Owner visits death row dogs

Prabjot Nijjer was reunited with her dog Axel, who despite three months of separation, didn’t forget who was boss, almost immediately rolling onto his back and asking for a belly rub.  - Martin van den Hemel
Prabjot Nijjer was reunited with her dog Axel, who despite three months of separation, didn’t forget who was boss, almost immediately rolling onto his back and asking for a belly rub.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel

One’s a playful, friendly rock star, the other a shadow of her former self, courtesy lingering pain in her right hind leg.

Animal behaviour specialist Dr. Rebecca Ledger, hired by Prabjot Nijjer and her son Nav who are fighting a City of Richmond destruction order, assessed the family’s Rottweilers on Monday and praised Axel while revealing the worst fears of the Nijjer family.

“He is obviously a lovely dog and he knows it,” Ledger said of Axel.

Having assessed thousands of dogs in her 20-year career, Ledger said she saw nothing that would warrant Axel being labelled a dangerous dog

Axel’s sister Paris was obviously in pain, to the point she couldn’t even sit while trying to comply with Ledger’s requests.

Paris was very guarded, and when offered a treat and asked to sit down, she would get halfway, and then her back end would tremble, Ledger said.

The pain appears to be the result of a lack of post-operation therapy following surgery Paris had on her leg in August. Dr. Jatinder Rana, of Lansdowne Animal Hospital, had expressed his concerns in November to both the City of Richmond and the Richmond Animal Protection Society.

"The owners have been taking great care of Paris, giving the right amount of specific exercises since the surgery. She needs constant special medical attention due to her surgery, therefore treatment needs to be continued in order to prevent any type of health setback."

That treatment included injections and re-checks every two or three weeks during a six or seven month recovery period.

Despite making two appeals to both the city and RAPS, he was denied access to the dogs.

“I think this is shameful how they’ve handled this,” said lawyer Joe Peschisolido, whose law firm has been hired by the Nijjer family.

“It’s just awful how things have transpired with Paris.”

A follow-up request by Peschisolido’s law firm to the city, was met with a generic response, stating little more than the Richmond Animal Protection Society is good at what they do.

Tears ran down Prabjot’s face Monday when she was reunited with Axel at the society’s shelter on No. 5 Road, where he and Paris have been kept since an Oct. 25 biting incident near the Nijjer family home.

Axel and Paris escaped their backyard, courtesy a gate that was left open, and wandered onto a townhouse construction site that Friday morning.

Construction worker Dustin Wang suffered a minor injury below his left buttock, a dime-sized injury that neither broke his skin nor tore his jeans, when Axel lunged at him as he retreated indoors to call the Alberta Road construction site supervisor.

Wang said his injury has completely healed, and he doesn’t want the dogs euthanized.

According to court records, Axle and Paris were labelled “dangerous dogs” under local bylaws following a 2010 incident.

On Sept. 20, 2010, Jessica Lee and Jeff Chiang were walking their two leashed Dachshund dogs (named Super and Dooby) along Alberta Road when two Rottweilers (later admitted to be Axle and Paris) ran out from their property toward them. One of the Rottweilers lunged at the neck of one of their pets, and caused a wound. The other Rottweiler also charged to attack.

The dogs later chased and jumped on children at a nearby school, scaring some and causing others to cry. The vice principal was concerned enough to order a reverse evacuation, clearing the children off the playground and into the school.

City of Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend said there are two other assessment reports that have been written about Axle and Paris, and they “are only a small part of the effort to seek the destruction of the two dogs.”

On Monday, another protest was held at City Hall, where residents upset about the city’s decision to seek the destruction of Paris and Axel, announced their feelings in placards they held inside council chambers.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie said at the end of the council meeting that the city bylaw forbids council from hearing delegations on matters before the courts.

“For the same reason, he indicated it would be inappropriate for him to meet with the owners as requested by the protesters,” Townsend said.

Not everyone wants the dogs spared. Longtime Richmond resident Norman Wrigglesworth said his daughter was attacked by a dog 40 years ago. He said taxpayers could be liable if the dogs were attack someone else. He's urging the city to put the dogs down.

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