When a dog attacked Matthew Brigmantas just before he died screaming in a Hamilton street earlier this month, it wasn't for the first time.

Brigmantas' former girlfriend says that just 10 days before he died, the same dog bit him, sending him to the emergency room for stitches. And that same Shar Pei/Fila mix had bitten other people in the past, she says.

"The dog was vicious," said Tracey Rout, who told CBC News she was in a relationship with Brigmantas just before he died.

The dog is still alive and in the custody of Hamilton Animal Control – but the incident paints a sad picture of a seemingly mistreated animal that was trained to attack, and surrounded by people who couldn't properly take care of him.

Just what is going to happen to the dog still isn't clear. The city planned to release details of animal control's investigation last Monday, but reversed its stance and hasn't revealed any information since.

"We are not commenting on the case as it is still under investigation," city spokesperson Kelly Anderson said in an email. "The dog is still here and no decisions have been made with regards to euthanasia. 

"The dog has been seen by a vet and is under the care of our dedicated staff."

Victim did not own dog, girlfriend says

City staffers had previously said they know the dog's owner, but officials refuse to release that information. Many have speculated that Brigmantas himself owned the dog, but Rout says that isn't the case.

Dog attack victim

Tracey Rout (left) is seen here with dog attack victim Matthew Brigmantas. (Tracey Rout)

She says a homeless woman technically owns the dog, but that it has also been passed around amongst a group of people. "The dog has been left with different people for days at a time, not fed and also trained to have an attack word," she said.

Rout's account differs from that of another woman who claimed to be close with Brigmantas. Amanda Doucet described the dog as generally peaceful.

There have been conflicting reports about the incident since Brigmantas was found dead in the street on July 9. Many speculated at the outset that the dog attack killed him, but police announced the day after he was found that that wasn't the case.

An autopsy did not reveal an obvious cause of death, so now the coroner is waiting on toxicology reports to figure out what killed him. That could take up to six weeks.

Regional Coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough previously told CBC News that though the dog may not have killed Brigmantas, it definitely did attack him.

Rout described Brigmantas as a good man, but one who was troubled and dealing with drug addiction. Court documents show that Rout bailed him out of jail back in May for crystal meth possession.

'It's not easy'

"I had taken Matt to some [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings after I posted his bail trying my best to get him back to the place he wanted to be in life – working and supporting his son and as an active member of his community," she said. "He wanted to rebuild his life as these charges for him were like rock bottom."

"Matt was doing his best and this was avoidable and shouldn't have happened. He was a good man with loving friends and family. We are all trying to live life without him and it's not easy."

The dog is a Shar Pei mixed with Fila Brasileiro, a Brazilian Mastiff which can be known for agression. It is one of four dogs banned in the United Kingdom. The breed is not banned in Hamilton, and the city does not believe the dog is licensed.

Euthanasia in cases like these is determined, in part, on a five-point bite rating scale.

The scale has a ranking from one to five, and anything above a three, when coupled with other factors such as ownership or biting history, could lead to the dog being put down, the city says.

That means that if the dog punctured skin longer than the length of a canine tooth, or the dog bit and shook his head, there's a possibility for euthanasia.

adam.carter@cbc.ca