Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Krystal Not Clear on Brindi: Time for Andrew to Catch Up

from the blog of Andrew Krystal, News 95.7 talk radio host of Maritime Morning 

Time to go Brindi
April 19th, 2010
“Brindi” the dog has been avoided as a story/topic by yours truly for its sheer inanity. There is simply more to worry about than a single dog. However, the animal has become a case in point regarding the caring priorities of some. I mentioned on the air that many people care more about animals than the civil rights of Black Nova Scotians or the plight of seniors who, in our culture, mainly sit warehoused and drugged and unloved in nursing homes and are visited only to the meagerest degree to alleviate the guilt of healthy, younger, offspring.
There are many things to fuss over and “Brindi” isn’t one of them.
Today, I relented and did the topic as I saw it not so much as about the affairs of a single dog but rather as more about how this animal has arrived as a symbol for how many folks emotionally operate: people care more about dogs than other people. On every level, this is wrong no matter how hard some bizarrely try to justify it: “people make their own bed, whereas animals are innocent”, etc.
My position, to the consternation of doggy do-gooders, was to end it. Down with the dog I say.
We heard on Friday that a decision on whether or not to euthanize the pooch will be heard at the end of the month. The owner was found guilty of letting the dog run at large, owning a dog that attacked another, and not complying with a muzzle order. For all that the prosecution (the city) is calling for the dog’s destruction and a one dollar fine.
Some say the dog is reclaimable and that under the loving hands of a dutiful trainer that the dog won’t bite anyone, or another dog. But, can that be guaranteed? What are the repercussions if a trainer leaves the dog to someone else, or doesn’t take care of it? What is the responsibility of the city when complaints against this animal have been registered? Once a dog mauls a child it is too late. How can the city look at itself in the mirror if yet another attack takes place when they already know the history of this particular dog?
Collective rights and collective responsibility toward them trumps personal grievance. The dog owner in question dealt with due process by abrogating it – failing the system. She was warned, edicts were placed on the animal owner, and rules were broken.
Because the system cannot euthanize bad pet owners, their pets instead have to pay the price.
That is the biggest shame.

No Responses to “ Time to go Brindi ”
  1. Francesca Rogier Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I am glad you are finally coming to this issue, though it’s not surprising that your points have been put forward so many times in the last two years. Frankly, you are adding little to the debate, and like many others, you have overlooked the fundamental legal issues at the bottom of this, namely, seizures that violate Charter rights to private property and the right to due process. Why is it that this is constantly glossed over - why does no one even ask the question?
    You also seem unaware that I offered to pay fines from the start, as called for in the by-law, and offered to do anything required in order to get Brindi back. But I was not even charged with a violation until six months after Brindi was (illegally) seized using an unconstitutional law. Charges were laid two days after the court ruled to quash that law - an hour before the six-month time limit ran out. Why didn’t they charge me earlier? It would have allowed me to see a judge within weeks instead of years. That means Brindi has been "warehoused", to borrow your word, for 21 months!!!

