Bullying, Threats, & Community Bias force Valley Mastiff Rescue to move across river to Ontario

Saint-Cécile de Masham, Que: France Turcotte’s Valley Mastiff Rescue has saved 86 dogs since 2009, including successfully rehabilitating 14 dogs recovered from a raid on Canada’s largest puppy mill in 2010. Some of the dogs are terminally ill and are cared for by Valley Mastiff Rescue during their last months or weeks of life.


France Turcotte with Sydney, left, and Austin, who is terminally ill, right. Turcotte’s sanctuary, a federally registered charity, has saved 86 dogs since 2009, including successfully rehabilitating 14 dogs recovered from a raid on Canada’s largest puppy mill in 2010.
Photograph by: Joel Balsam

The sanctuary which has received support from well known people such as Don Cherry and Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray, is no longer taking in dogs and will be put up for sale. France Turcotte plans to move across the river to Ontario.

Turcotte claims, “bullying” started to occur as soon as she put the sign up in 2008. Since then, she says there have been attempts at intimidating her into leaving by several area residents. “These dogs are not a threat. They’re sick. They come here to die. How is that a problem for the residents of this municipality?” said Turcotte according to the Ottawa Citizen.

In 2011, Turcotte reported a neighbour to the police. He had threatened (according to Turcotte) to kill one of her dogs using a bear trap if it came on his property. A year earlier, police had evacuated the entire street  when Turcotte found a suspicious package with the back of a clock inside it. Turcotte believed it was a fake bomb meant to intimidate her. A crossbow bolt was found in one of the dogs’ cages, and garbage had been dumped on the front lawn. The final tipping point came when one of Turcotte’s 23 volunteers was threatened while walking a four month old boxer. “It was very scary for him to be told he was going to be beaten,” said Turcotte.

Patrice Pharand, one of Turcotte’s neighbours says the mastiff refuge presents a danger to the community. “History says (mastiffs) will die for its master,” said Pharand. “I’m not taking away from any of the things (Turcotte) is doing, but I’m preoccupied by the safety … our safety, the safety of our children, the safety of residents,”  According to Pharand, any sort of refuge or shelter is “an automatic inconvenience for all the neighbours.”

The municipality agrees with Pharand’s concerns about mastiffs: it prohibits the breed, along with Staffordshire terriers, American pit-bull terriers, American Stafford terriers, and bullmastiffs “at all times” as part of breed-specific legislation. However, the law does allow these breeds if the owner has had a permit to have one since Dec. 31, 2011 which Turcotte has but that might not be the case for much longer.

The permit that the municipality has issued Valley Mastiff Rescue to run as a sanctuary or refuge with 16 or more dogs has been up for review since December. Charles Ricard, director general for the municipality said that they had modified the permit by making an exception to the bylaw that permits breeding. The question the municipality is now asking a legal adviser is whether or not that modification was legal.

If the municipality’s legal adviser determines the breeding bylaw does not apply to Turcotte’s refuge, she will need to apply for an exemption. Turcotte believes that because of community bias against her sanctuary she will be denied that exemption if it goes to a vote.

“Dogs are dying because I don’t have a permit,” Turcotte told the Ottawa Citizen. “That blood is on their hands, not mine. They don’t understand the urgency of what we do.”

Missed radio shows and off leash dogs…

Today I type at you with one hand. The other is in a sling, and pretty much useless for the time being. I am on some pretty serious pain medications so I hope this post makes sense.

Last evening I was scheduled to appear on Stripped – Real Raw Radio. The subject matter at hand was the fate of a pit bull named Mickey accused of mauling a four year old boy. I know many of you have been following the story, as it has garnered much attention in the social media. I was asked to appear on this show due to the fact that I have spent the past 24 years rescuing and rehabilitating difficult dogs. I have successfully rehabilitated many former bite dogs, and worked with badly socialized bully breeds. One of my own pack is a former bite dog that was slated for euth four years ago because he bit a child who invaded his space. Due to my years of work with difficult dogs I was asked to do the show and discuss my belief that Mickey should be rehabilitated.

There was much argument in the days leading up to the show and things as you can well imagine got pretty heated between the two sides of the discussion. I decided a few hours before show time that what I needed was a good walk with my dog Niki to clear my head and put me in the right frame of mind. I grabbed Niki’s leash and we headed out.

download (7)Now those of you that read this blog with any regularity will probably recall that I have a serious problem with offleash dogs. Niki and I had done our usual walking route and were in the home stretch when out of nowhere we were confronted by the offleash 175lb. Mastiff from down the street. I have talked about this particular dog before as we have had several encounters with him over the past couple of years. Always offleash.

