According to a story by Neil Horner in the PQB News (presumably to be printed in Friday’s edition of the paper), two Errington dogs visiting a Qualicum Beach location attacked a woman and her small dog while they were out for a walk. The town is now seeking to have the dogs seized and destroyed.
It’s hard to comment on stories like this without more information. I would really like to speak with the owner of the border collie-crosses involved in the attack, and I would like to speak to the victim. I doubt there is anyway to find out who these folks are, but if you happen to know them, please let them know that I’m interested in getting their side of the story so that I can write an article on the subject.
I like animals. Love them, even (and I don’t just mean I love them roasted with gravy!) We have 24 alpacas, 11 sheep, 2 dogs, 3 cats, and over 40 chickens here on the farm. Because we’re farmers, I’m concerned about wildlife, feral and domestic animals running free. Right now, we have a large white bunny living under the holly bushes in our front yard. He’s not a wild rabbit. I suspect that he’s pet bunny that has been dumped here or escaped from his home. I’d like to find a way to deal with him before he gets hit by a car, attacked by a dog or becomes a problem by burrowing or eating plants in our garden. This past spring, we had to deal with a small flock of ravens (about six) that took up residency in our pasture. Ravens are known to preyon newborn lambs, so it was very worrisome to have them about. We’re not keen on them getting into the hen house to steal eggs, either. We’re always worried about cougars, bears and neighbourhood dogs. In 2010, one of our immediate neighbours lost sheep to a cougar and another lost sheep to two dogs that got into their barn and savaged the sheep.
When I mention my worry over the dogs and the ravens, I often get told, “That’s why you’re supposed to have a gun”. Great. I don’t disagree: as farmer’s we probably should have a firearm on the property to deal with problems (although that is a whole other blog), but I don’t want to have to deal with potential threats in such a manner. Shooting a dog that is in the act of attacking my animals is one thing. Shooting one that has wandered onto the property and has the potential to do so is another one entirely. The same goes for the ravens. Never mind the legality. Call me a softy, but I like animals. I want to be able to find reasonable and ethical ways to deal with the problems that they cause, like the gang elk that trample through corn fields, the gaggles of geese that pull up seedlings, and the feral rabbits that dig holes in our fields.
Earlier today I spoke with another Errington resident that is very concerned about her neighbour’s dog. This week she called the SPCA in frustration. The dogs bark incessantly (not uncommon, but that’s why we live rurally, right?), puts its head through the fence to snarl at her dog, and chases after rabbits, cats and even dogs in the back of trucks. The SPCA directed her to Coastal Animal Control, who basically told her there was nothing that could be done. She knew that, but she wanted to know who to call when the dog needed to be scraped off the street after it chases a rabbit into traffic again. She doesn’t blame the dog. She blames the owner. Sadly, in the end, it is the dog that will pay.
I’m not sure where exactly I fall on the “animal control” spectrum. I think it is time to have the conversation as a community about how our complete lack of animal management guidelines affects our desire to support sustainable agriculture. As we grow, as we subdivide, as our population density increases, we’re going to have to find ways to deal with disputes between neighbours. The reality of the world that we live in today is that we no longer have strong neighbourly bonds: we don’t rely on one another the same way we did in past generations. While it sucks to think that we might need rules in place to make up for this missing connection, it may be the route we need to go. That said, as I look over the list of things you can be fined for in Nanaimo, I am so very, very glad I live in Errington.
As for the dogs in this story? I can’t pass judgement without more information. Was this a one-off, freak event, unlikely to ever be repeated, or do these dogs pose a threat to anyone that happens to walk by when they’re off leash? Given that they live out here in Errington, is this something I need to worry about? Are these dogs vicious enough to warrant destruction? It’s sad that animals have to be punished for what is quite possibly the negligence of their owner (again, hard to say without more information), but this might end up being the only reasonable way to deal with this specific incident.
I’m ready for a conversation on animal management in our community. Are you?