New Brunswick

Pit bull owner asks court to spare dog accused of biting 5-year-old girl

A judge has reserved decision in the case of a pit bull that allegedly bit a five-year-old girl in the face last month in Quispamsis.

Angela Tracey, of Quispamsis, believes girl injured by Torque's nails

Angela Tracey wants the provincial court to spare the life of her pit bull, Torque. (CBC)
A judge has reserved decision in the case of a pit bull that allegedly bit a five-year-old girl in the face last month in Quispamsis.

In court Tuesday, the owner of the dog said just before the incident on May 1, she had encouraged the dog to eat out of the child's hand.

Angela Tracey made the statement during a hearing in Saint John, where she is asking the provincial court to spare her dog from being euthanized.

Tracey is contesting the claim that the child was bitten by her male Staffordshire Terrier, named Torque. She contends the girl, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was injured by the dog's nails.

"I'm glad [the child] is doing better," she said. "I still feel terrible for what happened, even though I believe it was an accident and that Torque did not intend to hurt her."

"The whole situation is terrible on both sides."

Was feeding dog pizza crusts

Tracey, who owns two pit bulls, told the court she was hosting a party with four adults and six children at her home on French Village Road on the day in question.

Neither one of her dogs was restrained during the party and Torque was wandering among the guests, she said.

Tracey ordered pizza and garlic fingers and handed one child pizza crusts to feed to Torque. Afterward, she heard the girl cry out, she said.

"My first reaction, I thought he bit her," said Tracey, adding she initially thought Torque should be put down.

But after he was seized by town officials on May 3, and she began reviewing photographs of the girl's injuries and speaking to other people, she came to think it was the dog's nails, she said.

Tracey had previously testified that Torque had never shown any signs of aggression around her three daughters — the youngest of whom was about five years old when the family took ownership of him in May of 2012.

Could have caused mortal damage

Sussex veterinarian Stephen Justison, who was called by Tracey's lawyer to testify, read from a letter he had written where he gave his opinion that the girl could not have been bitten because her wounds appeared to have healed without the aid of antibiotics and he said dog bites always cause infections.

But Judge Marco Cloutier said he was crossing out those paragraphs because the court did not recognize Justison as an expert in dog bites on humans.

Justison, who was, however, recognized as an expert witness in veterinary medicine, told the court that Torque could have caused mortal damage to the child if he had bitten the girl with intent.

They are basically wolves.- Stephen Justison, veterinarian

Staffordshire Terriers are carnivores with powerful jaws, he said.

"They are basically wolves."

Justison also noted that his records showed Torque weighed 32.5 kg, which he estimated to be about twice the size of the girl, based on viewing photographs of her.

He also testified that Torque was uncastrated, explaining that castration can reduce aggressive behaviour in dogs.

Tracey told the court if she gets Torque back, she will have both dogs fixed and will seek the services of a dog trainer.

She also says she won't allow anyone to feed the dogs again, and won't leave them unattended in the house.

Torque is currently being held at the Moncton SPCA.

Thursday's hearing was the third day dedicated to the case.

Saint John lawyer John MacGillivray is representing the Town of Quispamsis.

David Mudge is representing Tracey.

The judge has reserved decision until Friday at 8:45 a.m.