By Laura Keil
A Valemount teacher who was attacked by a dog on her way to school says the experience has left her wounded, skittish and feeling hopeless, and she now carries bear spray on her morning commute.
On November 24th, PE teacher May Ghalib was walking along a dirt trail along John Osadchuk park when she noticed two dogs, a boxer-mix and a husky.
The boxer spotted her and charged, knocking her to the ground. It dragged her by her snow pants a short distance and then tore into her left thigh and buttocks. She screamed and it disappeared with the husky into the forest.
Two witnesses saw the attack and helped Ghalib to her feet. She was treated at the Valemount clinic for two bites, including a deep cut. The pain left her limping for a week and one cut got infected so she had to go on antibiotics.
She said the experience traumatized her so much, it took her over a week to trust her own dog again.
After reporting the incident, she was told by the RCMP and the Village that nothing could be done about the attack due to lack of evidence of the dog’s owner (It ran off and was not wearing a collar).
But after sharing her story with others, she concluded this isn’t the first time a dog matching the description has gone on the attack.
She now keeps her phone out on video mode as she walks to school.
“I’m so terrified of walking, and I walk every day to school, back and forth, the same route. And I see kids walking there all the time. I’m walking with my phone, and bear spray and I’m just, I’m terrified.”
She hopes her story can push for an animal control officer in the community to deal with all the off-leash dogs.
“I see parents, moms, with little baby strollers, and I’m really worried for people like that. Or little kids that walk home, like Grade 1s that walk home from school. They shouldn’t be afraid to walk home.”
Village CAO Wayne Robinson said the Village’s bylaw services are working with the RCMP on this particular incident, but they were unable to confirm the identity of the dog.
The Village has a bylaw enforcement officer but is currently without an animal control officer. Robinson said the RCMP also have the ability to enforce Village bylaws, including animal control bylaw provisions.
“Village staff work closely with the RCMP on a variety of items and will open the (Village) pound—despite the absence of animal control services—should the police seize an animal that is involved in a situation like this, or requires sheltering due to vehicle accidents or emergencies like a house fire.”
Cpl. Jake Joslin of the Valemount RCMP said they are not equipped to apprehend dangerous animals. They can issue tickets to dog owners, but they would not be able to take a dog away without the help of an animal control officer.
Village hiring for animal control
Robinson says the Village of Valemount is currently advertising for an on-call animal control officer. The posting closes on December 18th and the full job description can be viewed on the Village website.
“We hope to award the contract early in the new year,” he said.
He said the position will likely not be a busy one.
“We often go a week (or longer) without an animal control call.”
The contractor will have set daytime hours, and won’t have to respond 24 hours a day. The Village will also provide all needed supplies, reimbursement for liability insurance, a cell phone, and will handle most of the bylaw enforcement measures, Robinson said.
“The contractor’s main role will be to pick up animals on the loose (complaint-based), work with the RCMP/bylaw staff regarding dangerous dog calls, care for animals in the pound, and liaise with Robson Valley Spay and Neuter Society/SPCA.”
He said the contract would be perfect for a retiree who loves animals, or someone who can respond to calls throughout the day.
Once the animal control contractor is hired, anyone who encounters a dangerous dog or pets on the loose can contact the contractor instead of the
RCMP, but if it’s a situation more severe than a nip, Robinson said the person involved or a bystander should immediately call 911.
He notes pet owners whose animals leave their property and bite or attack another pet or person can face fines and personal liability.
“As pet owners, we all have a responsibility to keep other people safe and that means keeping your pet under control at all times, whether that be on a leash, or in a fenced/secured area. There is no excuse for anyone to allow their pets to roam freely.”
Mayor Owen Torgerson urges residents to license their animals through the Village and says he wishes the victim of the attack a speedy recovery.
See related story by student reporter: Boxer-mix dog attacks teacher on way to school.