Bite victim begins rabies treatment with Ottawa officials unable to assess dog

“It’s shocking that a dog could attack people and no action can be taken by the city other than some fines.”

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A Vanier man who was bitten by a pit bull earlier this month began a series of rabies shots Tuesday evening after city officials were unable to confirm the rabies status of the dog.

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Ottawa Public Health inspectors have been unable to get access to the dog as the owners have so far refused to answer the door at their Cyr Avenue home.

Bruce McConville, 59, was told Tuesday that, as a result, he would have to start post-exposure rabies treatment.

“It’s a surprise that nothing can be done,” McConville said. “It’s shocking that a dog could attack people and no action can be taken by the city other than some fines. The inability to do anything further is very disappointing to me.”

Ottawa Public Health has said it has no legal authority to compel co-operation from the dog’s owner. A spokesperson for the public health agency said that, in situations where it could not confirm the health status of the dog, it recommended post-exposure rabies treatment for dog bite victims.

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McConville said he had walked by the property and had heard the dog barking inside. He wants the dog removed from the premises with the help of the police, if necessary.

“After two people get bit, there’s an expectation the city can intervene at some level to prevent it from happening again,” said McConville, who was at Montfort Hospital late Tuesday to begin the five-shot rabies regimen.

He waited four hours at the hospital to receive his first three shots.

In guidelines published in 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Health recommends that a dog be confined and observed for 10 days following a biting incident even if the pet has been fully vaccinated against rabies.

“Animals that are alive and healthy at the end of the 10-day period would not have transmitted rabies in their saliva at the time of the bite,” the guidelines say.

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City officials have issued a series of fines under Ottawa’s animal care and control bylaw against the owner of the dog in question. Among other things, the owner has been fined for failing to register the dog and failing to keep it on a leash.

A bylaw investigation into the act continues and it’s possible the owner could be charged under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, which carries more serious penalties. It can lead to a $10,000 fine and a court order that the dog be leashed, muzzled or destroyed.

People exposed to rabies receive a total of five shots: one containing antibodies that help destroy the rabies virus at the site of the wound, and four shots of rabies vaccine. The shots are administered over a two-week period.

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The treatment is covered by OHIP.

McConville was one of two people attacked by the pit bull on June 11 as seniors were leaving a dance at the Centre Pauline-Charron. One man, Robert Pagé, was attacked by the dog as he passed in front of its Cyr Avenue home and had skin torn from his arm.

He returned to the seniors’ centre for first aid and police were called to the scene. After police arrived, McConville started to escort seniors to their cars, but the dog attacked again, bolting from its yard towards an elderly woman.

McConville intervened and kicked the dog, which turned on him and bit him several times on the right arm, near the elbow.

A businessman and former mayoralty candidate, McConville entered the race for the city’s top job in 2018 to highlight issues of concern to Vanier.

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