A Sarnia woman is pleading for local dog owners to be more responsible after her two collies were attacked while being walked on a sidewalk in Coronation Park.
She also wants stiffer fines imposed when dogs are caught running at large.
Georgette Parsons said the recent confrontation between her two leashed dogs and a large German shepherd was terrifying. She’s concerned more dogs and possibly children will be attacked unless owners leash their aggressive dogs and keep them properly enclosed on private property.
“Sarnia has a problem,” said Parsons who has owned dogs and walked them in her generally quiet residential neighbourhood the past 40 years.
“I see people with huge dogs who don’t train them. They don’t walk them either and they can’t control them.”
She was exercising her collies – Piper, 3, and Maggie, 9 – late in the afternoon when she heard loud barking coming from inside a house.
“The dog was going ballistic as we rounded the corner,” Parsons said. “Then a young woman opened the door and the dog made a beeline, coming at us full force with its teeth bared. It attacked Piper.”
Piper, the younger and stronger male, was able to fend off the shepherd. But the unleashed dog then turned on the smaller and older Maggie.
“He hit her so hard she went flying,” said Parsons. “I held on tight to her leash. I wouldn’t let go. Then he was on top of her, biting at her.”
Parsons said she started screaming and a man in the driveway told her to calm down. Minutes later the young woman came out of the house and called off the German shepherd.
“The dog obeyed and followed her back in. She never said anything to me,” said Parsons. “And she never came back out.”
Maggie was initially unable to walk and Parsons didn’t have the strength to carry her. Nor did she have a cell phone to call for help.
“Maggie finally hobbled home,” she said.
It was the fourth time in nine months the same dog was loose in its yard and acted aggressively toward her dogs, Parsons said.
Previously, Parsons’ husband was there to ward off the shepherd, she said.
This time, she wants action from the city.
Parsons called Animal Control and filed a police report. The incident is under investigation and cannot be discussed, said Adam MacDonald, supervisor of bylaw enforcement at City Hall.
Municipal bylaws dictate that if a dog is on its own property it doesn’t have to be leashed, he said. But the sidewalk is municipal property and a leash is required.
An owner that allows a dog to run unleashed on public property can be subject to a $150 fine, a penalty Parsons said is too low.
Dogs that bite or severely attack will automatically receive a muzzle order and be required to wear a muzzle when off their own property. Animal Control can also enforce a Dangerous Dog order, which requires the owner to have $2 million in liability insurance and a muzzle and leash on their animal whenever on municipal property.
MacDonald said every case is different and left to the judgment of the investigating officer. In the most serious cases, the provincial Dog Owners Liability Act kicks in and aggressive dogs can be seized and euthanized.
MacDonald didn’t have statistics that reflect how often such measures are taken by Sarnia authorities, but he said the frequency of complaints increases with better weather.
In the past two weeks, Animal Control has responded to three different attacks, MacDonald confirmed. There were no complaints the previous six months.
Parsons is convinced Sarnia has a growing number of aggressive dogs and irresponsible owners.
“I walk dogs for other people in every neighborhood of this city,” she said. “I’ve encountered aggressive dogs everywhere, and many are on the loose and can’t be controlled.”
Maggie was checked by a vet and no fractures or punctures were found. She is sore but expected to make a full recovery.
The vet bill was $310, but Parsons said she won’t try to have it paid by the dog owner for fear of retribution.
But she is fighting back. She posted her experience on social media and many people responded with similar experiences. Some suggest she walk with bear spray or an air horn.
“I’ve changed our walking route again and I’m considering an air horn,” said Parsons. “I love my dogs and I’ve always loved walking them.
“Now I’m just fed up.”