Dog training gains WV pet a reprieve from execution

AN Akita named Max who had been on doggie death row for a year has been granted a stay of execution after lawyers told a judge this week he has turned his life around, with the help of an expert dog trainer.

Last year, animal control officers in West Vancouver seized Max and the municipality asked for a court order to have the dog destroyed after the Akita attacked and killed a neighbour's shih tzu on a street in the British Properties.

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In an emotional hearing in August, Shamim Shirkhodaei described seeing her pet Sasha attacked in her front yard by Max, who carried the small dog off in his mouth.

"I was running and following him and screaming for help," she said at the time. Eventually Max's owner ran over and pried his jaws open, allowing Sasha to be freed. But the small dog succumbed to his injuries.

Some neighbours testified at the hearing, describing Max as roaming the neighbourhood unsupervised and looking for trouble. But Max's owner, Shelly Alvarado, asked the judge to spare her dog.

In August, Max was sprung from the West Vancouver pound on $2,500 bail, with conditions that the dog be kept on its own property in a securely gated and locked enclosure.

Since then, Max has made a dramatic turnaround, lawyers told a judge in North Vancouver provincial court. Prosecutor Don Howieson said Max has made big strides while on bail, with the help of expert dog trainer Gary Gibson. "He's calming Max down and Ms. Alvarado is learning how to handle Max, he said.

"Max's progress has been better than he expected," added defence lawyer Emmett Duncan.

Both lawyers agreed Max is now a manageable risk and can continue to live under house arrest as long as he abides by strict conditions.

Judge Bill Rodgers of the North Vancouver provincial court agreed. Max can be walked outside his yard, but only with his trainer, owner or someone approved by his trainer and must be leashed and muzzled. But Max can't be walked in his immediate neighbourhood.

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