Marion Jensen enjoys the end of summer, when rules preventing dogs from being at Cadboro-Gyro Park are relaxed, and Sophie, her miniature poodle, can play in her favourite spot.
Late Saturday morning (Sept. 7) Jensen was walking with her 10-year-old dog off-leash on the Saanich beach when she approached a larger dog out of curiosity.
“My dog’s a friendly little poodle. She went up to a big brown and white dog, and within seconds the dog lunged and bit her, and had her by the throat and side, and he dragged her across the beach and had her pinned down,” Jensen recalled. “It happened so very quickly, and you’re very helpless in that situation.”
Jensen said it felt like an eternity for the attack to end. She says it may have been a couple minutes, but it may have been upwards of 10 minutes.
“When you’re watching something like that, time seems to drag,” she said.
The owners of the larger dog tried to stop the attack. The man who was with the dog, also off-leash, was trying to pull his dog away, but was unsuccessful.
Jensen says a second man intervened carrying a large piece of driftwood and told the owner of the bigger dog – she’s unsure of what breed it was – to hit it on the head with the wood.
“There were many blows. Finally the dog let go, and Sophie staggered up. People were mesmerized she could walk at all,” Jensen said. “I don’t think that dog would’ve released my dog on its own.”
With puncture wounds all over her body, Jensen rushed her dog to the vet, without getting contact information for owners of the other dog.
“Dog owners should absolutely exchange information, for liability, for civil reasons, if there’s vet bills,” said Saanich pound inspector Susan Ryan.
Jensen now has $600 in bills from Sophie’s first visit, and expects that figure to climb.
“If you’re the owner of a dog that does that, it would be good if you contact authorities and perhaps offer to pay the vet’s bill,” Jensen said. “When the dog has shown they are capable of that, I think it’s the owner’s responsibility to report it, and decide if they’re going to muzzle it or keep it confined or if they’re going to put it down.”
Jensen called the Saanich animal pound to report the incident once Sophie had seen a doctor – but almost two hours had passed.
Ryan said timeliness matters, as they need to investigate the incident and the histories of both dogs.
But Ryan said this incident, and the many others like it that happen each and every week in Saanich, is easily preventable – and all dog owners need to be more empathetic to other dog walkers.
“Everybody should have their dogs under control before this happens. People with dogs are just too careless about allowing their dogs to approach everyone and everything,” she said.
“If it’s off leash, it needs to be under effective control. And that’s the problem – trying to educate people on that. They’ll think just because their dog’s off leash it can walk up to people. Not everybody wants a dog walking up to them, because they don’t know what the dog wants to do.
“At the end of the day ... you’re putting your dog in a precarious position, and you’re putting that person in a bad position.”
The pound officer isn’t a huge fan of off-leash areas as most dog owners don’t understand that the bylaw states dogs should be under “effective control.” That means if it will not respond to your command, the dog must be leashed.
“You need to have you dog under control before it’s approaching other people or other dogs. Get their consent first. If they’re OK with it, then great. But there are some people and some dogs out there that won’t be okay with it,” Ryan said. “You choose to have an animal. It should not impact on somebody else’s ability to enjoy a public space.”
Jensen said Sophie is slowly recovering, but is visibly traumatized from the attack.
“She’s in her kennel a lot right now. She’s not able to go outside – she’s afraid to go outside. I think it’ll be quite a recuperation,” she said. “I think Sophie is probably going to go back to the beach, but we will have her on a leash, and only let her off if there’s no dogs round. She’s going to be one of those shy dogs now.”
Police are still looking to speak with and identify the owners of the second dog involved in the incident. Anyone with information can call 250-475-4321.
For information on dangerous dogs or dogs in parks, visit saanich.ca/living/dogs.