    As far as public safety goes, I suppose it is pointless to say that the incidents were accidental, abberations in an otherwise consistent pattern of good behavior. It is not irrelevant to point out that they did not lead to serious harm. More importantly, I have already put measures in place to prevent any future mishaps, with a fence and a private trainer at the ready. HRM has known this since August 2008.
    And it so happens - you would know if you did some reading, or just looked at the photo of her at the SPCA; surrounded by women and an infant, all smiling - that my dog Brindi is not a threat to people, never was, and never will be. Halifax likes to kill dogs: 31 since 2007, all but two without a judge’s order (no charges laid). Of the over sixty-nine dogs at large that have attacked people or animals since 2007 whose owners were charged and went before a judge, HRM has only asked for a precious few to be put down - overlooking many dogs that attacked people multiple times. None of those cases compare in severity to Brindi, who never bit a human or seriously injured a dog. She is not a case that begs the question of whether she is "reclaimable"; she is rated as "extremely trainable". So why is Brindi on death row, then? Maybe because not enough people know enough about her - maybe because the media are unwilling to cover the story adequately? 
    Instead, there is little more than superficial coverage, too many false assumptions, and a disproportionate worry about safety. In the scheme of things, we all know that nothing in life can be “guaranteed”, don't we? So it is patently unfair to apply such a rigid standard to dogs. Society abounds with multiple offenders: drug dealers, rapists, child molesters, drunk drivers. All have stood before a judge at one time and promised they would not do it again, and when they do it, they are not executed, but given due process and their rights are protected. But not dogs. Dogs have no rights, and their owners' rights are customarily violated, but nobody notices.
    The fact is that the city of Halifax made a terrible mistake, and it refuses to admit it. Maybe that is why we are still talking about Brindi: if she is killed, it would set a dangerous precedent, because it means any dog can be destroyed for any reason. The many people out there with dogs with similar or worse behavior know this, and that is why they are so concerned about this case.
    Still, perhaps you don’t care about these things, and that’s fine. But consider this: society is very hypocritical when it comes to dogs. They are belittled as “just dogs” when somebody wants to save one, yet depicted as a savage threat that must be eliminated when it comes to a dog that scuffles with another dogs - as dogs are wont to do, being animals that communicate with their bodies.
    The disapproval and disdain on the part of some is not in sync with the culture. Need one remind you of the enormous value dogs freely give to human health, safety and welfare, not to mention that they provide Hollywood with billions of box-office profits? When you talk about dogs, you are not talking about loaded guns. When you put down people who love dogs, you are not talking about a lunatic fringe. The New York Times recently noted that over 70% of dog owners are more attached to their dogs than to their romantic partners. It is wrong and unfair to conclude, however, that their love for their pets precludes them from liking people. That’s just another way to marginalize and dismiss what is in fact a majority of people who love their dogs - a pretty sizable chunk of the population, nearly half of HRM, in fact.
    And again, let’s put this into context: in 2007, 36 Canadians died from lighting strikes and only 2 died as a result of dog bites. The low, nearly insignificant position of dog bites on the list of causes of violent/accidental death is probably why a much larger city like Boston does not employ “euthanization” in its animal control politices. So while I am the first to say that owners must control their animals, I can't  help but wonder why you choose to focus on this as if it were a serious threat to humanity rivaling terrorism.
    [Note: In the past year, I have corresponded with Andrew Krystal on a few occasions when he replied to a press release, sometimes to ask that they cease, but never unfriendly.] 
    comic.jpg
    ADD. 
    Krystal says, "Collective rights and collective responsibility toward them trumps personal grievance. The dog owner in question dealt with due process by abrogating it – failing the system. She was warned, edicts were placed on the animal owner, and rules were broken." Yes, and when rules are broken, the law calls for fines. Period. 
    The collective does not always trump the individual - if that is what you mean by "personal grievance" - when it comes to property rights. Not that this even applies in cases like Brindi. Broken by-laws call for fines as penalties, not death and destruction. And there was NO due process for me to deal with, let alone "abrogate", so that notion is quite illogical. The system failed me and my dog - and the community. That is the point. I had to try three strategies at great expense, I won, and my dog was still kept by the city, illegally. The same is true of two other dogs now in the pound. Is the city safer? Not really, since a tiny number land on death row, while since 2007 alone, there are over 60 dogs at large that have proven more of a risk, and qualify as dangerous, but were never candidates for destruction by HRM.  
    You may choose to look down your nose at people with dogs, be intolerant of mistakes, accuse them of being uncaring about people, even try to guilt them into being responsible for racism or the neglect of the aged, but you have nothing to base it on, do you? It's just a cheap and shallow jab; begs the question not only of proof, but whether you truly believe people are one-dimensional, incapable of caring about more than one cause or one being. Insulting or ignorant, either way, your disapproval and disdain comes across loud and clear in your statements. But as I pointed out above, it's not very well-grounded. 
    To be frank, though, it matters little whether you like people who like dogs. The fact is, they are certainly not responsible for solving all the world's problems. Nevertheless, they often help solve them through their dogs. It's your loss, in my opinion, to be so disapproving that you set up false oppositions at such a scale. Unlike you, I am not willing to miss out on a universe of unconditional love that spreads outward, a source that keeps so many people going, especially people who are hurting, discriminated against, in need of healing. The very people you worry about and claim that dog owners neglect - many of them own dogs and turn to them for solace. Ever think about that? And they are very frightened at the prospect of having their dogs taken without warning.

