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Good Samaritans stop dog attack in Northern Alberta

Three motorists stopped to help as a young woman was attacked by a pack of at least 15 dogs while walking in Kehewin Cree Nation.

KEHEWIN CREE NATION, Alta. – On the morning of July 23, a woman walking along a road in Kehewin Cree Nation was attacked by a pack of dogs.  

Passing motorists in three separate vehicles stopped to help the woman by distracting the dogs and calling for medical attention, according to Tammy Gadwa, the daughter of one of the people who stopped to help. 

“This young lady was just walking down the road and was attacked by at least 15 dogs,” Gadwa wrote in a social media post. 

“My mom happened to be driving by and she looked in her rearview mirror and saw all these dogs running from the house across our road. They immediately started attacking this person. The dogs got her down and she was bitten on her legs and arms and said all she could do was protect her head.” 

Gadwa’s mother and two other motorists worked together to distract the group of dogs long enough to give the pedestrian the time to get into one of the vehicles. 

“The lady has deep bites on her arms and legs, and she is in so much pain,” noted Gadwa. 

“This isn't the first time these dogs have chased people who are walking by, and I cannot understand why they are allowed to keep so many dogs... It could've been worse, and something definitely needs to be done about this before someone is killed.” 

Gadwa said that she would like to see the community’s leaders give notice to the owner of the dogs and order them to all be put down. 

“I feel awful for this young lady, she was crying so hard from all the bites she received,” she continued in the post. “This just makes me so angry that this has happened.”

Police intervention is complicated 

Bonnyville RCMP Sgt. Doug MacFarland confirmed to Lakeland This Week that the detachment had been notified of the incident on July 23 at about 10:50 a.m. from the ambulance service responding to the attack. EMS informed police that they had treated a female patient with minor injuries. 

MacFarland said that dealing with calls involving animals becomes challenging to navigate on reserves because most animal acts are provincial laws or municipal bylaws, and therefore don’t apply within First Nation and Métis communities. 

"Provincial Acts that apply to ‘dogs at large’ and ‘dangerous dogs’ don't apply to the reserve lands. So, what we have done is we report that to the reserve and then they have their own procedures that they follow to deal with them,” he said. 

In communities that have clear bylaws such as leashing guidelines for dogs or a Dangerous Dog Act, peace officers and RCMP are able to issue tickets for violations or lay charges in relation to those laws. 

"Depending on how serious the incident is, such as if somebody was fatally bitten or sustained a life-altering injury or was seriously injured where they were hospitalized, then it could turn into something criminal, and a dog owner could be charged with criminal neglect,” stated MacFarland.  

"Something extremely serious, such as criminal neglect could apply on reserve land because it is a criminal code violation opposed to just a provincial infraction.”  

The incident that occurred on July 23 while serious, did not cross the threshold of being criminal, he said.  

It can also be quite difficult to prove that a person has neglected their rights as a dog owner and was being neglectful in some way that could have prevented this serious injury or bodily harm. 

MacFarland also reached out to the Kehewin Band office and was told that they are currently seeking legal advice to see how they can deal with dangerous and wild dogs moving forward.

Ongoing concerns and double standards 

The council for Kehewin Cree Nation is aware of how serious the wild and violent dog situation is within the community, Kehewin Chief Trevor John told Lakeland This Week

“These are wild, vicious dogs, and they’re like coyotes... We try and ask the owners to get rid of them but there's not much we can do,” he said. 

While John would like to see the RCMP charge the owners of dogs that have attacked people or other pets, this is not taking place. In fact, he feels strongly that there is a double standard when it comes to the issue of vicious dogs on the reserve. 

John says years prior a community member’s house was stormed by RCMP in the middle of the night, his firearms were confiscated, and he was charged for shooting wild and vicous dogs within Kehewin. 

A few years ago, the Kehewin Council also approved a culling of wild dogs in the community, but the results were short-lived, says the Chief. 

“During the blitz people protecting the dogs brought them in the house. And it only works for a year or so anyways because then the dogs (population) comes back,” he said, adding that unwanted dogs from other communities are also being abandoned in the community, contributing to the problem. 

“Then it is left with us to deal with... They're not all our pets. They're just being dropped off and when these animals come together and they are that hungry, the true animal instincts kick in, and they're going to do whatever they can to feed themselves.”

Band Council Resolution 

John also indicated that since the July 23 dog attack, the council is looking into different ways to force animal owners to take responsibility for their pets or face consequences if they don’t.  

“We are putting together a Vicious Dog Bylaw and a BCR (Band Council Resolution),” John said. 

A Band Council Resolution is a legal instrument that reflects a Band Council’s decisions made in accordance with the Indian Act and Regulations. 

“That's our highest level of (law) that binds our Nation,” explained the chief. 

By creating a Vicious Dog Bylaw and BCR, the Kehewin Chief and Council hope the move will be enough to hold dog owners accountable for their pets and any damage they cause, as well as a framework to work collaboratively with RCMP for enforcement. 

The next Kehewin council meeting where a bylaw can be passed is scheduled to take place in September. 

The Chief also added that council has worked with their Band lawyer to issue letters to owners known to have violent dogs before the new BCR and bylaw takes effect. 

The person identified as the owner of the dogs involved in the July incident was sent a letter from the Band office as well as Health Canada, confirmed John. 

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