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Public outrage after pitbull kills small dog in Helsinki

Dog owners' responsibility to keep their hounds leashed is stirring debate after a pitbull mauled a small dog to death on the Helsinki seafront.

File photo of a Pit Bull Terrier. Apart from the breed, this dog is not related to the incidents recounted in this story. Image: AOP

An unleashed large pitbull killed 13-year-old terrier, Hilppa, at the waterfront restaurant area in Helsinki’s southern Hernesaari district last week. The incident has drawn attention to the issue of small children being similarly vulnerable to attacks by untethered dogs.

The case is sparking debate in Finland regarding dog owners' duty to keep their pets leashed in urban areas, which is also outlined in the country’s public order act. Dog owners in Finland are legally responsible for damage their pets cause. A few years ago, Yle's investigative journalism programme MOT estimated that there were some 8,000 dangerous dogs in Finland.

"Savaged like a rag doll"

”The pitbull leaped forward and pounced on Hilppa,” says the terrier's owner Viivi Holopainen. She was walking along the seafront when she saw the unleashed pitbull moving towards them.

The terrier went limp after the first bite to the neck, and the pitbull continued to savage the smaller dog like a ragdoll, according to Holopainen. Her parents, who were accompanying her for lunch in the area, tried to pull the pitbull off Hilppa, but to no avail. The pitbull’s owner, who works in one of the area’s restaurants, arrived at the scene too late, and, according to Holopainen, assured her that the pitbull was a 'very nice dog' before putting him in a car.

Holopainen's mother managed to wave down a police patrol van, however, the officers did not, according to Holopainen, take the situation seriously at first. Police are, however, now investigating the incident as a breach of peace and malicious damage.

Hilppa succumbed to her wounds while en route to a veterinarian.

"At least she died in my arms," says Holopainen, who likens the incident to watching a family member being tortured to death.

Edit: Story updated at 3.50pm to remove a photo of a waterfront restaurant that was previously used, and which was not related to the case.

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