Earlier we and many others blogged about Rambo, the puppy that got away from his owner in Mississauga on Christmas Day, and was wandering the streets unleashed and unmuzzled in direct violation of the law. Animal Control collared the dog and took him into custody. Rambo’s owner, Gabriela Nowakowska, was charged with owning a prohibited animal and the dog faced the prospect of being put down.
Those of us who wrote to Council received an update today from Councillor Pat Saito:
“Action was taken on April 9, 2008, by Mississauga Council. Although the case is in the courts and we can not interfere in that process, we did pass a motion that will allow his owner, Gabriela to visit him while he is being held in our Animal Shelter. We also passed a resolution that would put in place procedures for future visitations in other similar circumstances should they occur.
Rambo is being well cared for by our staff who are animal lovers and he is getting socialization and exercise. But we know that this is not the same as being able to spend time with his “mom”. Also we are hoping that seeing that her puppy is being well cared for will ease some of the concerns Gabriela has over his well being.
It is not the best solution given the provincial legislation that we are compelled to enforce, but hopefully it is a step in the right direction.”
Councillor Saito ended her email with a reference to Ontario’s draconian breed-specific legislation which still threatens Rambo’s welfare. Authorities say Rambo is a pit bull, a breed that has been prohibited since 2005, and must be put down. Nowakowska is contesting that judgment in court.
Mississauga City Council spent 45 minutes on the issue before voting unanimously to let the dog’s owner visit him at the pound.
“City-owned pounds should be showing people how to treat dogs by example. It’s not going to be thousands of people. We only have one incarcerated dog right now,” said Councillor Carolyn Parrish, who proposed the motion. Visits are currently prohibited at the city pound.
Council directed city staff to come up with a visitation procedure before its next meeting in two weeks. Meantime, a visit will be arranged for Nowakowska.
Parrish, who has two dogs, has visited Rambo twice and said he is being well cared for.
“That’s not the issue. The issue is that Gabriela, his owner, is fairly frantic. If she were to see how well he’s being cared for it would go a long way to relieve the anxiety she’s living with,” Parrish said. Rambo has already spent more than three months of his short life separated from Gabriela.
“Humans and dogs have very strong bonds. I am very concerned about the dog, but I am more concerned about the human being.”
Councillors heard from Selma Mulvey, of an owners’ group called the Dog Legislation Council of Canada, who presented research on the stressful effects of long-term kennelling. Keeping dogs cooped up without much human contact, particularly beyond six weeks, can have physiological and behavioural side effects, making dogs fearful and aggressive, she said.
“When the owner finally does regain custody of their pet, there can be a lot of work for them to do to rebuild the relationship.”
Parrish said it would be unfair to release into the community a dog that’s more testy and protective.
Councillor George Carlson agreed that allowing visits is “a measure of our humanity.”
“One year of jail for a dog is seven or eight years for us. That’s a long time to be away from your pet.”
Visitation “is the right thing to do,” said Councillor Maja Prentice. “The same thing goes for people that are incarcerated, waiting for their hearing or judgment.”
Gabriela, kudos to you for your courage and persistence. And thank you, Mississauga Council, for your humane action.