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The mystery of the disappearing Rottweiler

January 3rd, 2006, 07:12 AM
From today's Star. This story makes a case in support of mandatory microchiping.


The mystery of the disappearing Rottweiler
Jan. 3, 2006. 05:08 AM

Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau: Does your dog bite?

Hotel Clerk: No.

(Dog bites Clouseau)

Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!

Clerk: That is not my dog.

—The Pink Panther

Strikes Again, 1976

The letter from City of Toronto Animal Services was short and, for Eve Fishell, unsatisfactory. After an investigation, they were unable to determine who owned the Rottweiler that bolted after the 74-year-old radiologist and her three show dogs.

So chaotic was the pre-dawn Sept. 23 attack, that it brought traffic on O'Connor Dr., near the Woodbine Ave. bridge, to a halt, and so vicious that it resulted in multiple bites to Fishell and gaping wounds to two of her three Kerry blue terriers, requiring over a hundred staples and stitches to close.

The Rottweiler, which had no collar, microchip or other identifying information, was captured shortly after the incident and, with the case officially closed by the Oct. 12 letter, has since been euthanized.

Short of a doggy DNA match — unlikely given the animal's demise, and a case that's officially gone cold — it may never be possible to determine who the owner was.

What is known is that someone in the neighbourhood is missing a Rottweiler, and never bothered to go looking for it at animal services — or take responsibility. Under the recently amended Dog Owner's Liability Act, Ontario owners found guilty of being irresponsible can be banned from owning dogs, and face an increased maximum penalty of $10,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Who, then, is without a Rottweiler?

One day not too long ago, the barking emanating from the brick bungalow with the neatly trimmed hedge stopped. No longer could a dog be seen roaming the fenced-in back yard. The walks stopped, too.

The dog, it would seem, just disappeared — much like the "Beware of dog" sign that hung in front of the house on O'Connor Dr. that Mike Mullins, a garage door repairman and contractor, bought last winter.

Following a Toronto Star story about the attack, the paper learned there had been a Rottweiler at the house belonging to Mullins, a fact a neighbour and others confirmed, and that it is no longer at the home.

According to animal services, its investigation turned up no evidence to link the dog they put down to any owner.

Mullins bought the bungalow on O'Connor, just west of St. Clair Ave. E., in February of last year, and he, his girlfriend and at least one Rottweiler, moved in. According to neighbours, the dog appeared friendly and well cared for, and spent a lot of time in the fenced-in backyard. The backyard backs on to a steep ravine, which rises up to the west to meet O'Connor, not far from the Woodbine Ave. bridge.

One neighbour said they hadn't seen the Rottweiler since mid-to-late September. "I mean, we haven't even heard a bark out of there, and we heard them all summer long.

"They used to have a `Beware of dog' sign in their window," said the neighbour, "and I'd say, maybe two to three weeks tops, it's no longer there."

According to others, the Rottweiler had had pups earlier this year, and at least two of the litter were at the house, along with their mother, as late as mid-September.

And then, within the next couple of weeks, there was silence.

When the Star recently reached him by phone, Mullins, in a brief conversation that ended with him hanging up, said he hadn't owned a dog in six or seven years. He said he had been away, and that the dog attack on the morning of Sept. 23 was news to him.

"I know nothing about that," he said. "I don't have a dog, sir."

Mullins has had dog troubles before. Three years ago, two Rottweilers escaped from the yard of a previous home, and one of them attacked Putzi, one of two Pomeranians being walked on leash by their owner.

Putzi was "shredded and killed" in the November 2002, attack, according to an account in the Toronto Sun. Mullins told the paper he was "incredibly sorry" for the attack, and had offered to replace the dog.

Mullins, pictured at the time with his dogs, described them as "just cuddly, playful puppies," and that the Pomeranians had "egged" them on. He was facing $600 in fines for licensing, vaccination and leashing violations, and further court action by Toronto Animal Services, including potential muzzle orders when matters were settled out of court.

Mullins told the Sun he voluntarily had Sad Sack, the male dog singled out as the animal that attacked, euthanized. That left Mullins with a lone Rottweiler — a young female, named Montana — and a neighbourhood of dog owners and others who wanted him out.

The incident is well remembered in the neighbourhood near Gerrard St. E. and Main St, where the attack took place. When shown a picture of Mullins today, one merchant, without any hesitation, remembered him as "Mike" — the owner of the Rottweiler that that had to be put down. The merchant said Mullins would drop in for a beer now and then, and that his dogs were friendly towards humans.

Mullins, in his brief phone call with the Star, said he knew nothing about the 2002 dog attack reported in the Sun, and again said he hadn't had a dog in six or seven years. Asked what kind of dog he had had, Mullins couldn't remember.

"My daughter had it, sir, and I just got back into town so I don't know nothing about anything, sir," he said. When told that neighbours had seen a dog at the house until September, Mullins said, "Excuse me? You must have the wrong person, sir. I don't know what you're talking about."

And then he hung up.

When the Star called back at a number attached to Mullins's business, he said, "The Toronto Star? How can I help you?"

When reminded that the reporter had spoken to him earlier that day about a dog attack, he cut in, "Sir, I don't know where you got my name or what ... but I don't own no dog! I never owned no dog. The only dog I ever owned was years ago, and that was a Chihuahua.

"So, I don't know where you got my name from. If you ever ask me again, I'll get my lawyer, and I'll sue your guys' ass off."

When the reporter attempted to ask about the picture of him in the Sun from 2002, he again cut in. "I don't care what you've seen. I don't care what you've whatever. You bother me again, and I'll charge you with harassment. Goodbye!"

Toronto Animal Services would not comment on whom their probe focused, but confirmed that investigators didn't knock on Mullins's door. His name did not even come up. "We have no connection between that person and this attack," said Eletta Purdy, city-wide manager of animal services.

Purdy said leads were followed but there was insufficient evidence to link the dog with any owner. The case is closed, she said, but could be reopened if new information is received.

Fishell has no idea who owned the dog that attacked her and her dogs. She's been left with over $3,000 in veterinarian bills, little faith in the city's ability to harness irresponsible owners, and with a concern that whoever owned the dog, may have — or get more — dogs.

"I'm sorry, I am bitter," she said. "I want some safety for my dogs and other people's dogs."