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Pit bull attacks child in Whistler hotel

Hotels stick by pet-friendly policy despite injury to five-year-old's face

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A local dog has been declared "dangerous" following its attack on a young child in a Whistler hotel.

The designation was reached after bylaw services reviewed video of the attack. The designation requires the dog's owners to leash and muzzle it in public and ensure it is securely confined when on their property.

"Bylaw Services has conducted an investigation into the incident and concluded it was necessary to deem the dog a Dangerous Dog," said a spokesperson for the RMOW in an email.

According to the child's father, who asked to remain anonymous, the boy was petting the dog on Feb. 21 when it attacked, biting the left side of his face. The attack occurred in a public walkway of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, near the Mallard Lounge. The dog belonged to a visitor to the hotel, not a guest.

Though the wound did not require surgery, one of the dog's canines went straight through the child's cheek, explained the father.

In light of the attack, the family of the injured boy asked the Fairmont to either restrict non-guests from bringing in dogs, or to ban certain breeds.

But the Fairmont, while taking the attack very seriously, plans to continue to follow its pet-friendly policy as it currently stands.

"It comes down to the local bylaws," said Lynn Gervais, director of public relations for the Fairmont. "If the authorities suggest (there) are breeds that should not be welcome in Whistler, then of course we would abide by those regulations."

Gervais added that the Fairmont follows RMOW bylaws regarding dogs, which require pets to be leashed, except in designated off-leash dog parks.

The Fairmont's pet policy has been in place since the hotel opened in 1989, and the attack is the first in the busy hotel's history, said Gervais.

"Much like Whistler as a community, we welcome all of our four-legged, furry friends," she said.

Saad Hasan, president of the Hotel Association of Whistler, said that while he is deeply sympathetic to what happened, restricting non-guests from bringing dogs into hotels is an "impractical solution," as hotels experience a constant flow of people, making it difficult for staff to determine who is and isn't a registered guest.

He added that hotels are in no position to determine what breeds should be restricted because there is no clear consensus on what dogs represent a serious threat.

Hasan, who's been working in Whistler hotels since the 1990s, said the Fairmont attack was the first dog attack he's heard of in a Whistler hotel and that the hotels' dog-friendly policies are driven by guest demand.

"There is huge demand by guests to make our hotel properties more pet friendly. People are really pushing at it. That's where the industry is going in my opinion," said Hasan.

Most of the "brand" hotels—like the Four Seasons, Delta, Westin and Marriott—allow dogs. "Not only do they allow them—but they actually pamper the pets," said Hasan.

When it comes to dogs, hotels follow the lead of municipalities, he said. "We don't create laws or rules. We just follow what the local municipalities and the government legislates. If the government chooses to ban a certain breed, we will follow the legislation."

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