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More than $7K in fines issued for dog behaviour in Richmond last year

Public perception of dog bite reports far worse than actual incidents, says City of Richmond spokesperson.

A total of 37 violation tickets for $200 each were issued for dog behaviour in Richmond last year.

Animal control officers responded to 107 dog bite calls in 2023, according to a city staff report for Feb. 13's community safety committee meeting,

However, city spokesperson Clay Adams told the Richmond News there were 33 reported dog bites in 2023, which resulted in only three dangerous dog designations. He added city staff are looking into the data inconsistency, which "may simply be a case of duplicate reporting."

"These calls require thorough investigations and analysis of the incidents to determine the facts of the complaint and the issuance of the appropriate violations or declaration of dangerous dog status as required," reads the report.

Last year, the News reported an incident where a woman and her dog were allegedly attacked and bitten by two other dogs in the Seafair neighbourhood. According to Richmond RCMP, at least three people reported suffering dog bites while attempting to separate the dogs in the same incident.

When the News visited Aberdeen Neighbourhood Park last week, dog owners told the News they usually focus on the behavioural changes in their own dogs during their walks.

"(It's) better (to) always leash the dog," said Steve Cheng, who was out with his dog Momo.

"A couple of years ago, he never barked at other dogs, but now he's starting to (do it). Maybe he got older or (he's) being grumpy."

Keeping his dog on a leash allows him to take control of the situation, Cheng explained, since he can't predict how Momo will behave.

Jin Chan, who was walking her dog Luna, said she tends to avoid dog parks unless they're empty.

"Just through experience and hearing about stories — we've heard of bad experiences in dog parks as well — so we're kind of a bit more on the cautious side with her," Chan explained.

Luna, who tends to get anxious, wears a leash with a tag that says "Nervous rescue. Please give space."

Things to pay attention to during walks include children, especially those moving fast or riding bikes, runners, anything Luna might try to eat and anything out of the ordinary, said Chan.

The city is "hesitant" to report dog bite statistics, explained Adams, because "public perception is often far worse than the actual incident."

He added dog bite statistics are "extremely challenging" due to the many variables dictating what constitutes a "reportable dog bite."

The key factors to consider are the severity of the behaviour and the alleged bite determined using the Dunbar Dog Bite Scale, which ranges from "obnoxious or aggressive behaviour but no skin contact by teeth" to "victim dead."

"(BC SPCA staff) often respond to reports of dog bites, only to find the dog’s behaviour was neither aggressive nor a safety issue," said Adams.

With files from Maria Rantanen.