This dog is one of those you see constantly left outside in the yard. It never has play dates, you never see it being properly walked on a leash as per the bylaws, it is a yard ornament. Every once in a while when his owner thinks the dog should have exercise he opens the front gate and allows the dog to roam at will. As Niki and I approached our house the Mastiff appeared out of the small pond area at the end of our street and made a beeline for Niki. I positioned myself between Niki and the oncoming Mastiff.

That was when the dog jumped at me and knocked me to the ground. Now before all you dog hating fools go running off half cocked accusing this poor neglected dog of attacking me, let me say this. At NO time during this encounter did the Mastiff manifest ANY signs of aggression. He really was just trying to be friendly with me and my dog. He is young, he saw another dog and wanted to play. Problem is his owners have NEVER socialized him properly with other dogs or humans, he doesn’t know HOW to play with other dogs. One warning growl from Niki and the dog backed off, but the damage had already been done. The tendons in my left shoulder are damaged and at this point doctors have not decided whether surgery is warranted.

By the time I got home from the hospital last night I was on so much medication I couldn’t have read you all a nursery rhyme never mind held an intelligent discussion on dog behavior. I had to contact the show and bow out something I have never done before. To those of you who tuned in expecting to hear from me, I apologize profusely.To the producers of Stripped – Real Raw Radio I apologize once again.

There is one more thing I want to say to you all before I head back to my bed and my pain meds. This incident was in no way the fault of the dog. He was just doing what dogs do. It is his owner who is responsible for what took place as his dog should not be roaming publics streets sans leash or owner. I am in major pain and may be facing surgery or surgeries to correct the damage but this is NOT the fault of the dog. My lawyer is however speaking with the owners of the dog and their insurance company. My husband and I will bring civil suit against him if the city chooses not to act. We have made it perfectly clear that we do not want any action taken against the animal, he did not bite or attack me and had no intention of hurting me, he was just being a dog. We have recommended however that animal welfare be notified about the incident and that the home be checked to ensure it is the best place for the dog. We of course feel the dog should be removed from it’s present home and placed with someone who is willing to work with it and socialize it properly. My husband and I have agreed to take and work with the dog should no other home be available. After all, it’s what we do!

Have a great weekend everyone!


But seriously dudes…leash up!

kurgo-wander-leashGood morning everybody! I hope your week has been a good one so far. We are still trying to get things back to some semblance of order after our daughter moved back home last month, but it looks as if things may finally be working themselves out. The dogs found it difficult to get into a routine with new noises in the house, after all they have had three years of it being just me and my husband, and now have to adjust to a third person in the house on a regular basis. Add to that the fact that our daughter’s boyfriend is a regular visitor and well, you can see how that might be confusing for them. We are working through it but there are days when I wish we didn’t have to. To top it all off one of the neighbors got the bright idea to bring home a rooster, and now EVERYONE in the house is awakened at the crack of dawn! Frustrating to say the least.

So anyway, for those of you that do not know, I am a fibromyalgia sufferer, as a result some days are better than others. Yesterday was a bad one so I did not walk Niki, but my husband did so when he got home from work. For the first time he was the one fielding comments from strangers, and for a change those comments were good ones. As he walked Niki through a local park, he came upon a woman who was walking a Jack Russell. She commented to my husband that it was nice to see someone else use a leash.

Now I have explained to you all before that we have a big problem with off leash dogs in Barrie. Well it turns out that this woman has had a far worse time of it than we have. She no longer walks her Rottweiler during the day when other dog owners are out and about because her dog has been attacked three times by off leash dogs! Yes, you heard me right, her ROTTI has been attacked three times. But wait…aren’t Rotti’s one of those dogs everyone thinks are just a dangerous as our pit bulls? But the Rotti is the one being attacked! As far as I am concerned this is a clear sign that ALL dog owners should be held responsible for the actions of their dogs!

This woman has not reported these attacks on her dog, and quite frankly with the way the authorities deal with these things I can’t say I blame her. She is afraid that if she reports the attacks, it is HER dog that will be the one blamed because of his breed. I know just how she feels it is something I myself fear whenever an off leash dog approaches Niki. I know that no matter who the aggressor is, it will be Niki who is blamed, because of her looks, and Ontario’s BSL.

