Court rules in favour of Clark's Harbour dog owner in breed ban case
'It was a huge sigh of relief,' owner's mother says
A provincial court judge has ruled in favour of a Clark's Harbour, N.S., man who was ordered by his town to get rid of his therapy dog because it had been deemed a dangerous breed.
The small community in southwest Nova Scotia has a ban on pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Mason Landry's dog, Gizmo, was originally thought to be a mix of a chocolate lab and pit bull, but a DNA test later determined he is a mix of five breeds, none of which are banned by the town.
The dispute ended up in Shelburne provincial court, and on Wednesday the judge agreed the town hadn't provided any evidence that Gizmo was a banned breed, according to Landry's lawyer, Regan Murphy, who worked on the case pro bono.
"It was a huge sigh of relief," Paula Landry, Mason Landry's mother, said in an interview.
Landry said her son, who has said Gizmo helps him cope with his anxiety, is "ecstatic" and "over the moon" with the ruling. She said six local people who were following the story came to show their support in court.
More than a hunch needed
Mason Landry was ticketed by the town last summer and ordered to find a new home for Gizmo outside the community within 72 hours or the dog would be seized. He said the person who served him told him someone anonymously reported his dog.
Landry has said he considered leaving the community if Gizmo couldn't stay.
Murphy said Gizmo's case shows municipalities with breed bans need to have more evidence than a hunch.
"I hope this can provide peace to other residents and law-abiding dog owners in Clark's Harbour that they don't have to worry about potentially having a summary offence ticket issued against them based on a suspicion," Murphy said.
Clark's Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart, who was not at court on Wednesday, said he's disappointed with the ruling.
"We'd like to think the justice system has your back when you do something that's in the best interest of your community, especially where it's a safety issue," Stoddart said.
Stoddart said circumstantial evidence — "like if everybody kind of admits that it was a pit bull" — should have been enough.
"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck," Stoddart said. "But if you don't have it on paper and you don't have no DNA to prove it was a pit bull, then you have no mechanism for going forward."
Stoddart said he plans to meet with town council on Wednesday night to draft a new bylaw that would involve a DNA test if a dog's breed is in dispute.
Residents of Clark's Harbour will be required to have their dogs registered with the town by May 2020, according to the town's website.
"This action is required due to an increasing number of complaints from the general public regarding dogs running at large and illegal breeds being purchased," the town's website stated.
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With files from Brooklyn Currie