Friday, March 17, 2006

Bail hearing delayed for charged pit bull owner

Bail hearing delayed for charged pit bull owner News Staff

A 29-year-old Toronto woman appeared in court for a bail hearing Tuesday facing charges under Ontario's new pit bull laws after her dog was allegedly involved in a vicious February attack.

It is alleged that that Tarra Christina Barnett's pit bull attacked another dog and its owner on February 14, 2006.

The Toronto resident is facing charges of unlawfully causing bodily harm and of being a common nuisance in relation to the incident.

Her bail hearing has been delayed until Thursday so that the Crown can gather more information on the case.

The incident happened in the Danforth Road and Midland Avenue area after the accused allegedly was walking her dog without a leash or muzzle.

Initial police statements in February suggested Barnett did have her pit bull on a leash and muzzle but that the dog broke free from her.

At that time, police said Barnett tried to subdue the pit bull but that during the struggle the dog's muzzle came off.

It is alleged that the pit bull ran at another dog, a Shih Tzu, and killed it.

The Shih Tzu's owner, Peter Ip, was also mauled when he allegedly picked up his dog to save it from the pit bull. He said that there was no sign of any muzzle or leash on Barnett. The man sustained injuries to both his arms and legs.

"I was so scared he tried to bite my Shih Tzu's tail, his head," Ip told CTV Toronto on Monday. "Even though I tried to really get away from him I couldn't."

Ontario passed pit bull legislation, known as the Dog Owner's Liability Act, in September 2005 under a cloud of controversy from owners of the breed.

The law states that all pit bulls must be muzzled and leashed in public.

Owners who had their dogs before the law was in place are able to keep their pets, but people are not allowed to own, breed, import, transfer or purchase pit bulls.

Breaking the law can result in fines up to $10,000 and/or a prison term.

Critics called the legislation too broad and said it would clog the court system with challenges from owners.

Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby announced Tuesday that he will challenge the controversial law. He is representing another woman who is fighting to be able to walk her pit bull without having to muzzle it.

"The evidence in Toronto shows that this breed is fifth on the list of biters, according to the latest statistics," Clayton Ruby said. "So why pick this breed if it's number five?"

However, others welcomed the new law saying it was needed after a rash of vicious attacks by pit bulls in 2004.

CTV Toronto has also learned that Barnett is facing other unrelated charges of a more serious nature. But if convicted of contravening the pit bull act she faces a maximum penalty of $10,000 and six months in jail.

As for Barnett's dog, he will likely be put to death if she decides to drop a pending legal challenge.


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