While most parents were sharing family time on Mother’s Day, Dave and Jaime Skarbo were nursing their 10-year-old daughter who was seriously injured when she and two other children were attacked by two pitbulls.
The attack happened Saturday, shortly after 10 a.m., when their daughter, who they’ve asked not be identified, was waiting on the front lawn of her friends’ home, located on Ranchview Drive, in Nanaimo’s Cinnabar Valley neighbourhood, for her mother to pick her up for her gymnastics class.
Out of the blue, two pitbulls ran across the street and attacked the three children.
“We were just sitting on our lawn by the tree and the two dogs just came running down and jumped on us and attacked us,” said Natasha Torney, 11. “I ran up to the door and my brother ran up to the door with me and my friend ran towards the road. She got pulled down and attacked.”
Natasha was grabbed on the arm by one of the dogs, but her brother Jayden, 8, managed to strike the animal with his hockey stick, buying them enough time to escape into the front door of their home, but their friend was pulled down as one of the dogs ripped into her arm.
Cathy Torney, mother of Natasha and Jayden, said she woke to the terrified screams of her daughter.
“They pulled her down by her hair. The other dog got her arm and, luckily, a neighbour of ours came down with the bat and got the dogs off of her,” Torney said.
Nanaimo RCMP confirmed in a press release Tuesday that they attended the home of the dog owners with Animal Control Services and seized the animals.
“Animal control seized the dogs and they were humanely euthanized,” noted Nanaimo RCMP in the release. “The investigation is ongoing.”
Torney, a nurse, said the girl’s injuries were severe that the flesh was like jelly inside the cloth of her hoodie. Some of the flesh was completely missing.
“It was bad, really bad,” Torney said.
Dave Skarbo said his daughter sustained deep lacerations to the upper and lower part of her arm.
“The underside [of her arm] where the dog clamped on and just started thrashing, you could watch the muscle move inside her arm,” Skarbo said. “It’s big. It took two doctors and hour and a half to stitch her up while she was put under because they couldn’t just do local freezing. There was just too much damage.”
Skarbo, who was going grocery shopping, received a phone call about the incident and arrived on the scene ahead of paramedics.
“I raced back and got inside was just appalled by what I saw,” he said.
In total the girl was treated for more than nine hours in hospital and was violently ill for most of the following day as she recovered from the anesthetics and other drugs used in the treatment.
Another woman, who lives nearby, but declined to talk with media, also tried to help the girl and was also attacked by the dogs and taken to hospital with injuries to her right arm. Torney said the woman received multiple stitches to her arm.
Skarbo said he’s grateful people were there to help, that his daughter suffered no nerve or tendon damage and that the dogs did not attack her neck and head. The muscle damage will take a long time to heal and Skarbo said the doctors did what they could to stitch the girl’s injuries to minimize scarring.
While the attack was happening, the dogs’ owners arrived on the scene, put the dogs in a vehicle and allegedly left without checking on the condition of the victims.
“I don’t see the difference between that and having a hit-and-run with a car and leaving the scene of an accident,” Skarbo said. “People are hurt. There’s kids screaming on the road, is what the people have told me, and they just left and, luckily the people had the wherewithal to get a licence plate number and remember that licence plate number and whatever, in everything that was going on, and were able to catch the people.”
“I’m angry that the police and animal control were aware of this owner and aware of the dogs,” Torney said. “There’s been many complaints. There’s been other incidents and still their hands were tied until something like this happens.”
Skarbo said there should be no second chance for owners of vicious dogs and that pitbulls should be banned in the neighbourhood.
“Absolutely. Communities like this, there’s so many kids…” he said. “As a responsible dog owner, if you’re going to have these kinds of dogs and you have an incident, there should be no second chance.”
Pitbulls are a restricted breed in Nanaimo and there is breed-specific legislation that requires they be muzzled, confined indoors or kept in an enclosure unless they have received kennel club certification.
Carley Colclough, animal services pound coordinator, said ticketing is the only enforcement action that would relate to a restricted breed being at large or unmuzzled. She said the community charter does allow the pound to seize a dog in the interest of public safety, but that process would need to go through the court system.
As far as changing bylaws around animal control, Colclough said that would be up to mayor and council.
“We absolutely make our recommendations known to the city, but we’re just tasked with enforcing the bylaws, not with creating them or anything like that,” she said.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com or call 1-800-222-8477.
-with files from Greg Sakaki/The News Bulletin