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Court denies bid to release seized dogs

Prabjot Nijjer visited her dog Axel in January. - Martin van den Hemel
Prabjot Nijjer visited her dog Axel in January.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel

A bid to have two Rottweilers released from doggy death row was denied by a Richmond provincial court judge, who ruled last week he didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the matter.

City lawyer Kevin Westell argued before Judge Dennis Schmidt that the court didn’t have the power to grant an interim release of the dogs before a scheduled hearing on April 10 at Richmond provincial court.

Fearing for the welfare of their pets, after learning they hadn’t been walked in months and had ballooned in weight, owner Nav Nijjer and his mother Prabjot Nijjer sought to have the court intervene and release the dogs prior to the court hearing.

But it wasn’t all bad news for the Nijjer family, who have seen a significant improvement in the health of their pets, Axel and Paris.

They appear to have lost between 10 and 15 pounds each in the past couple of weeks, are being walked daily, and are out in the yard for a few hours each day, according to lawyer Joe Peschisolido, whose firm has been hired by the family after the City of Richmond applied to have the dogs destroyed.

The Richmond Review revealed two weeks ago that volunteers and staff at the Richmond Animal Protection Society were barred from walking the seized dogs, which have been labelled as dangerous by the city. A society policy had prohibited anyone from walking dangerous dogs, which under normal circumstances would have been seized for a maximum of 21 days.

Since they were seized on Oct. 25, following a minor biting incident involving a construction worker who suffered a dime-sized contusion to his upper thigh, the dogs have gained an estimated 25 pounds each.

The extra exercise, along with a change to their diet, has resulted in a notable uptick in their health, Peschisolido said.

The Nijjers are hoping their pets will be returned and have built an enclosure they say ensures that the dogs never escape again.

The enclosure was inspected by animal behaviour specialist Dr. Rebecca Ledger, who noted there are now three fences—each “at least five feet tall, robust and well-constructed”—between the Nijjer’s yard and the adjacent Henry Anderson Elementary School.

“These fences prevent school children from looking into your yard to see the dogs, and also prevent the dogs from seeing out or coming within 20 feet of the property line,” Ledger wrote.

“The steps that you have taken to secure your premises, to protect the community from being able to detect Axel and Paris whilst on your property and the future management of the dogs will make the risk of either dog escaping from your property extremely low.”

Meanwhile, another dog previously on death row, remains at the society’s No. 5 Road shelter, despite an agreement reached between the city and the owner to have the dog adopted outside the community.

In January, The Review learned about the pit bull Dusty, who had been seized by the city after it bit a man.

The city reconsidered its original destruction application. But despite the deal, announced nearly two months ago, Dusty remains at the shelter.

Dogs were declared dangerous in 2010

Axel (also spelled as Axle) and Paris have been involved in three incidents.

•On Sept. 20, 2010, Jessica Lee and Jeff Chiang were walking their two leashed Dachshund dogs  along Alberta Road when two Rottweilers (later admitted to be Axel 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 then followed four children who had been watching the attack back to their school, where other children were also playing during the lunch break. The Rottweilers chased and jumped on children, 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, Richmond provincial court records indicate.

The city classified the dogs as dangerous.

•In 2012, a complaint from a school maintenance worker resulted in two more bylaw tickets being issued for Axle and Paris. Two bylaw officers observed Paris and Axel growling, barking and lunging towards a chain-link fence separating the property from the school ground. Because the Rottweilers had been classified as dangerous, they were required, when in the yard, to be inside an “enclosure”" as defined by the bylaw.

•On Oct. 25, 2013, Axel and Paris escaped from their yard and nipped construction worker Dustin Wang. Wang told The Richmond Review that the injury was so minor he didn't even initially notice it.

—with files from Jacqueline Langen

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