Woman bitten by pit bull while protecting her dog issues warning

A Toronto woman who owns a pit bull mix wants to warn others about a man who let his pit bull attack her dog on the weekend at Woodbine Beach near Lake Shore Boulevard East and Woodbine Avenue.

'My dog ain't scared of anything,' owner is alleged to have said before pit bull attack

Toronto dog owner Toni Baxter wants to warn people about a man who let his pit bull attack her dog and bite her on Sunday in the Beach neighbourhood. The incident has been reported to police. (CBC)

A Toronto woman who owns a pit bull mix wants to warn others about a man who let his pit bull attack her dog on the weekend at Woodbine Beach near Lake Shore Boulevard East and Woodbine Avenue.

Toni Baxter, owner of Gucci, a pit bull mastiff mix, said she was also bitten when the man loosened his leash on the boardwalk. The incident has been reported to Toronto police. Baxter described Gucci as "a big sweetheart." She had to get a tetanus shot after the man's dog bit her on her leg several times.

"We need to make people aware that this guy is out here with the intent of fighting his dog. That's dangerous to everybody in general and other dogs as well," she said. 

She said the man told her "my dog ain't scared of anything" and "try him."

"Before I knew it, his dog was just lunging at my dog and they were just going at it," she said. "I quickly pulled my dog away and I fell off the boardwalk and into the sand. He didn't bother to restrain the dog at all. He let the dog continue to come at us. And the dog bit my leg. And he continued to attack my dog."

She said the man then decided he had enough and pulled his dog back. 

"He was laughing about it. I said, 'Dude, I've been bitten here.' He totally disregarded me and started calling us derogatory names. I was like, 'What's wrong with this guy?' I could have had a child with me. Anything could have happened there."

Baxter sought help from the Beach police bike patrol. Officers helped her get medical attention.

"I'd like the community to be aware of this person. He does frequent the Beach. It's dangerous to all."

Baxter said it's not about the breed. Gucci, her dog, is not aggressive, she said. "He wouldn't hurt a fly. He's friendly as hell."

Tegan Buckingham, manager of communications at the Toronto Humane Society, said it's clearly the fault of the man who owns the pit bull, not the dog itself. Pit bulls, she said, get a bad rap.

"It's not the breed, it's the owner. That's not the dog's fault. That's what it's been told to do by the owner," she said. "If that was another type of dog, would this have happened? Who knows, possibly, if that's what it is trained to do."

Pit bulls have been banned as pets in Ontario since 2005. 

"We are very much against breed specific legislation. It's about the pet owner and being a responsible owner and training your dog. You have to react the best way you can. This lady was trying to protect her own dog. It's all about proper pet ownership," Buckingham said.

Paul Di Salvo, spokesperson for Toronto Public Health, said the number of dog biting incidents rose in Toronto from 2010 to 2014 despite the ban. There were 1,028 incidents in 2010 as compared to 1,425 in 2014. The number increased steadily every year during those four years.

He said, in the past 18 months, when the breed of the animal has been known, the three most frequently reported breeds of dogs involved in dog biting incidents have been German Shepherds, Huskies, and Golden Retrievers.

Di Salvo said if a person is bitten or scratched by a dog, he or she should immediately apply first aid treatment, including cleaning and flushing the wound thoroughly with running water. Then he or she should see a physician, who will assess the risk of exposure to rabies and help determine the treatment needed. 

Toronto Public Health provides physicians with rabies vaccine if needed. The department also assists with risk assessments by conducting an investigation. That includes assessing the health of the dog and its vaccination status and arranging for the dog to be confined for 10 days to observe its health.

Ontario's pit bull ban, called the Dog Owners' Liability Act, defines a pit bull as a pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or any dog "that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar."

"The legislation bans pit bulls in Ontario, places restrictions on existing pit bulls, and toughens the penalties for the owners of any dog that poses a danger to the public," Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General says on its website.

The act includes a "grandfather clause," meaning those who already owned a pit bull were able to keep it. Pit bulls are also required to be muzzled and leashed when in public, and must be sterilized.

With files from Shannon Martin