An Ahousaht elder suffered painful injuries after a dog on a long leash attacked her as she was walking to visit her granddaughter at work on Dec. 8.
The attack on Lily Webster prompted Ha’wilth Hanuquii (Nathan Charlie) to issue a public statement. After conferring with both hereditary and elected chiefs Hanuquii warned the people via social media.
“Dogs that are aggressive or on the loose will be dealt with, either by the Care Network or (will) be put down,” he stated.
Hanuquii went on to say that roaming, aggressive dogs are a safety issue for the entire community. He said there were too many dogs on the loose and people need to tie their dogs up before some gets seriously hurt.
The dog that attacked Webster was tied up, but the leash was long.
“I was doing my daily walk and I thought I’d better go see my granddaughter, see if she needed help. I was just about there when the attack happened,” Webster shared.
She said she wasn’t really paying attention to her surroundings when the dog lunged at her, biting her upper arm, almost knocking her over.
“I was so scared, I just froze,” she recalled.
Webster said she was lucky that two Ahousaht men came to her rescue; one drove her to the clinic in Ahousaht.
Lily’s arm was bruised, swollen, and had puncture wounds which required cleaning and stitching. She was taken to Tofino General Hospital for x-rays and received a tetanus shot and prescription medication.
The owner of the dog apologized to Lily, offering to help her in any possible. The owner stated that the dog was put outside on a leash for a short time while they went to clean up a mess the dog made. But the leash was too long.
“I love walking...and I have no choice,” said Wester, adding that all she can do is protect herself.
She believes that dogs need to be tied up at their own homes or wear muzzles.
Ahousaht has a comprehensive animal control bylaw, and they work with a local animal welfare organization based in Tofino.
But Hanuquii believes the animal control bylaw is not working because there is no officer to enforce it. One of the laws is one dog per household, but Hanuquii said he wouldn’t be surprised if the dogs outnumber the people.
“There’s a couple of packs that roam around that are dangerous, it’s hard to walk around the reserve,” he noted.
In addition to scaring people, family pets are being mauled by loose dog packs.
“One pack follows the kids to school and it’s natural for them to be protective…they get aggressive. It’s not the dog’s fault, it’s the owner’s fault,” said Hanuquii.
Hanuquii has consulted with other Ahousaht Ha’wiih and they concur that the problem needs to be dealt with. CARE Network has been working with Ahousaht and has offered to come and take free-roaming dogs to be rehomed. They’ve also offered spaying and neutering clinics in the future.
Charlie feels for his Gramma Lil and doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt. He issued a public statement on social media reminding people to tie their dogs up or they will be taken away. He is grateful for the work that CARE Network does and says they will take surrendered dogs. But he warned that any dog that bites a human will be immediately put down.
“We need to get this under control,” he added.
“We can have dogs…they just need to be loved and treated like a family member, not just be put outside,” said Hanuquii.
He said leadership is doing the best that they can without angering people and he is grateful that he’s received mostly supportive feedback on his posts.
He asked everyone to be part of the solution.
“Remember this is a safety issue. If you can’t watch a dog don’t take a dog. We shouldn’t have to walk in fear,” said Hanuquii.