A family from west Edmonton say they are devastated after Lola, their five-year-old Chihuahua, was attacked and killed by a larger off-leash dog while on a walk at a park in the Hamptons neighbourhood.
Owner Sara Ward said it happened at about 3 p.m. on Saturday. She and her 12-year-old son were walking their two Chihuahuas, Lola and Presley, when a pitbull that was not on a leash charged at them.
“We were just talking, and I looked up and I just noticed a big brown pitbull come out from behind a tree,” she said Tuesday.
“I felt right then that something was going to happen, so I scooped up Presley and my son was walking Lola,” she said. “I told him, ‘Pick up Lola,’ and as I said that, the pitbull had already run over and grabbed my dog – and she’s so little that she literally disappeared into his mouth.”
Ward said she punched the larger dog, which then turned on Presley. Lola died of her injuries. Presley survived, but needed surgery.
According to Ward, her surviving dog has not been himself since and is not eating much now.
‘It’s been really hard,” she said, adding it’s been especially difficult for her son to process what happened.
“He’s blamed himself and he said, ‘I should have picked my dog up.’
“We have to keep telling him I don’t know what this dog would have done if he had picked up Lola… it could have been my son.”
Ward said she confronted the pitbull’s owner immediately.
“I said, ‘Why is your dog not on a leash?’ And he said to me, ‘Well, he’s really nice and friendly and he’s never done this before.'”
The pitbull is now in the custody of Animal Care & Control.
Ward said she’s since spoken to neighbours about what happened and has learned of two other attacks related to off-leash dogs in areas where dogs are supposed to be leashed.
“It’s happening more and I’m frustrated,” said Keith Scott, coordinator of animal control with the City of Edmonton. “I think dog owners think that their dogs are well-behaved and listen, but if they see another dog or they see a rabbit… they’ll go.”
Scott said his department will go to court to apply to have the pitbull designated as dangerous to have the dog quickly placed under certain conditions to ensure safety. If the dog owner violates the conditions, animal control can seize the dog and consider whether to put it down.
He added dog attacks can lead to $500 fines, but in particularly vicious cases – or fatal ones – owners can be brought to court and face even higher fines.
Ward said the current penalties aren’t enough.
“For what my son and I had to endure and witness, and for that complete negligence on this dog owner’s part, it’s not enough.
“I want stricter leash laws and higher fines.”
Scott said it appears there is a rise in the number of dogs attacking other dogs, but also a rise in the reporting of such instances – something he says is a positive step.
“I think we’ve done really well with our education and messaging out there,” Scott said. “When dog attacks happen, please report it, because if you don’t, there’s no way for us to educate the dog owner, there’s no way for us to get a history on the dog and there’s no way for us to take any kind of enforcement action.”
Ward said the owner of the pitbull came forward to cover the medical expenses for Presley.
“I did call him,” she said of the pitbull’s owner. “He never wanted this to happen. This has been, I’m sure, devastating for him too.
She said she believes the pitbull owner didn’t have a proper understanding of what his dog was capable of.
“He’s apologized… He’s been cooperative with what took place. Unfortunately I’m grieving and… it doesn’t do much for us at this point.”
– With files from Shallima Maharaj