "Justin has had lots of sadness in his life, and I bought this dog because I wanted to show him there was some happiness in life and the dog would love him no matter what."
Lutz put his face in his hands and cried.
"Losing this dog will destroy him," said his mother. "My son needs this dog."
DeSouza highlighted a long list of warning notices and municipal tickets Lutz has received from animal control officers. Lutz received his first notice for having an "animal at large" in May 2005 when Tyson was three months old. A year later, he received another warning notice for not displaying Tyson's licence and having him off the leash.
In December 2007, Tyson bit and injured a woman who was having an argument with Lutz. Four days later, Tyson was declared a dangerous dog and required to wear a muzzle.
The warning notices and municipal tickets for being off leash and not wearing a muzzle continued to pile up until the child was bitten last month in Central Park.
Animal control officers, who have been walking and feeding Tyson for the past month, love the dog but feel the best solution is to have him humanely put down, Daly said outside court.
The hearing has been adjourned until the assessment has been prepared.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
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