We have all seen it before. Dogs deemed to be “pit bull” who are getting attacked and defending themselves only to be removed from their home and sentenced to die because someone else’s dog attacked them. The offending dog, generally not a pit bull, is allowed to go on to attack other dogs while the “pit bull” who was attacked is held responsible. It’s not fair it’s not right, but our government doesn’t see it that way. They have labelled ALL of these dogs as dangerous sight unseen, and behavior unassessed. It amounts to nothing more than creating a scapegoat to blame for ALL bad dogs out there. You can be rest assured if there is an incident between a dog deemed to be a “pit bull” and a dog of ANY other breed it will be the “pit bull” who pays for the crime whether it was the aggressor or not.

So, how do we combat the problem of off leash dogs? Really the city of Barrie should be addressing this problem by ticketing those that insist on walking their pets sans leash. But that would mean by-law enforcement, and we all know that when it comes to laws concerning dogs, no one really bothers to pay attention. What makes you think for one moment that a city that won’t charge an animal abuser with cruelty to animals, is going to care about curbing the off leash dog problem?

Some of you might remember an incident a few months back in which I took one of my neighbors dogs into the Barrie shelter because my neighbors and I were sick of it running around the neighborhood off leash while the owner was at work. The dog almost got hit by cars several times, and after calling animal control twice in one week and getting no response, I finally trapped the dog myself and took it in, in the hopes of teaching our neighbor a lesson. Well, he has the dog back now and the other day my next door neighbor saw it running around the neighborhood again! This guy just doesn’t get it! No matter how many times we take his dog to the shelter when we find it running around loose, he will still walk it off leash and allow it to roam the neighborhood like a stray.

So having tried to do things the way the city tells us to has gotten no response. Their animal control unit wouldn’t even come out and do their job when called about this off leash dog. Therefore I am left with no choice but to become political and head to the next city council meeting. I have no wish to cause fellow dog owners grief, but the safety of my dogs depends on other animal owners following the laws and leashing their dogs the same way I do. Therefore I have no choice but to bring it up at the next city council meeting and demand that the leash laws be enforced! After all, isn’t that what part of my taxes are supposed to pay for?

Okay, my rant is done for today. But seriously dudes…LEASH UP!

Peace, Love & Freedom for Pit Bulls


Of Morning Walks and Off Leash Dogs

111810_dog_offleashLately we have been discussing dog owner responsibility. Part of that responsibility is leashing your dog when walking on public streets.

Have you ever had the perfect peace of an idyllic walk with your dog shattered by the rude interruptions of an off leash dog? My Dachshund Yoda (Canada’s Ambassador for senior rescues)and I experienced such a thing this morning while taking our morning walk. We had rounded the block and were headed for home when at the end of the block I saw a little dog.  Now seeing a dog in this neighborhood is not unusual just about everyone who lives here has one, so it is common to pass other dogs when out walking. However mostly, those dogs are leashed. Not this morning!

This morning I spotted the dog as he and his owner were approaching but it wasn’t until they drew closer that I realized, the little brown and white Jack Russell running towards the Ambassador and I was not leashed! I tensed, ready to reach down and snatch the Ambassador off the ground if necessary. The little dog charged right up to him and took an aggressive stance. Then it tried to bite the Ambassador and its owner kicked at it to stop it. Well, I thought, there’s the explanation for this dog’s aggression. The Ambassador shocked by this rude behavior growled and snapped sending the little dog running to hide behind his owners legs. I picked the Ambassador up and checked to make sure he had not been bitten or injured by the off leash menace. The other dog’s owner simply looked at me chuckled and said “Good morning” before continuing on his way! He did not even acknowledge the fact that his off leash and uncontrolled dog had tried to bite another animal!

Now off leash dogs are one of my pet peeves. I don’t believe there is a community in Canada without leash laws, so how is it the problem of unleashed dogs is so prevalent? Obviously no one ever gets popped for breaking that law! However, when we look at the practice of walking ones dog without the protection of a leash, we see owners willing to flaunt the law because they have a “good” dog, or at least they think they do. However, I want to tell those people, “wake up” leash laws do not exist for the hell of it, they exist to protect other people from your dog, but they also exist to protect your dog from harm. Just because your dog obeys commands, and sits on a dime when you tell him to, does not make him exempt from the leash laws.

