Little Misha might spend her spare time licking faces and looking pretty in pink, but city officials believe the eightpound pooch has a dark side.
The three-year-old chihuahua is now on the City of Windsor’s dangerous dog registry after she got out of the house and nipped a teenage girl.
“I was in shock when the city showed up,” said Gerry Piche, whose stepdaughter owns Misha. They showed up on several occasions. One time, there was two of them on the front porch. It was like the dog was a killer or something. I broke out laughing. I said ‘look at the dog, do you see the dog going after you?’ The guy kind of got upset when I started laughing at him. It’s ridiculous.”
Misha’s owner, Kristin Lees, has appealed the dangerous dog designation.
The Windsor Licensing Commission, which handles such hearings, was set to make a decision this week but postponed it until March.
On Sept. 23, 2011, three teenage girls were walking past Misha’s house in the 1600 block of Hall Avenue.
Piche said he was on his front porch and opened the door to get something from the house. Misha slipped out and went running toward the girls.
“I shooed the dog with my foot,” victim Jessica Cosgrove recalled in a written statement. “I realized it bit me.”
She wrote that the dog also tried to bite her friend Katherine then “went after” Morgan, her other friend.
“She screamed and the dog kept barking,” Cosgrove wrote. “She shooed the dog with her foot.”
Piche said he came over and grabbed the dog.
“Next thing you know the mother was here, wanted to see the paperwork,” he said.
Lees said an animal control officer later showed up at her door to tell her Misha had been deemed a dangerous dog. Lees had to go to court.
“I think it’s hilarious,” said Lees, 22. “I don’t think it’s right. If you can’t protect yourself from this dog . It’s an eight-pound dog. It blew my mind. How are you going to claim this dog is a dangerous dog? I’m not going to walk my dog down the street with a muzzle. That’s what they’re telling me I have to do.”
In addition to putting a pint-sized muzzle on Misha whenever she’s not confined, Lees must put up a sign in her yard warning a dangerous dog lives there. If the dog is on someone else’s property, it must be on a leash at all times and under the control of someone aged 16 or older.
Lees also has to pay to have a microchip implanted in Misha that identifies her as dangerous, and get liability insurance on the dog for at least $1 million.
Lees said she was also handed a $500 fine, but convinced the Crown prosecutor to reduce it to $250.
Those rules go for every dog declared dangerous in Windsor. The list currently includes 15 dogs, including a springer spaniel, a border collie, three huskies, a Doberman, two Rottweilers, an American Eskimo and a boxer. There are two German shepherds on the list including Kasen. Before his new owners changed his name, Kasen was known as A.K., the dog that made national headlines when his ears were chopped off. After the dog was rescued, he bit someone last year.
There are also two Jack Russell terriers and a shih tzu on the list.
That tally doesn’t include a couple of recent additions that have been appealed, including Misha. Also not on the list is Sampson, which bit a mail carrier on the backside. His owners also appealed his dangerous dog designation, but the commission shot it down this week.
On paper, Misha might not seem as intimidating as Sampson the German shepherd, but the city says size doesn’t matter.
“It still bites,” said Michael Chantler, deputy license commissioner and supervisor of licencing. “It’s still got teeth and it’s still an animal. It’s just the bite is smaller.
“Size is never the issue. Every animal has the potential to bite and it could be a 10-pound chihuahua.”
Watching Misha lick Lees’ face while begging for her favourite pink sweater, Piche still said the whole thing is comical.
“It’s the biggest laugh I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s a joke. They’ve got nothing better to do with their money? They’re tying up a Crown. Come on. It’s nuts. I just shook my head. It didn’t even break the skin.”
In another written statement, Cosgrove’s mother Tirra said the bite did break the skin.
“You could clearly see the mouth top and bottom outline of the dog’s mouth,” she wrote.
Either way, Chantler said the severity of the bite is irrelevant. He added the dog doesn’t even have to bite someone to be labelled dangerous. It only has to cause an injury, which could happen from knocking a person down.
“Whether the dog bit down hard or not is not up for discussion,” he said. “But people try to use that as a defence. ‘It wasn’t that bad.’ Well it doesn’t have to be that bad. It just has to be an injury. If your dog is causing injury to someone, I suggest to you that you have a dangerous dog. Domestic pets should not be causing injury to people.”
To successfully appeal the dangerous designation, Chantler said, mitigating factors must be proved. He said such factors might arise if the dog or its owner were being attacked. But it’s an uphill battle.
“Especially if your dog has bitten someone or caused injury to someone,” said Chantler.
“It’s very clear in the bylaw. If your dog causes injury to someone or to a domestic animal, and there are no mitigating circumstances, it’s a dangerous dog. There’s a reason for that, and it’s public safety.”
Coun. Al Maghnieh, a member of the licensing commission, said he can’t comment on the possible outcome of Misha’s appeal.
But he added that he thinks the city’s bylaw needs to be updated and “made more logical.
“In it’s form right now it’s posing some challenges for us designating these eight-pound dogs, for example, that are quite harmless,” he said. “There are mitigating circumstances sometimes that I think should be considered. I don’t think this bylaw fully covers that, fully appreciates the whole scope of an animal. I think we’ve got room there. We can improve that bylaw to not have to designate every single dog as dangerous because it was involved in somewhat of a light incident.”