The complicated case of a condemned B.C. canine took yet another unexpected twist Thursday after interference from an insistent rooster and an excited German shepherd scuttled a court-ordered assessment of the death-row dog.
Just days before a hearing to determine if Bronx should be destroyed, a Victoria provincial court judge said the dog's defenders deserve a second crack at an evaluation to see if the Dogo-Argentino Rottweiler cross is truly incorrigible.
Judge Christine Lowe said she watched the videotape of the first attempt as Ken Griffiths — a man known as the Comox Valley Dog Whisperer — walked into the "chaotic situation" at the city's pound.
"There was a German shepherd barking throughout — I think — almost the entirety of the assessment. Then the rooster started to crow. I have to admit that I was a bit shocked by that, and I wondered where the rooster was," Lowe told the various parties gathered before her.
"I guess it turns out the rooster was being housed at animal control as well."
'A highly charged, stressed environment'
The city seized Bronx last March from his original owner, Richard Bonora, after a series of incidents that began in August 2018 with an unprovoked attack on a dog a fraction of Bronx's size. The tiny victim died with one bite.
The city declared Bronx dangerous, ordering him to be muzzled and leashed, but Bonora — who was born without thumbs — was unable to control him, leading to two incidents in which Bronx bit humans.
Griffiths, whose assessments have proven pivotal in other death row dog cases, agreed to adopt Bronx in the hope his involvement might persuade the city to release the animal to his care.
But because Griffiths now has a personal stake in Bronx's survival, another expert — Port Alberni dog behaviour consultant Gary Gibson — has agreed to trail the dog whisperer while he meets with Bronx in order to provide the court another independent opinion.
Gibson said he was "shocked" to find the two kennels on either side of Bronx occupied by barking dogs when he and Griffiths showed up for the first assessment.
Both Griffiths and Gibson claimed dogs have a pack mentality that left Bronx whipped up by the German shepherd's exhortations.
"There's so many things that we don't understand when there's a highly charged, stressed environment," Gibson told the judge.
'Is there something that can be done with the roosters?'
The judge said she was concerned with "what's been described as acrimony" built up between the various parties fighting over Bronx's fate.
Griffiths is given to expounding at length about dog behaviour and his calming abilities as a kind of "dog psychiatrist." He claimed that any acrimony came from the city and that everything he has done "has been in good faith."
"It's all one side here," he told Lowe.
"Even that is sort of an acrimonious statement," the judge responded as she tried to get the hearing back on track.
Ian Fraser, the head of Victoria Animal Control Services, said he did his best to try to provide Griffiths and Gibson with a calm environment.
Fraser was hidden in an alcove — as ordered by the judge — during the assessment.
He said there were actually two roosters on the premises. Each in separate kennels.
"You can't put two roosters together," he told Lowe. "That's going to be an issue."
He said he runs an operational pound, with a constant flow of citizens and animal control officers dropping off and picking up dogs, cats and other creatures.
"When the city's behaviourist came in, she came in on a day, we didn't change anything, she just lucked out," Fraser said.
"I understand that," the judge told Fraser.
"But in viewing the videotapes of the two assessments, they're quite different in kind, not only in the manner in which the assessment occurred but in the calm that the city assessor — as you say — fortunately got, but this one didn't. So what can we do today?"
Fraser said there were two dogs,17 cats and the two roosters in the pound on Thursday. And things were relatively calm.
Lowe said it was worth a second shot.
"Is there something that can be done with the roosters?" she asked. "It wasn't even dawn and they were crowing away."
Fraser said he could bring them to the court for a few hours.
"It would be a nice distraction. I would take them, if I could, in my chambers," Lowe said as the hearing concluded.
"Maybe we should put out an all-points bulletin that there's a couple of roosters missing their home. And we'll see if someone shows up to collect."