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The dog who went to 'live on a farm' (but for real)

The fate of a Winnipeg dog was left in a judge's hands after Baba Thor bit at least five people over a 10-month period.

In 1981, a 5-year-old German shepherd had to leave Winnipeg after biting at least 5 people

What will be the fate of Baba Thor?

41 years ago
Duration 1:43
In 1981, The National reports on a story involving a judge who must decide what will happen to a dog named Baba Thor.

It wasn't a euphemism: This dog was really going to live out the rest of his life on a farm.

And for Baba Thor, it was a court-ordered fate that was better than the alternative, which was death.

The five-year-old German shepherd had become a news story after the dog bit at least a half-dozen people — reportedly without being provoked.

"In one and a half days of testimony, six people have said they were attacked by Baba Thor," reporter Terry Matte told viewers on The National on Feb. 25, 1981, giving them some background on why the dog had become the subject of a court hearing.

'He started biting away'

Arthur Zinghini described being attacked by Baba Thor. He said the German shepherd walked up to him and then, without warning, started biting him. (The National/CBC Archives)

Among the victims was a Winnipeg teenager named Arthur Zinghini, who described what it was like to be on the wrong side of the dog's attention.

"He just walked calmly up to me," Zinghini, then 14, told CBC News, describing the unprovoked attack from the dog.

"He started biting away," the teenager said, showing Matte the scar left on his leg after the attack.

Matte noted Baba Thor had also bitten Winnipeg police Const. Steven Garrett, after the officer had gone to the home where the dog lived to investigate another such attack. (The Winnipeg Free Press reported that Garrett had actually fought back against the attack with a flashlight, but eventually ended up firing a shot at the German shepherd.)

'A better defence than many people get'

Two lawyers were hired to defend Baba Thor and prevent him from being put down. (The National/CBC Archives)

The dog did have its defenders — including two lawyers who argued that a judge should let Baba Thor live.

"One court watcher said Baba Thor was getting a better defence than many people get," said Matte, describing those defenders' efforts.

Those lawyers acknowledged that the dog had bit people, meaning the judge had to decide only what Baba Thor's fate would be.

An alternative fate

Exiled from Winnipeg

41 years ago
Duration 1:21
In 1981, a judge ordered that a dog named Baba Thor would have to go live on a farm.

In the end, Judge Sam Minuk decided the dog would live out its life at a kennel.

"He said he found it very difficult to order the dog's destruction and he wouldn't do it," reporter Paul Normandeau told viewers on The National on Feb. 26, 1981.

"He admitted his decision was, perhaps, based more on emotion than on logic, but he allowed Baba Thor to live out his life in a kennel in eastern Manitoba."

The Free Press ran the story about Baba Thor's fate above the masthead on the front page of its newspaper. It noted that a condition of his relocation was that he could not be released without a judge's permission.

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