    The bottom line is, if you don't understand the law, you have no right to make such damning statements about anybody. The law matters, and it matters that you get it straight. But your post shows that you do not understand the law at all, let alone the facts of this case. f you wish an explanation, I would be happy to give it. I have explained the legal aspects many times in this blog. It has several parts, but it begins with the right to be heard when the "collective" wants to destroy private property - and under the law, dogs are, among many other important things, property. Owning property is a fundamental right; the entire system revolves around that. 
    When offenses are committed, property is not automatically destroyed. "Because the system cannot euthanize bad pet owners, their pets instead have to pay the price." You say this as though it is a. the way the law actually works, and b. the way it should work. I disagree vehemently with b., and a. is simply not the case. In all animal control by-laws, offenses committed by an owner are handled separately from the issue of whether a dog is dangerous. So one should never lead to the other - a guilty charge alone, or even three, is not sufficient grounds to euthanize a dog. And this is the case here. 
    In cities like Vancouver and Boston, a dangerous dog is roughly defined as a dog that seriously injured or killed a human or another animal, and is untrainable; many laws seem to follow that with "any dog that an officer has reasonable grounds to believe is dangerous," etc. Boston does not seek euthanization, ever; at worst, an owner is forced to remove their dog from the city, but before that, there is an option to undergo training. 
    In Halifax, the definition of  "dangerous" is extremely broad (s. 2(1)(g) of A-300), and almost any dog can be classified as such. 
    (g) “dangerous dog” means any dog which:
    (i) attacks or demonstrates a propensity, tendency or disposition to attack
    a human being or animal either on public or private property;
    (ii) has caused injury to or otherwise endangered the safety of a human
    being or animal;
    (iii) threatens any human being or animal;
    (iv) is owned or harboured primarily or in part for the purpose of dog
    fighting;
    (v) is trained for dog fighting; or
    (vi) is a dog for which a muzzle order has been made;
    provided that no dog shall be deemed a “dangerous dog” solely because it
    attacks or threatens a trespasser on the property of its owner, harms or
    menaces anyone who has tormented or abused it, was at the time of its
    aggressive behaviour acting in defence to an attack from a person or animal,
    acting in defence of it’s young or is a professionally trained guard dog for law
    enforcement or guard duties;

