Vancouver man Brandon Mills owns a Staffordshire mix, a type of pitbull.
His dog attacked another dog, a Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie owned by Carol Rowe.
Rowe wants Mills to pay $2,734.23 as reimbursement for her veterinary expenses.
Mills acknowledged that his dog attacked Rowe’s pet, but does not agree that he is liable for the incident.
The dispute came before a B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, which eventually dismissed Rowe’s claim for reimbursement.
In reasons for decision, CRT member David Jiang recounted the undisputed facts.
On the evening of November 1, 2020, Rowe’s family member, identified only as by initials as CR, took her dog outside for a walk.
Mills’ roommate, identified also by initials as CF, took the man’s two dogs outside for a walk as well.
The two dogs are a Staffordshire mix and a Chihuahua.
“All dogs were leashed,” Jiang noted.
The two dog walkers encountered each other.
CF stopped and warned CR to keep their distance. The dogs and their walkers were on the sidewalk at the time.
CR then decided to walk around CF and the two dogs by going on the adjacent grass.
“As CR approached,” Jiang related, “Mr. Mills’ Staffordshire mix attacked the Sheltie, dragging CF forward across the grass.”
CF picked up the Chihuahua and then tried to help CR free the Sheltie from the other dog.
“The Staffordshire mix eventually let go and CR carried the Sheltie away,” Jiang recalled.
Rowe immediately sought veterinary treatment for her injured Sheltie.
“Veterinarian records show they diagnosed the Sheltie with soft tissue injuries to its head and neck as well as a traumatic brain injury,” Jiang related.
A Vancouver municipal officer informed Mills on November 30, 2020 that investigation showed that there was “insufficient evidence to suggest Mr. Mills’ Staffordshire mix was at fault”.
“In December 2020 a neurologist noted the Sheltie’s condition had improved somewhat,” Jiang noted.
Jiang wrote that Mills does not deny Rowe’s submission that his Staffordshire mix is a type of pit bull.
“Some BC municipalities make specific restrictions about pit bulls in their bylaws. Vancouver, where the attack occurred, is not one of them,” Jiang pointed out.
Just the same, Jiang noted that case law “suggests that a dog’s breed, by itself, does not establish that it had a propensity for aggression”.
In deciding the dispute, Jiang determined that Mills is not liable under any of the three grounds of occupier’s liability, the legal doctrine of ‘scienter’, and negligence.
The attacked happened near a church, so occupier’s liability does not apply.
As for scienter, that is “proven when the respondent is the dog’s owner, the dog had shown a propensity to cause the type of harm at issue, and the owner knew of that propensity”.
“CF wrote in their statement the Staffordshire mix had ‘never hurt anyone or anything’ and it was ‘a very sweet, loving, gentle dog’,” Jiang related.
As for Mills, the Vancouver man submitted that his Staffordshire mix had “never once shown any aggression towards people or other animals”.
“Ultimately, I find it significant that no one said the Staffordshire mix previously attacked or attempted to attack another person or another dog,” Jiang stated.
As for negligence, the CRT member did not give weight to Rowe’s allegation that Mills “breached the standard of care by relying on CF to walk the Staffordshire mix”.
Rowe claimed that Mills should have known that CF could not control the dog.
“I note that CR wrote in his statement that the Staffordshire mix was 80 pounds, CF was not much larger at 105 pounds, and CF was walking 2 dogs at the time,” Jiang noted.
However, these are not sufficient to prove Mills was negligent.
“There is no indication that CF had any prior difficulty walking the dogs,” Jiang stated.
The CRT member also noted that Mills’ two dogs were leashed, and the Staffordshire mix did not escape.
“The dog attack was also caused, in part, by CR approaching CF despite CF’s warning. I find Mr. Mills could not have reasonably anticipated this,” Jiang stated.
Moreover, “Given these circumstances, I also do not find it clear that a larger dog handler could have prevented the attack.”