Some residents of a neighbourhood in the heart of the Columbia Valley south of Cultus Lake say they are being terrorized by a negligent dog owner whose animal has bitten or tried to bite people on more than half a dozen occasions.
|Puncture wounds Columbia Valley resident Karen Steegstra received after a dog attacked her on Kosikar Road near the community hall two years ago. (Submitted)|
Karen Steegstra lives in the area and was out on a run along Kosikar Road two years ago when two dogs from the property came running at her. One bit her leaving serious puncture wounds on her arm that she said were one-inch deep.
Since then, Steegstra and other residents of the area say half a dozen attacks have been reported, and there may be more gone unreported.
“The aggressive dog continues to be out of the yard,” Steegstra said. “The worst [part] is it is across from the community centre and school bus stop. We can’t understand why nothing has been done to remove the dogs.”
In one alleged incident relayed to The Progress, a boy was bit by the dog and when his grandfather went to confront the owner, the dog bit him too.
On a visit to the property on Jan. 29, the dogs’ owner, Steven Gauthier, did not appear to be home but three dogs could be seen and heard barking loudly from inside the house while this reporter walked along the road. One neighbour across the street suggested critics of Gauthier and his dogs were being unfair, even tormenting the dogs.
Steegstra said the dog-bite incident has been “life-changing” and she and others are frustrated with the perceived lack of action by the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) and from Gauthier.
“Some of us no longer walk or run up here or use the park at the community centre,” Steegstra said.
Taryn Dixon is the elected representative for the FVRD in Area H, which includes the Columbia Valley.
“I have been actively pressing for answers on behalf of the community and will continue to work tirelessly towards a solution,” Taryn Dixon said.
“I am frustrated by this situation, as is the community and know we need to find answers and a solution.”
A community meeting was scheduled for Thursday evening involving the RCMP, representatives from the FVRD. This week a sign was posted near the community centre inviting anyone “concerned about this particular dog but also about any other dog-related problems in the valley.”
But that meeting was cancelled at the last minute for unknown reasons.
When asked why the dog that has bitten numerous people has not been apprehended, an FVRD spokesperson they cannot comment on individual cases for privacy reasons.
As per the FVRD’s Electoral Area Dangerous and Aggressive Dog Regulation Bylaw, a “dog can be designated as an ‘aggressive dog’ if it … has, with or without provocation, attacked, bitten or caused injury to a person or has demonstrated a propensity, tendency or disposition to do so.”
Being labelled an “aggressive dog”, however, is not in itself grounds to seize and destroy a dog. A dog can be seized via a warrant if it is deemed a “dangerous dog,” the definition of which includes that the dog has killed or seriously injured a person or a domestic animal, or if “an animal control officer has reasonable grounds to believe is likely to kill or seriously injure a person.”
Dixon said brought her concerns about dogs in rural areas up at the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and was involved with submitting recommendations to try to improve and strengthen the Community Charter in this regard.
Among the recommendations are to “expand the definition of dangerous dog within the Charter (or create a new label) for chronic offending dogs that cause multiple, non-serious injuries,” and “to allow for animal control officers to seize and make application to the court for conditional restrictions for dogs that chronically offend causing multiple, non- serious injuries”
Since the FVRD cannot comment on the specific case, it’s unclear what more would be needed to seize the dog from the perspective of animal control.
Neighbours frustrated with the dogs, however, think it needs to be seized.
“According to the bylaws that apply to the regional district the dogs should have been removed for being aggressive,” Steegstra said. “We can’t understand that after biting seven people, possibly more, that nothing has been done.”
As for Gauthier, his son Michael said Steven is “a very nice person and does all that has been asked.” Michael said animal control and the RCMP have both given fines and checked the property to assure the requirements have been met.
Michael said someone who was bit had “a very small scratch” and ripped shorts, which Gauthier replaced.
“Steven loves his dogs and his animals,” Michael said. “Also, he is very understanding when not being threatened. We have been stolen from and have had many people openly walk on our yard that makes the animals and my father uncomfortable.”
In some cases, reports about aggressive or dangerous animals are posted about on social media, but animal control is not always called leaving officers unable to track incidents or propertly deal with the situation.
“In all cases, what is of utmost importance to permit the FVRD to act under the authorities listed above is for community members who are witness or victim to any concerns pertaining to dog issues in the communities that the FVRD provides services to is to contact the CARE Centre at 1-844-495-2273 during regular business hours or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org,” the FVRD spokesperon said.
Outside of business hours, police should be called.
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