Safety test for pet show's killer dog

Owner will be fined Dh5,000 for causing a dog bite and investigated for owning a banned breed.

Participants during the Pet Show at the Rugby Sevens Grounds in Dubai.
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DUBAI // The American Staffordshire terrier that killed another dog at a pet show is being assessed to see whether it poses a further threat.

But the question remains how it was allowed to walk around the show without a muzzle, in clear contravention of municipality rules.

The terrier was seized by Dubai Municipality after it bit through the poodle's throat at the Pedigree and Whiskas Dubai Pet Show. Its owner will be fined Dh5,000.

But it was not clear whether the dog will be returned.

"We will decide what to do with the dog after investigations," said Adil Eltayeb Elbadri, the senior veterinary health inspector at the municipality's animal-welfare unit.

"We will keep it for 21 days and, in this quarantine period, we will observe its behaviour and see if it is aggressive towards other dogs."

Dr Nasanin Karimian, the owner of Pluto, the six-year-old toy poodle killed in the attack, said the bigger dog had bitten without warning.

"They didn't even bark at each other," said Dr Karimian, a cardiologist from Iran. "One minute it was sniffing my dog, the next he had my dog by the neck and was shaking him.

"There are some breeds which are not safe to be around, especially with small children. What would have happened if my son had patted this dog?"

She said her two sons, aged 10 and 14, had been traumatised by the attack, which happened at about 1pm on Friday.

"My sons cannot sleep, they have nightmares," Dr Karimian said. "My older son is always crying. He witnessed the attack and was completely covered in blood. He cannot forget what he saw."

A spokesman for the show said all dogs were screened to ensure they had vaccination records, leashes and, for larger dogs, muzzles.

"Although it is a requirement for certain breeds entering the event to wear a muzzle, it is ultimately the responsibility of the owner not to remove the headgear," he said.

"There was also a security team employed to spot-check the public to reinforce that handlers should not remove their dogs' leashes and muzzles, together with security patrols … over the course of the day."

In 2008, Dubai Municipality issued a circular identifying 16 dangerous breeds, including the American Staffordshire terrier. It said the breeds must not be kept in residential areas and must wear a "basket-type muzzle" in public.

A previous order, made in 2003, banned outright breeds including the American Staffordshire terrier.

The show's gates were staffed by about 35 volunteers from Volunteer in Dubai, but the group's founder, Lola Lopez, said her staff were only given a list of dangerous dogs after the attack.

"Even once we were given the list of dogs, it didn't stop people from forcing their way in anyway," Ms Lopez said. "There was no respect from the owners of these dogs.

"They barged their way through with pitbulls and rottweilers without muzzles, and they were refusing to stop. They got verbally aggressive with my volunteers.

"I must have seen about 100 dogs in there, that were on the dangerous dogs list, without muzzles. They think that they can control their dogs but when one of these dogs decides to attack, there isn't a man on this planet who can stop it."

The show organisers said they were working with the municipality on improving safety and security at future events.

According to the awareness group, pitbull-type dogs represent only 5 per cent of the dog population in the United States, but were responsible for 22 of the country's 31 fatal dog attacks last year. But many campaigners say the fault does not lie with the breed.

Jackie Ratcliffe, the chair of K9 Friends in Dubai, said she used to own a pitbull that never attacked anyone, while her golden retriever, which is not listed as dangerous dog, bit and killed a puppy.

"There's going to be mass hysteria about this now and it's very unfortunate that it was an American pitbull that killed the dog," Ms Ratcliffe said. "It's terribly sad for the owners but it could have been any breed that did this.

"Just because one dog is bad, it doesn't mean all of them are."