Nova Scotia

Clark's Harbour man says DNA results show his dog isn't a banned breed

A man in Clark's Harbour, N.S., says a DNA test on his dog shows Gizmo isn't one of the breeds banned by the town, but the mayor of the town says the testing doesn't comply with their standards.

'We did what we were asked. What more would they want?' says Gizmo's owner, Mason Landry

Mason Landry and his dog Gizmo are at the centre of a legal dispute in Clark's Harbour, N.S. (Submitted by Paula Crowell Landry)

A man in Clark's Harbour, N.S., says a DNA test on his dog shows Gizmo isn't one of the breeds banned by the town, but the mayor of the town says the testing doesn't comply with their standards.

Mason Landry, who adopted what he believed to be a pit bull/chocolate lab mix from the Yarmouth SPCA, got a letter from the town in July saying he needed to give up the dog within 72 hours, or else Gizmo would be seized, sent to a pound and possibly killed and Landry would have to pay a $100 fine.

A town bylaw bans specific breeds of dogs including pit bulls and Rottweilers.

Landry's lawyer, Regan Murphy, said his client was not obligated to test his dog's DNA, but did so as an act of good faith to end the dispute with the town.

"The bylaw has no specific authorization for them to even demand DNA testing," Murphy said.

When Landry adopted Gizmo from the SPCA in Yarmouth, they weren't sure of the exact breed, but their best guess was pit bull-chocolate lab mix. (Submitted by Paula Crowell Landry)

A July 23 letter Landry sent to the town stated he was unsure of Gizmo's breed. In response, an Aug. 7 letter addressed to Landry from the town clerk said it was decided by town council the dog would need to have his DNA tested.

"If the dog proves not to be a pit bull, then we'll apologize for putting him through any trouble and we'll pay the bill," said Clark's Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart.

Landry ordered a home-testing DNA kit online, and took a video of his mother taking the dog's sample and sealing it in an envelope. The results, he said, showed a mix of breeds, none of which is banned in the town's bylaw.

But Stoddart said they're not accepting those results because no one from the town was present at the time of the testing.

Results from Gizmo's DNA test show he's a mix of five breeds, none of which is included in the town's breed ban. (Submitted by Regan Murphy)

The Aug. 7 letter states Landry will be given one week to respond to the mayor about his intentions and "start the process of the DNA testing immediately," but it does not say the testing needs to be done in any particular way, or with any witnesses present.

"We did what we were asked. What more would they want?" Landry said.

Murphy, a fellow "dog lover" who took Landry's case pro bono, said Gizmo is a registered therapy dog and has gone through the necessary testing and certification. Landry said he's been diagnosed with anxiety and Gizmo helps him with it.

'A slap in the face'

But Stoddart said Gizmo's certification doesn't change anything.

"There's thousands of breeds of dogs, and to pick the ones that we don't allow here is kind of a slap in the face to us, I think," Stoddart said. "Most law-abiding citizens tend to go along with us, and we've had great support inside the town for this ban."

The ban, Stoddart said, has zero tolerance for dogs having any DNA of the banned breeds.

A screenshot from a video submitted by Landry's mother shows Gizmo having his cheeks swabbed in Landry's living room. (Submitted by Paula Crowell Landry)

Murphy said this is extreme.

"Is the town going to look for a 0.1 DNA result with every dog?" he said. "Hypothetically, someone could go around reporting every dog anonymously. According to the situation with Mr. Landry, the town's going to pursue that to the bitter end and go to court over something they have no evidence of."

Murphy said given what Landry has done to date, the best way to come to a resolution is to let the courts decide.

"If that's what I need to do, then that's what I'll do," Landry said.


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