By: Korie Marshall
Nicola Redpath runs the Prince George Equine and Animal Rescue. She normally deals with horses, but when the SPCA said they couldn’t take Max, Zeus, Rango, Nova and Timber, she agreed to take the German shepherds in. She thought it would only be about a week, but now, she is looking for some foster homes for some of the dogs until the courts decide what to do with them.
The dogs were seized after a shoot-out with police near Kinbasket Reservoir. The shoot-out left John Robert Buehler dead and his daughter Shanna injured with multiple gunshot wounds.
Redpath says she’s had the five dogs since Sept. 18th. A Conservation officer brought them in, tranquilized, and in a bear trap. She says the SPCA had refused the dogs, because they are not equipped to handle what police deemed to be aggressive dogs, and do not have the space for them long term. She thinks the dogs would have been shot on-site if she hadn’t agreed to take them.
Redpath is still concerned the courts may want to put the dogs down, so she had a professional come in to assess each of them. She is not certified as far as dogs go – her expertise is in horses – so she had Shawn Murray from Avalon Ranch come out. She says Murray agreed the dogs are capable of being re-homed; there is just one dog that is more timid and would need an experienced handler. Redpath says she is choosing to be an advocate for these dogs, to make sure they are not destroyed.
“We have one of them in the house all the time, he is excellent with the kids, we don’t worry about him at all.” She says they are really quite wonderful and very affectionate, and four of them are not what she would consider dangerous. She says the fifth, Zeus, is quite sweet and amazingly well trained but would need to go to an experienced foster home.
She says the dogs are still a bit thin, but are gaining weight, and the public has been really helpful with donating food, dog beds and other items. She can keep two of them longer term, but she is not really equipped to keep them all. She’s never dealt with seized dogs before, though she has worked with the SPCA and gone in with RCMP to remove horses and other large animals.
“With these specific dogs you can’t have them running as a pack. Some of them are aggressive towards each other, so they have some very specific needs that we’re not set up for,” says Redpath.
Redpath is waiting to hear if the female dog, Nova, can be released. She’d been told that might happen, and she is waiting for word from the Crown, though she’s already been contacted by relatives of Buehler about coming to pick her up.
“Nova is fine at the moment where she is, but I am sure she’d be much happier with people she knows,” said Redpath. “The other thing I was hoping to have information on is – are they going to have restrictions? Is she going to be spayed?” Redpath says the males are also all in-tact, which is another reason they have so much aggression against each other.
In Valemount Court on Oct. 9th, a number of matters for John Robert Buehler were on the docket, including a number of weapons charges, obstructing a peace officer, break and enter, mischief, breach of undertaking and an application for the return of seized items. Most of the items could not be dealt with because the paperwork to confirm Buehler’s death had not been filed yet, but Crown Prosecutor Geoff McDonald wanted to deal with seized weapons.
Judge M. Brecknell said he was not comfortable making a decision on items if the ownership is in question, as Buehler’s estate had likely not yet been finalized.
“He is not here to speak for himself,” said Judge Brecknell.
Shawn Buckley told the Court he is council for Buehler’s daughter, Shanna Buehler, who is still in hospital recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, though she was recently released from ICU. He says he does not know what Shanna wants or can take, and does not have a list of the guns seized, but he believes he will be prepared to address the issue on Jan 8th.
Another issue the Crown wanted to deal with is the female German shepherd, named Nova, which McDonald says is not needed for the investigation. Judge Brecknell agreed to issue an order to have Nova released to Shanna or a relative.
John Buehler allegedly used the six dogs against the RCMP in a stand-off in June. After that incident, the four male dogs were temporarily housed at the Robson Valley Pet Hostel, owned by Ann Schwartz. Schwartz says she and Redpath are both concerned about the sixth dog – Redpath says she was told it ran into the bush, and the Conservation officer was not able to find it.
At least one local resident believes the dogs should be humanely put down.
“I believe they are ruined and should never be trusted around people again. And that stinks, but I love people more than I love dogs,” said Wayne Brown. He says he is surprised the dogs were not destroyed as a result of the first standoff. “They posed an immediate threat to our police, and apparently, the public.”
“To me, pets are friendly, tail wagging, ‘happy to see you’ kind of creatures – fun to be around, and a threat to no one,” said Brown. “My understanding of the behaviour of those particular German shepherd dogs puts them in a different classification. And that’s unfortunate for the dogs.”
“But these dogs have have displayed aggression toward humans,” said Brown. “That’s a no-go with me.”