La Pêche’s animal control officer says that aggressive dogs are becoming the norm in the Gatineau Hills and dog owners are “turning the other cheek,” to the growing problem.
Claude Lachaine of Anitek Animal Services says it’s “disturbing” how many calls he gets from residents who have either been attacked, chased, or aggressively stalked by off-leash dogs throughout the municipality. He said he has been dealing with aggressive dog calls at least once a week since the beginning of summer.
“I’m not a guy that exaggerates; these are my biggest cases these days – dogs trying to attack people,” Lachaine told the Low Down just minutes after taking a distressing call from a woman in Farrellton who was nearly attacked by an off-leash dog. “Aggressive dog behaviour is totally acceptable to locals now. Cottagers on weekends do contribute quite heavily. [Dog owners] blame other people for walking on the street and their dog is trying to attack them. This happens all the time.”
The woman in Farrellton was Stephanie Moore, who was admiring her garden Aug. 11 when an off-leash dog charged her from the road and began aggressively barking. Moore was in “panic mode” and froze as the dog ran towards her, growling and baring its teeth.
“All of a sudden I just hear the dog barking and I look up, and he is charging at me from the road into the yard, right at me,” said a shaken Moore. “I don’t know what kept me from moving, but I just stayed perfectly still; he came right up to my legs, teeth bared, drooling. If I had moved, I knew I would have gotten bit.”
Moore said the dog’s owner – a woman on a bike – called the dog back a few times in a “nonchalant” manner with no concern over the dog’s aggressive behaviour.
What worries Moore the most is that her three-year-old granddaughter lives on the property and often plays in the yard. She said that had the young girl been outside when the dog charged, it could have been dangerous.
“She would have run, and I have zero doubt this dog would have bitten her. And a three-year-old with this dog – they are getting seriously injured,” she said. “To me, it’s just that aggression is an acceptable behaviour and that’s what personally scares me. If that’s acceptable, to what point then do you become accountable for your dog? When they attack? When they actually do bite somebody?”
That happened to Ottawa resident Mary Raths on Aug. 14 as she was riding the Chelsea trail near the Gatineau River Yacht Club with her family. She said that around 4 p.m. she, her husband, and their 14-year-old son were riding past a pair of off-leash dogs when one of them lunged and bit her in the calf.
“I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” said Raths, who suffered a puncture wound from the dog bite.
“I would say we are dog people. We like dogs, we own dogs, we’re familiar with dogs. I could not believe that a dog would run up behind me and bite me quite deep on the calf.”
As Raths was tending to her wound, the second dog began lunging at her husband, and he was forced to defend himself by placing the bike between himself and the dog. The dogs eventually ran off towards a nearby home, but while reporting the incident to MRC des Collines Police, Raths noticed more dogs stalking her family.
“We looked back up the path, and there were in fact four dogs watching us, which was very disturbing,” she said. “This is now a pack of dogs and no owner in sight.”
The dogs eventually left the area when police arrived. The dog owners were fined and will have to undergo obedience training for their canine.
Two young boys in La Pêche were bitten by dogs within a week of each other in late May and were treated in hospital for their wounds.
If you encounter an aggressive dog in La Pêche, you are urged to call Anitek Animal Services at 819-431-9904. If you’re in Chelsea, contact the SPCA or the MRC des Collines Police if you are in danger.