VANCOUVER, 1st April 2002 - Most of the six million dogs in Canada never bite anyone according to The Humane Society of Canada. "However, we believe that the high profile nature of the recent dog mauling trial in California has focused on the wrong end of the problem," says Al Hickey, Western Regional Director of The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). "In our view preventing so many of these tragedies from ever taking place is the real solution," he said. "We need to save the lives of people and animals, whenever and wherever possible."

 

Earlier this month, 46-year-old Marjorie Knoller and her husband, 60-year-old Robert Noel, were respectively convicted of murder and involuntary manslaughter for the January 2001 mauling of 33-year-old Dianne Whipple by two huge dogs in the hallway outside of her San Francisco apartment. Sentencing will be heard on May 10th and Knoller faces 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, while Noel faces up to 4 years on each of two charges. Knoller was the one walking the two dogs at the time of the attack, and she is believed to be the first person in California and the third person in recent U.S. history to be convicted of murder in a dog mauling case.

 

After the death of San Francisco resident Dianne Whipple last year, her partner Sharon Smith brought a wrongful death suit against the dogs' keepers, using a law passed by the California legislature after the attack. At present only California, Hawaii and Vermont grant this kind of status for members of the gay community to sue on behalf of their partners.

The massive dogs involved in the attack were Presa Canarios, originally bred in the Canary Islands to guard and protect families and their livestock. Evidence given at the trial also alleged that the dogs were encouraged to become more aggressive, something which the defence disputes. Both dogs have since been destroyed.

In light of this most recent tragedy, the Humane Society of Canada (HSC) wants to remind the public of the need for dog bite prevention education and that this information is available from HSC's website here or by calling toll free: 1-800-641-KIND (5463).

While adults are sometimes hurt or killed, it is children who are most often at risk. HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan, whose family includes two young children and a houseful of dogs and cats, believes that children need to be taught about dog bite prevention in the same manner that they are taught about 'street proofing' issues. "We need to teach children and others about how to recognize and avoid when dogs are going to attack in the same way that they are instructed about traffic safety, the dangers of talking to strangers and taking drugs" says O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan, who gave evidence as an expert witness during the coroner's inquest in the death of eight-year-old Courtney Trempe who was killed by a dog in 1998, extends his deepest sympathies to Sharon Smith, and the family and friends of Diane Whipple.

In May 2000 the Humane Society of Canada launched the first ever National Dog Bite Awareness Week, including award-winning ads generously designed and donated by the well-known Canadian ad agency, TAXI.

"This was done to reduce dog bites and to promote the special bond that exists between dogs and people," said O'Sullivan. "In every community we need to encourage cooperation between pet owners and those who choose not to have dogs. We believe there are no bad dogs, only bad owners," says Hickey. "We also must never forget that for centuries dogs have been our friends, our protectors and our companions. Indeed, most of the estimated 6 million dogs in Canada never bite anyone."

The Humane Society of Canada's Dog Bite Awareness Campaign includes a five-point action plan calling for:

  • A review of the effectiveness of existing civil and criminal laws in Canada and other countries
  • The experiences of these jurisdictions in launching public education initiatives to "street proof" against dog bites and to encourage more responsible pet ownership (e.g. spaying and neutering, requiring breeders and trainers to be licensed, humane training of owners and their dogs, animals being kept on a harness, leash, muzzle, etc.)
  • The establishment of a national agency to collect and analyze the reports of animal attacks and related fatalities to record, carry out research and better understand why these attacks take place and what we can do to prevent them
  • Specific recommendations for a multimedia and multifaceted campaign to reduce the number and frequency of these tragedies
  • Recommendations on what government agencies and what interagency cooperation would be necessary to achieve these objectives

For more information pertaining to the Humane Society of Canada's dog Bite Awareness Campaign, including child safety tips and tips for dog owners and parents, go to our on line Dog Bite Awareness Campaign or call toll free:
1-800-641-KIND (5463).

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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