Thank you for your thoughtful article on the death of David Smith and his fight to challenge a dog control authority that abused its power under B.C.’s Dangerous Dog Act. (Diesel the dog’s owner dies, July 15).
These were turbulent times under the leadership of chief bylaw enforcement officer Rhoda Mueller. Diesel was not the only victim. At that time (2011), the Regional District of Central Okanagan’s record of euthanasia as a percentage of dogs impounded, was 14.3% and the highest in the province. In comparison, Calgary’s rate was 5.2% according to an October 2012 “Dog Control Service Review” report, commissioned by the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
At the same time, a dog named “Shadow,” a young malamute, wrongfully spent time behind bars with Diesel. Dogs were held in deplorable short-term dog pound facilities. Their 15-minute playground was gravel rock and the soft pads on Diesel’s paws became raw and injured.
Shadow’s case, another $100,000 RDCO case, was terminated when witnesses testified that it was the plaintiff’s own dog that bit her and not Shadow.
RDCO paid Shadow’s owners an “undisclosed” amount and were placed under a gag order to cement the out-of-court settlement. One would think RDCO would have interviewed those witnesses prior to initiating court proceedings. It could have saved us all a lot of money, despair and anguish.
Thankfully, RDCO’s board of directors questioned the exorbitant legal fees and commissioned the Dog Control Review.
Not only did the review expose extraordinary euthanization rates, it determined that: “RDCO’s Dog Control Service is focused on back-end enforcement and prosecution. In the consultant’s view, the prevailing culture among service staff and decision-maker is one that promotes and rewards effort to catch violators, issue tickets, and participate in the prosecution of offences.”
My dog also got to know Diesel and Shadow behind bars. It was the most painful and distressing period of my lifetime. I do know that Dave Smith was a broken man after the loss of Diesel. Having known him through our common battle to save our dogs from destruction, and having known him after his loss, I think our community owes the man a profound debt of gratitude for sparking outrage and creating change in a system that failed miserably.
Karen Stiewe, Kelowna
Dog owners need to thank Dave Smith
I am writing to honour the memory of Dave Smith.
I remember Dave from his courageous battle with what I observed to be the unusually cruel officers of the Central Okanagan regional district dog control service and the regional district administrator.
Dave faced, with enormous courage in the battle to save his dog Diesel, the daunting odds that were arrayed against him, and the ugliness of character assassination that was levelled at him.
What did Animal Control or the regional administrator stand to gain from their intractability, their vastly expensive and vindictive attacks?
We’ll never really know, but the battle was ugly and so unnecessary. It cost the district tens of thousands of dollars just to try and kill one dog; and it cost Dave his health. In addition, it inflicted real financial hardship on him.
Diesel spent two years of his life, and Dave’s life, in a prison for dogs. Looking back now, it is beyond reason that a dog should have been kept incarcerated in an entirely inappropriate environment for two years.
It broke Dave’s heart every day of that two years, and broke his heart even more when he lost Diesel forever.
Perhaps only people who deeply love their dogs can fully understand the enormous pain of loss and grief that such a traumatic experience can engender.
To Dave’s credit, and with the help of many supporters, he achieved a significant measure of success in changing B.C.’s dangerous dog laws.
This is his legacy. Dave can be proud of what his determination achieved. Dog owners of British Columbia owe him a great debt of gratitude for the terrible battle he undertook.
I was so sad to hear of your passing, Dave, and so honoured to have been able to provide you with a small measure of support. Rest in Peace, dear man. I am sure that if there is a Heaven, you and Diesel will be reunited there at the Rainbow Bridge.
Paula Stein, Edmonton
Diesel was a friendly dog
I would like to thank Ron Seymour for his July 14 article about Dave Smith and his dog, Diesel.
In my opinion, the regional district dog control had a problem that was difficult to resolve. They could not prove that Diesel was dangerous.
Indeed, the dog’s friendliness was difficult to hide from the public.
On an occasion when I was handing Diesel a treat through the pound’s fence, a bylaw officer slipped a collar on him just as he was about to take the treat from my hand. Diesel did not resist, but went obediently back into the pound.
Dave’s weekly half-hour visit was over, and Diesel was not even allowed a second more to take my treat.
In March 2011, when Dog Control seized Diesel, their intent was to have Diesel destroyed as a dangerous dog. Smith would not agree.
The RDCO’s lawyer continued to seek Diesel’s death through a four-day trial in June 2012. Smith appealed the provincial court’s death sentence and saved Diesel’s life.
However, the BC Supreme Court granted RDCO’s wish to obtain custody of Diesel so that they could find an anonymous home for him.
Knowing their long-standing intent, how can I agree with then-regional district administrator Paul Macklem’s claim that “the judgement is absolutely in line with what we requested?”
Perhaps it was in line with what RDCO requested. The order by Supreme Court of B.C. read as follows: “If, for some reason, the animal rescue organization is unable to find a suitable placement for Diesel within a reasonable period of time, the respondent may apply to this court, without notice to any party, for the immediate implementation of a destruction order.”
I will end my letter by reminding dog guardians that if their dog is deemed dangerous, the annual dog licence will be $500. Also, do not represent yourself without a lawyer, as Mr. Smith did during that four-day trial.
Helen Schiele, Kelowna