It was the Spring of 2016, at one of my first dog showing weekends, and my neighbour in the grooming hall was a very entertaining and experienced breeder/handler. He returned from the ring one time and I asked him how things went. He rolled his eyes theatrically, carefully placing his treasured Pomeranian on the table.”Sometimes you’re in the penthouse” he sighed, “and sometimes you’re in the sh**house.”
On July 6, 2019, I drove to Nanaimo BC to participate in a United Kennel Club show and obedience trial. Eight months earlier, Ruby had been awarded a UKC Best in Show as well as a “Total Dog” award for achieving a qualifying score in Rally the same day. We weren’t expecting another ‘penthouse’ experience but I hoped to gain some breed points and rally qualifications towards our titles.
That was not to be.
On our way to the show ring we trotted past an American Bull dog. He lunged and his leash slipped through his handler’s fingers. He covered roughly twenty feet in a couple of big strides, blindsiding Ruby. For the next few terrifying moments I frantically reached into a screaming mass of whirling dogs, trying to grab her. He bit back at my leg and then I saw he had her hindquarters in his jaws. That’s when I screamed my horror and despair to the universe, crying “Not my dog!” I was sure I’d lost her.
Several people had by then appeared and helped pull him away.
Someone put Ruby in my arms. We were immediately taken to the emergency veterinarian.
When we returned a couple of hours later, the nightmare deepened.
I sat at the registration table and wrote out my statement. The club president informed me that she had taken several statements that claimed that Ruby had been off leash, and that we had approached the American Bulldog. Oddly, the show chair insisted that earlier in the day she’d warned me to put Ruby on leash. That never happened. A false story was building and swirling disinformation seemed to be everywhere.
I packed up my crate, table and gear and left for the three hour journey home. Still in shock and some pain, I held onto the hope that surely, the truth would come out.
That night, the show officials sent me a form, entitled “Disqualified for Attacking” stating that my dog had attacked the American Bulldog, and that by signing, I accepted being disqualified from the UKC. I would not sign. The show official told me that they would send it into the UKC unsigned anyway and that it might go better for me if I signed. I said I could not sign because it was not true.
On Monday, July 8th, I contacted Nanaimo Animal Control, asking them to investigate the attack.
On July 12th, The United Kennel Club disqualified Ruby from the United Kennel Club, permanently banning us from ever participating in any UKC events.
I phoned the Animal Control officer several times over the following weeks. He was friendly, but vague. He admitted to being confused by the conflicting reports and statements. I asked him if I should continue to call and he said I could, but he probably would have nothing else to tell me.
I spent the next few months trying to seek justice for my dog and I. The Nanaimo show officials unanimously repeated the false story that I had caused the attack by having my dog off leash.
Unbeknownst to me, the case had been referred to a senior SPCA Officer.
The SPCA had left a single phone message on my message machine. I never received it. The SPCA did not send me a written copy of his report, nor did they attempt to contact me further.
In January, 2020, I used the FOI (Freedom of Information Act) to secure the Nanaimo Animal Control files from the City of Nanaimo. I learned what Mr. Fraser, the Senior SPCA officer had decided, based on all of the evidence. Here are some of the key points from his report.
• Rolph’s answer is consistent and supports her dog was in fact leashed at the time of attack
• Witness 1 says Schipperke was leashed and attack was unprovoked
• Witness 2 was nearby and by coincidence was watching and admiring the Am Bulldog’s stance and colour when the AM. Bulldog suddenly lunged forward. …saw the handler fumble for the leash and suddenly …was running toward the little black dog.
• These statements … causes me to believe that the Schipperke was leashed and the Am. Bulldog was not provoked to attack.
Actions to be taken :
• Owner of AM. Bulldog to be issued with a Dangerous Dog CAUTION
• Handler of Am. Bulldog to be issued with a Warning Notice Uncontrolled dog
• Owner of Schipperke… inform of these actions and our conclusion that …was not at fault.
You can read the redacted report here.
On February 27th, 2020, I informed the United Kennel Club of Mr. Fraser’s decision and requested that they restore Ruby to her previous status. There has been no response from the UKC.
To this day, neither the owner nor the handler of the American Bulldog that attacked Ruby have taken responsibility for their dog’s behaviour.
This experience destroyed my trust, not only in the Nanaimo Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club, but also in the dog showing community. I no longer trust in the reliability of the dog show officials nor in the dog show participants. I no longer consider dog shows to be safe environments.
Nevertheless, I am grateful for many things. I am grateful that Mr. Fraser had the ability to discern the truth and that his report exonerated us. I am grateful that although the American Bulldog was clearly young, prey driven and poorly handled, he did not do as much damage as he could have and Ruby escaped with her life.
I am grateful for the excellent medical and rehabilitation care that Ruby received and that she has recovered well. Here’s a short video record of her first week, post attack. One year later, she has regained much of her former confidence, but remains wary of large and fast moving dogs.
Finally, I am grateful for the love and support I received from my many friends.