The life of a two-year-old pit bull is at stake in a fight between a group of homeless people from the Downtown Eastside and the animal-control office of West Vancouver.
According to court documents, the dog, Kora, was seized by authorities on March 30 following a number of instances where it allegedly acted aggressively.
The dog’s owner, Jairo Augusto Gonzalez, is sleeping in a shelter in the Downtown Eastside. At the time of those incidents, Kora was staying with a woman who resides in West Vancouver’s British Properties.
A notice of hearing describes three episodes.
On October 21, Kora “showed unprovoked aggression to a person”. On February 21, the dog “lunged and barked at a resident”. On March 26, Kora was found “barking and behaving aggressively”.
In at least two of those instances, Kora was not on a leash or fenced in a yard.
A fourth incident occurred after the dog was taken into the custody of the B.C. SPCA. There, Kora allegedly displayed aggressive behavior toward a child that walked by its kennel.
The document does not include any claim of Kora ever hurting somebody.
Nevertheless, it states the District of West Vancouver has recommended the animal be destroyed.
“The Animal Control Officer believes that Kora is likely to kill or seriously injure a person as a result of her unprovoked aggression to neighbours and strangers,” the document reads.
North Vancouver provincial court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter tomorrow (May 4).
Interviewed this morning (May 3) on East Hastings Street near the intersection of Columbia Street, Gonzalez defended the dog and argued that there are alternatives to killing the animal.
“One friend in Squamish is going to take the dog to the reserve,” he said. “I am in the street and I can’t have her here. But it could be safe; it could have freedom.”
During the interview, one of nine puppies Kora birthed last December slept at Gonzalez’s feet. The sidewalk was busy and crowded with street vendors but the animal never flinched.
A friend of Gonzalez’s, Horatio Giron, told the Straight that many of the street vendors that occupy the zero block of East Hastings Street enjoyed having Kora around before she was moved to the house in West Vancouver.
“They all loved her,” he said.
Giron argued that the response from West Vancouver animal control is heavy-handed.
“The dog barked at a bylaw officer,” he said. “That was a mistake. But nature intended the dog to bark. That’s what they do. Birds fly; dog’s run and bark.”
Giron noted Kora’s puppies were inside the house at the time of the incidents described in the court document. He suggested that Kora might have been feeling defensive. “She was protecting her family,” he said.
Asked if Kora had ever caused a problem when she was left to wander the street market on East Hastings, Giron responded: “Never”.
The dog’s fate has attracted the interest of a former Vancouver park commissioner who works with a neighbourhood nonprofit called the Downtown Eastside Street Market Society.
In a telephone interview, Sarah Blyth emphasized that there is an alternative to killing the animal, one that she argued should satisfy the District of West Vancouver.
“He’s got a place now where he can take the dog,” she said in reference to Gonzalez’s plan to leave it with a friend in Squamish. “This is a mistake.”
Blyth has organized transportation for Gonzalez and his friends to travel from the Downtown Eastside to the provincial court in North Vancouver for the May 4 hearing.
“I’ve met the dog myself and I’ve had really great experiences with this dog,” she said. “The dog was a member of the community.”
Blyth also said she wonders if the whole matter would have played out differently if Gonzalez was in a better economic position.
“I’ll hope they do everything that they can before making this kind of decision,” she said. “I don’t want homeless people being penalized because they don’t have a proper home or because they are looked down upon.”
The District of West Vancouver and the law firm representing the district’s animal-control office did not immediately respond to requests for interviews. An employee of the B.C. SPCA’s West Vancouver location said the organization could not comment on the matter.