Punish the owner or ban the breed?

It's a question Surrey council will be discussing tonight, after a pit bull attack last week in which a 65-year-old woman was mauled by an unleashed pit bull while walking down the street, leaving her with serious arm injuries. The dog has since been destroyed but the owner is not facing charges.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says although dog attacks are not the "overriding problem" in Surrey, the incident is reason enough to re-examine city dog bylaws.

"I think our [bylaw] severity level is relatively high already yet it doesn't seem to be doing the trick," Hepner told Rick Cluff on the CBC's Early Edition. "That dog was supposed to have been muzzled and supposed to have been on a leash."

"My intention is to ask council to convene a panel to look at our bylaw relative to strengthening and tightening it because there could be some avenues that are useful to us around licensing and fines," she said.

dog attack victm

A 65-year-old Surrey woman is wheeled into an ambulance after being attacked by an unleashed, unmuzzled pit bull last week. (Shane MacKichan/CBC)

Hepner says the pit bull attack has ignited the debate over whether the city should ban that breed outright, or beef up bylaws to punish owners of dangerous dogs.

"Most believe it's the owner but there are a handful — 20 to 30 per cent — who believe the pit bull is a breed that shouldn't be in the city." 

Hepner says Surrey council has debated banning other breeds of dogs in the past. 

"In the 90's it was Rottweilers and then in the early 2000's it was Dobermans. So my inclination is it's the owners [who are the problem] because I'm not sure now if we ban pit bulls what's going to be next." she said. "As soon as you're breed specific next year when something happens you're going to have to add that breed."  

With files from the Early Edition