British Columbia

Owner of puppy allegedly 'torn apart' by pit bull sues City of Vancouver

Mila, a 5-month old cocker spaniel, was killed by a pitbull that had attacked just weeks before, alleges a lawsuit against the dog's owners and the City of Vancouver.

Lawsuit claims Mila, a 5-month old cocker spaniel, 'torn apart' by pitbull that had attacked before

Mila, a five-month old cocker spaniel, died in June after being attacked by a pitbull in Yaletown, and now her owner is suing the City of Vancouver, and the couple that owns the pitbill. (John Devita)

A Burnaby, B.C. man is suing the City of Vancouver and the owners of a pit bull after the dog allegedly attacked his cocker-spaniel puppy, "ripping it apart" on a Yaletown sidewalk last June.

John Devita has named the city in the suit because he believes it had impounded the pit bull six weeks before his dog was attacked — when the same pit bull attacked another small dog in May.

The city knew the dog — which is identified as a "pit bull mastiff" and later just as a "pit bull" — was dangerous and released it anyway, he alleges in the notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

Devita's wife, sister-in-law and friend were walking their puppy, named Mila, in downtown Vancouver on a sunny Sunday afternoon when they saw a couple get out of a taxi with their dog.

The pit bull, which wasn't leashed or muzzled despite an order from the city, charged for Mila, prompting Devita's sister-in-law Antonella Moscone to scoop the five-month old puppy into her arms, the suit alleges.

Mila underwent about four hours of treatment by veterinarians but did not survive the attack by a pit bull in June. (John Devita)

That didn't stop the pit bull, said Devita in an interview.

"This pit bull leaped, jumped on to my sister-in-law and grabbed the puppy out of her arms, and basically tore the puppy apart right in front of their eyes."

The three women tried to save Mila, "pounding and punching" the pit bull, said Devita, and were bitten and bruised on their hands, arms, knees and ankles as a result.

Mila was rushed to one, then another veterinarian-related facility, but four hours and $6,505.28 in vet bills later, she died of her injuries, said Devita.

Devita's wife, sister-in-law and friend are still in counselling after the attack, the suit states.

"It was literally ripping [Mila] apart ... they can't get that picture out of their minds," said Devita.

The dog's owners, Shannon Flegar and Ryan Patrick, are facing seven criminal charges related to the June 14 attack, including failing to keep a vicious dog away from public places, and allowing the dog to bite or injure someone. The pit bull has been impounded.

Pit bull attacked before

The pit bull had attacked another small dog on May 1, six weeks before the attack on Devita's puppy, and was impounded by animal control officers at that time, the lawsuit alleges.

Flegar and Patrick are also facing two criminal charges from that attack: Failing to leash their dog and allegedly allowing it to bite and injure.

After the May attack, the owners were ordered to muzzle the pit bull, but the city's animal control department should have sought to have the dog destroyed as a dangerous animal, the lawsuit states.

"You know, it could have [attacked] a kid," said Devita. "It's a vicious, dangerous dog, and the city released it."

Devita wants to see tougher rules, such as required muzzling for dogs that have a history of aggression — though he isn't pushing for breed-specific rules.

The lawsuit is asking for damages for out-of-pocket veterinarian costs, damages for pain and suffering, and other damages — but doesn't name a dollar amount beyond the vet bills.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court, and a statement of defence has not yet been filed.

The City of Vancouver is not commenting on the suit, saying it is before the courts.

The dog owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

They are scheduled to appear in court in March on all nine charges, when there will also be a hearing deciding the pit bull's fate.

Read the statement of claim

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