When Darol Stuart was walking home with his dogs from Sunday night’s Grey Cup final at a friend’s house, the last thing he expected was to end up in a veterinarian’s emergency room.
But that’s where he and his partner Dianne Williams took their terrier Hunter after he was attacked by an unknown black lab in the greenbelt area of Hillcrest.
“Darol was walking our two dogs home last night around 7 p.m. Both of them were on a leash, when two black labs came running over a hill from behind. One of the labs made contact with Hunter and the dog had the terrier in its mouth and was shaking him,” Williams said in an interview Monday morning.
Stuart was able to get the lab to release Hunter, but the lab’s owner, who also witnessed the attack, didn’t stick around to see if the terrier was hurt.
“Darol kicked the dog a few times, and the lab dropped him. The owners of the labs took off. They scattered,” Williams said.
“It was all in panic, and the dogs are screaming and then they just, one went one way, one went the other. Perhaps they thought it was best to get out of the area. Maybe they had no idea how much damage was done,” Williams said.
Williams and Stuart took Hunter to a vet where he had to be sedated and stitched up. Two cuts to his neck were deep enough to tear the muscle. The bill for his treatment was nearly $700.
Williams said she’s shocked that someone would just take off without even exchanging phone numbers or checking that her terrier was OK.
But after hearing about the incident in news reports, the lab’s owners did come forward to make reparations.
“They heard it on the radio. They immediately said, ‘this is our responsibility’ and they’ve offered to pay all the vet bills. They didn’t know Hunter was so damaged and they had just wanted to get their dog away from the scene,” Williams said.
“They’re nice people. It could have been a different outcome. They did come forward, and they are socially responsible dog owners, and they’ve promised that their dog will be muzzled in the future,” she said.
Calls to the lab’s owners were not returned by press time.
City bylaw manager Dave Pruden confirmed Monday afternoon that an investigation was ongoing. Dog owners who can’t control their animals can be subject to fines under the city’s animal control bylaw, he said.
“People out there have to have control of their animals. They can’t just run up to other animals and attack them,” Pruden said.
But enforcing those rules is sometimes easier said than done.
“If both animals are in an off leash area, dogs are dogs and they will sniff each other. All of a sudden one gets a little bit more anxious, and things might start escalating it. It’s a challenge to say which dog was instigating a fight,” he said.
But if an off-leash dog attacks an on-leash one, that is usually a more clear-cut case, Pruden said.
In this case, Hunter was definitely on a leash and the lab was not, William said.
But just because an incident occurred doesn’t mean the city can lay a fine. Pruden explained that it is often difficult to identify dogs accused of acting aggressively.
“If someone says, ‘It was a husky,’ for example, well, there are an awful lot of huskies in Whitehorse.”
So far in 2013 there have been 23 investigated complaints of dogs acting aggressively towards other dogs. This can, but doesn’t always, include actual attacks. But there have been no tickets issued for that offence in the past three years.
There were also 23 reports of dogs acting aggressively towards people, and again, no tickets.
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