The traumatic death of a dog last week in Savona has sparked fears over community safety and questions about animal control policy in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
Lily Friesen, her twin boys and their dog, Sparky, were in the playground area at Savona elementary on May 19 when kids from a day care became interested in the family’s Chihuahua.
Friesen allowed a child to walk Sparky in the schoolyard vicinity. Unbeknownst to her, however, a slip of the leash would end in tragedy.
Friesen said when the child accidentally let go of the leash, Sparky ran across the soccer field, through an opening in the fence and across the street to a property where two pit bulls had been contained behind a fence.
The pit bulls escaped their enclosure and, by the time Friesen arrived at the scene, Sparky’s skull had been crushed, his neck bitten and blood was visible. The dog was unresponsive. Friesen said the owner of the pit bulls ran out of her house and started yelling at her two dogs. She apologized and brought a towel in which to wrap Sparky’s dead body.
“Then she gave me a box,” Friesen said. “So, a cardboard box.”
She said she carried her dog across the street, back to the schoolyard.
“And the day-care lady was there, so she grabbed my box so I could console my kids. Her kids were screaming. Everybody was very upset,” Friesen said.
A friend drove the family to their nearby home so they wouldn’t have to walk home with Sparky in a box, rather than on his leash.
Friesen said her seven-year-old children were “traumatized” by the incident. They didn’t witness the killing, but Friesen likened the loss of Sparky to the death of a family member. The family has since spoken to a grief counsellor. Friesen said the day-care children were also traumatized, noting the incident has shaken many in Savona, some of whom have questions about the dogs in relation to community safety.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District told KTW the incident is under investigation.
KTW contacted the owner of the pit bulls, but the owner declined to comment on the incident.
Animal control officer Pat Ellis is contracted by the regional district. Ellis said the incident was a “very unfortunate accident,” wherein the Chihuahua was uncontrolled and provoked the pit bulls, which escaped beneath a fence.
“I know it sounds cruel, but you have to look at who started it,” Ellis said.
Lily’s husband, Bruce Friesen, said Sparky — a five-pound Chihuaha — was not a threat to anyone.
Ellis acknowledged the size differential between the dogs, but cited another factor — the incident also having occurred on private property. The TNRD’s dangerous dog control bylaw states a dangerous dog is a dog that “has killed or seriously injured a domestic animal in a public space or while on private property, other than property owned or occupied by the person responsible for the dog …”
Ellis said a dog has a right to protect its owner, food and home.
“They do have that right,” she said. “I have a dog to protect my property. It can’t go off my property. It will not go off my property, but I do have the right to have a dog to protect me because I live alone.”
Ellis said the dog owner has since fixed the fence and is now required to leash and muzzle the animals when they are off the owner’s property. The Friesens don’t think it’s enough. They want the canines removed from the area or destroyed.
The Friesens said a neighbour reported a separate attack by the dogs last year to the rural Kamloops RCMP detachment. At the very least, they want the public to know, in order to prevent another tragic attack.
“The real danger is that these dogs are within about 50 feet of the schoolyard,” Bruce Friesen said.
What is a pit bull?
Pit bull is the name given to dogs descended from bulldogs and terriers. The American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association.
The pit bull breed is not recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club nor the American Kennel Club.