'I’m over the moon': Ontario woman reunited with senior dog held by animal services
TORONTO -- A 12-year-old dog was reunited with its owner on Friday morning after being held by animal services for most of the week because he may have been part pit bull.
“I’m over the moon, I’m excited, happy,” owner Jessica Brandes said alongside her three-year-old daughter with her dog in hand.
The senior pup named Ringo has been held by Vaughan Animal Services since Monday after he escaped from the yard and was found by a family wandering alone.
But when Ringo’s owner called the city to retrieve him, she was told that he would have to remain in their custody.
Speaking with CTV News Toronto, Brandes said that her dog’s microchip indicated that he was part pit bull, something she was unaware of.
Brandes said she was told by Vaughan Animal Services that Ringo’s DNA would be tested, and if he was indeed part pit bull, he would either be euthanized or re-homed out of province.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, the City of Vaughan said that after Ringo was turned over to their care, questions arose around the dog’s breed, “specifically whether or not he was a banned breed under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act.”
No further details were provided about the investigation, but the city did say the story “has a very happy ending.”
“The investigation is complete and it has been determined that Ringo can lawfully be released to his owner. Vaughan Animal Services took the appropriate steps under this provincial legislation, and we are pleased with the outcome,” the statement read.
The Dog Owner’s Liability Act was amended in 2005 to ban the new ownership of pit bulls and mandated that any animals already in the province be spayed or neutered. A private members bill to repeal the ban is currently in front of the Standing Committee on General Government.
But Brandes says that she doesn’t think Ringo was released because an investigation determined he was not part pit bull. Instead, she believes that Vaughan Animal Services was concerned about the negative press surrounding her situation.
“I think it’s more they’re exhausted from all the negative social media attention that they’ve been getting, the media attention and from everyone that’s written emails and phone calls,” she said. “They told me they don’t deem him pit bull enough to be held.”
Brandes says she has learned that she is not the only dog owner whose pet has been held by Vaughan Animal Services because they may be part pit bull.
Following news of Ringo’s situation, a petition was formed by Reform Advocates for Animal Welfare (RAAW), a grassroots group that works towards legislative changes in animal welfare. The petition says there at least three other dogs being held by Vaughan Animal Services under similar circumstances.
“The dogs suffer and the families suffer,” the petition reads. “There is no reason for it except for an overzealous organization that seems to have taken it upon themselves to rid the province of any animal which could remotely look like a pit bull.”
The petition has garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
“What I can say I’ve learned from this whole thing is that tons of people around here or in Ontario don’t agree with the ban,” Brandes said. “If everyone can continue making their voices heard on removing the pit bull ban, dog owners no longer have to worry about randomly having their dogs taken away because they may contain a small amount of pit bull.”
“As a whole pit bulls aren’t a bad breed,” she added. “It’s bad ownership. We’re looking at the wrong end of the leash.”
Brandes said that she has heard stories where people have lost their dogs or had them re-homed outside of the province just because of what their breed.
“I don’t know what I would have done personally if that’s what this came down to.”
Two other dog owners also went to Vaughan Animal Services on Friday to try and get their dogs released.
CTV News Toronto was told that one dog named Gambo has been held by Vaughan Animal Services for 102 days while the other, named Kilo, has been there for two weeks.
Brandes said she doesn’t understand why Ringo was released and Gambo and Kilo were not, adding that the other owners had documentation and are taking legal action against animal services.
“I’m just crazy thankful that I’ve got mine home, but it’s crazy to think there are still other dogs in there, just because of their breed.”
With files from CTV News Toronto's John Musselman