Heartbroken and still grieving, Wanda Webster stood before the County of Stettler Council on Wednesday, Oct. 8, and spoke passionately about what she believes are faulty, loose dog bylaws in the county.
She appeared with her daughter, Brandy Vasseur, to make the plea, which comes after the vicious attack, mauling and killing of the family pet, Hershey.
The eight-year-old chocolate lab was mauled by two loose pit bulls on Sept. 15, eventually dying of its wounds in the family’s yard, south of the Stettler airport.
That these two dogs were returned to the owner the following day was “absolutely unacceptable,” Webster said.
However, she acknowledged the county’s bylaw allowed for the action – the only recourse for her was to see the bylaw change.
“I know I cannot prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, but we can prevent animals like this from going back into our community,” Webster said to council. “This needs to be changed, not only to protect other animals, but to protect human beings.”
When Webster found Hershey on Sept. 15, she immediately called the veterinarian, who came out right away.
There was no hope for the beloved family pet. His ribcage had been crushed.
“He’s part of the family,” Webster said, after the meeting. “He didn’t deserve to go like that. He deserved to live to his old age.”
She said the dog was as old as her oldest grandchild, and that the whole family is grieving the loss of the wonderful family pet.
“We called him our gentle giant.”
What is even more terrifying for Webster, though, is that her grandchildren were supposed to be at the farm the day Hershey was killed.
Webster said she is convinced the two dogs that killed Hershey will strike again.
“They’ve tasted blood,” she said. “Once an animal has killed, they can easily kill again.”
The current bylaw allows the owner of a non-violent pet to pick it up the next day, and the animal to be held for up to seven days.
The current contractor used by the county is Red Deer Animal Services, which came and took the two pit bulls, only to release them the next day.
The owners are due in court on Oct. 23, where a judge shall decide if the animals are vicious.
When an animal harms or kills a person, they are immediately deemed vicious and held by animal control for observation and not returned to the owner. Its fate is decided by the courts.
When an animal harms another animal, the animal can be released the next day, rather than waiting for the ruling.
That’s what Webster said she wants to see changed. After perusing the bylaws of neighbouring communities, she presented a bylaw option to county that would see hounds held at owners’ expense until the courts decide the fate of the dog. At that time it would either be released to the owner or destroyed.
The owners of the two pit bulls in this case could face fines of up to $5,000, which will also be decided at court.