    Now, I could add that two of Brindi's encounters were with dogs that had been aggressive to her on recent occasions, lunging, barking, and growling at her. Dogs remember one another; with their sense of smell, they are even better equipped than we are to remember. So the final clause might be reasonably applied to Brindi's behavior. But she can also be trained not to react that way in the future, with the right training. 
    And when it comes to socializing with people? Please! We spent New Year's Eve 2008 with a friend and her family, sat at the kitchen table with the matriarch, who insisted she was deathly afraid of dogs. Within a short time, Brindi was calmly laying at her feet, where she stayed put the rest of the evening. The woman felt secure and safe. Kids would run up and throw their arms around Brindi to hug her, and she never budged an inch, never even licked them. She was gentle and not easily spooked, even during excavation work on my house. 
    HRM's high kill rate is puzzling, given that under A-300, it is legal to own a dog that was deemed dangerous and even registered as such. Is that just a front? To date, Halifax has not registered Brindi in that category, though I renewed her license twice since the seizure. Even more puzzling, during his testimony, the animal services officer denied he ever deemed Brindi dangerous. Why? And why seize her, then?)
    The fact is, my dog is very well-behaved and well-liked by those caring for her. See for yourself in the video; read the affidavits. I worked hard on her behavior to make her a great dog to have around, obedient and affectionate, and she was/is. Her unwelcome behavior occurred infrequently and was short-lived. It requires specialized training, and unfortunately, I received different advice from the trainer on how to deal with it. Why believe me? Read the letters
    Whether you credit me for having done my best and made a few mistakes that did not lead to great harm, you cannot say that Brindi is a dangerous dog, which is the issue at hand. That is indeed HRM's chief concern, public safety, not whether I am guilty of anything. Apples and oranges. In fact, the city took her without ever having laid charges, and until the supreme court said no, it was prepared to kill her  without ever charging me, which is proof of the split within the law. The truth is, and HRM made this plain to a judge, they only charged me because their goal was to euthanize, and the only available means of euthanizing her was to parlay guilty charges into a court order. This was now necessary because the supreme court quashed section 8(2)d of A300. ("Euthanize" is the wrong word, of course; "destroy" is more accurate.) 
    As a case unfolds, the system blurs the distinction between penalty and public safety, thanks to a provincial law that links one to the other, section 177 of the Municipal Government Act, which is titled, "Additional Penalty." 
    Furthermore, the city is handling this case unlike the way it has the majority of dog attack cases, many involving attacks on humans. These are documented and compiled for your perusal. They were extracted from HRM online records. If you want to see prosecutions of all dog-related offenses since 2007 to compare, you can see them here. These ought to raise your eyebrow, at least halfway. If not, I can tell you a few hair-raising stories, I promise. 
    That is, if you are willing to see more than black and white when it comes to dogs. It would be a shame if you weren't. If your goal is simply to stir up controversy - well, you're a bit late, Andrew, don't you think? 
    Facebook response to Andrew Krystal from a Calgary resident:
    Maureen Hurly
    "Inane”? Stories about sports teams and celebrities are “inane”; not matters of life and death.
    Compassionate people care about all life and all suffering. Ever since I can remember, as a very young child, I cared a lot about animals. I couldn’t understand why so many other people really did not. After all it was obvious to me that they had feelings and could suffer greatly.
    When I grew up I felt I wanted to make a positive impact on the world and I trained and worked as a social worker in fields such as child welfare and probation services. I am now a stay at home mother but actively volunteer in my community at an animal shelter, a senior’s home and at a food bank. I don’t see why you are trying to imply that people who care about animals don’t care about people. I have found the reverse to be true in all the wonderful people I have met over the years. Empathy and compassion are character traits that are not turned on or off depending on which species you are dealing with, or with which race group or gender or other population group, for that matter.
    I do care about Brindi and her owner as I feel this case has been handled in an unjust manner. Brindi has been evaluated by three different animal trainers, none of whom thought she was aggressive and all of whom believed she was trainable. The SPCA staff, where Brindi was held for most of the past 21 months, became attached to her and let her walk around the SPCA property and sleep under their desks. They do not believe she is dangerous, and did not muzzle her. In fact, I saw a photograph where they even held a birthday party for Brindi. In the photo she is surrounded by people including a toddler, and she is not wearing a muzzle.

    The incidents which got Brindi into trouble occurred along her property line where she showed territorial behaviour towards passing dogs. This is behaviour that should be rectified, and apparently it is correctable with training. In the various scuffles between Brindi and passing dogs, no other dog was seriously hurt. To my understanding, one dog received a small tooth puncture mark, but that was it for injuries. Brindi is just not a killer dog. She has never attacked a person, and there is zero reason to believe she ever would (well, no more reason than believing any other dog would; contrary to your question about “guarantees”, nothing in life is ever guaranteed. Even though I have never hurt anyone before, no-one else can “guarantee” I won’t go on a homicidal killing spree tomorrow. And what of the known criminals who are released from prison daily with no guarantee that they will not re-offend?) Contrast Brindi’s case - scuffles with other dogs, no serious injuries, no threats to humans ever- with other cases in Halifax where dogs who have actually bitten people or killed other animals have not been siezed by bylaw, and the owners have merely been fined, and you can surely see the injustice. In Brindi’s case, HRM actually hired a private law firm at a cost (I’m guessing) of tens of thousands of dollars to kill a much loved dog who no-one really believes is dangerous!
    I discussed this case with a bylaw officer in my own city (which incidentally is a city with a reputation for having a very low rate of dog attacks). He had already heard of this case, and was extremely perplexed by the way a “dog bites dog” case (his description) has been handled by Halifax.
     

    At the very least, people who do not like animals but claim to care about people, should consider the hell Ms Rogier has been through the past 21 months and feel compassion for her. It may be hard for people who do not care about animals to understand, but to her Brindi is her family member and she loves her and is committed to her. She has offered all along to do whatever it takes to get Brindi back - from the beginnning she has offered to pay fines, get training, build a fence etc. The City of Halifax has been rigid in their refusal to negotiate. I, along with thousands of others who are following this case, and who do not regard it as “inane”, hope that the judge sees that a death sentence for Brindi is not appropriate in this case, and that Brindi gets another chance at life.
    April 20, 2010