Your dog almost bit mine this morning, do you realize that if he had of done so I would have held YOU and not your dog responsible? It is YOUR actions, the decision you made to leave the house sans leash, that would have been your downfall, for had my dog been injured I would have made sure that you were held responsible. Perhaps I should leave a copy of Ontario’s Dog Onwners Liability Act on your front step?

Do you think it is more convenient to walk your dog without a leash? Are you too lazy to bend down and clip it onto his collar? Oh wait! That’s right your dog wears no collar either! No identification should he end up seperated from you, nothing to tell anyone who he belongs to! Ah! Now I see! You’re one of THOSE dog owners. You don’t care about your dog, he’s just a status symbol!

Well, know this! I do care about my dog, so take some responsibility as a dog owner, and leash your dog on walks! 1) It’s the law! 2) It’s just common sense! After all, if you don’t see your pet as a family member you should protect from harm, then perhaps you have no business owning one in the first place! Mine are family, and I am not about to allow your irresonsible behavior with your dog, to put him in harms way! If you can’t afford a leash we have many extras I am sure I could find one to suit, oh and a collar too!

Until Next Time Remember,



Yoda! You can’t drive without a licence buddy!

drivingI have a story to tell. (LOL don’t I always?) I suppose I should have told you all about this when it happened, but I gapped and wrote about something else that day. I have however found the reason why you should NEVER travel in the car with your small breed dog untethered!

Now generally when I take Yoda anywhere and it’s just me and him, I use a very nifty carrier bag given to him by his number one fan Ms. Carole Harden-Taylor. It attaches to the car seat and keeps him safe. One day last week however, I gapped and did not bring along the carrier when we went for a visit to Yoda’s Unca Tom, my business partner and close friend. On the way to Tom’s Yoda behaved himself admirably, sitting in the passenger seat where I had placed him and obeying my stay command. We arrived at Tom’s without incident, and had a fine visit.

Then it was time to leave. We headed for the car and I again placed Yoda on the passenger seat, and told him “stay.” Since he generally tends to listen when in the car I never expected what was about to happen. Yoda sat and I started the car and backed out of my parking space. Eyes on the road, as I watched for an opening in traffic, I pulled out of the parking lot of Tom’s building, and headed for home. It was close to quitting time so there was a fair amount of traffic on city streets already, and I concentrated on avoiding kamikaze drivers by keeping my eyes on the road. That of course meant I didn’t have eyes on Yoda who, unbeknownst to me had decided to explore the back seat. At an intersection I glanced back and saw him there but didn’t think anything of it as he has done it before without incident. He spent our entire trip to London to meet the Grandma sleeping on the back seat so I figured he would settle down. Of course I couldn’t  have been more wrong!

As I already mentioned it was quitting time and traffic was just beginning to get thick. Since people around here tend to drive like they found their licence in the bottom of a cracker jack box, my full attention was on the road. That is when Yoda decided to get adventurous and explore the floor of the car! Suddenly as I was coming up to a left hand turn, I felt the little dog between my FEET! What followed was absolute panic!

I knew I needed to pull over and take the little guy off the floor, but I was in a left turn lane and I couldn’t pull over. I had my foot on the brake, the engine revved! Oh no Yoda had found the gas pedal! I tried shifting him away from the foot pedals with my free foot. Now I was worried he would get one of his paws caught under the brake pedal making it impossible to stop the car! It was my turn to make the left turn, I slowly turned the corner trying to keep Yoda away from the brake and gas pedals with my free foot as I went. Thwarted, he scrambles backwards until he was between the front and back seats. I managed to make the turn and pull over safely, but I want to tell you I have never been so scared in my life.

Bringing the car to a stop, I flipped on the four-way flashers and undid my seatbelt. I was now free to turn around and grab Yoda. I placed him on the passenger seat and tied his leash to the headrest. He was NOT leaving that seat again, and NEVER would I leave the house again without his safe carrier! My negligence could have caused a serious accident and I was very unhappy with myself for being so stupid! I know better than to cut corners with safety measures, but it took a ten pound Dachshund to remind me that when it comes to dogs, you should never take ANYTHING for granted!

As you can well imagine, I sat there for a few minutes on the side of the road, I didn’t start the car again until I had stopped shaking! If anything had of happened to Yoda or I that trip, I would have only had myself to blame! Yoda has been informed he may not operate vehicle foot pedals without a licence, but you know him! From now on we will just make sure to use the tools available to keep our little guy safe while traveling! To Yoda I want to say “Yoda! You can’t drive without a licence buddy!”

Until Next Time Remember,