Fatal attack on Big Lake pet is proof positive
BIG LAKE—A Central Manitoulin family is mourning the loss of a beloved pet this week after a dog attack left their 11 year-old dog Max seriously injured, eventually resulting in his death and Dr. Mary Yett of Island Animal Hospital reminds Manitoulin pet owners that there are things you can do to avoid such tragedy.
Sixteen-year-old Rachel Hoffman reached out to The Expositor last week, wishing to share the story of her dog Max.
“Max is 11-years-old and he’s been with our family from the beginning,” Rachel wrote. “He’s been my best friend from the time I was five-years-old. And now he lies, unable to function, crying in pain—he’s fighting for his life. He’s the friendliest dog in the world. He probably just wanted to make friends with these neighbourhood dogs, but instead they almost left him for dead, throat torn open and many wounds all over his body. Today may be his last day with us.”
“I’m sitting here right now listening to my poor dog Max cry in pain,” Rachel continued. “He was attacked by two dogs on Monday in Big Lake while my grandmother was dog sitting him for us. I ask that you consider making this a story in The Expositor as this isn’t the first time he’s been attacked by these dogs, which were left unattended and off leash. I think it would be a great way to not only spread awareness of the importance of keeping our dogs properly secured, supervised or not, and also to tell Max’s story.”
Suzanne Hoffman, Rachel’s mother, spoke with The Expositor last Wednesday, two days after the vicious attack. She explained that Max the dog was staying with her mother, Ruby Lavigne of Big Lake, at the time of the confrontation when she was driving home from Newcastle on Monday.
At approximately noon on Monday, March 31, Ms. Lavigne let the dog outside to “do its business” and became distracted with chores around the house. Ms. Hoffman explained that Max, a mild mannered mixed breed dog (with 17 tricks in his repertoire), did not need to be tied up.
When she realized that Max was still outside, she went to the door to call him, but the dog, which doesn’t normally stray from the property, was nowhere to be seen. Ms. Lavigne left the house to search for Max and saw him pulling himself up the driveway, unable to walk. What appeared to be two neighbourhood dogs were following after him but were scared off by Ms. Lavigne. The ground around the mailbox was also stained red with the dog’s blood.
“My mother called to him, urging him to keep coming,” Ms. Hoffman explained. “She told him she couldn’t carry him and that he would have to be strong and make it to the door.”
Ms. Lavigne called her friends who came to pick her and Max up and immediately took the dog to the Island Animal Hospital in Mindemoya.
Ms. Hoffman explained that Dr. Yett could see right away that the dog was badly injured, but didn’t know the extent of the injuries as Max had gone into shock. The veterinarian had to wait until the dog was stabilized until she could begin the emergency surgery required.
“The dogs had torn his throat from one shoulder to the other and had begun chewing on his bone,” Ms. Hoffman said, emotion in her voice. “It was a huge decision to make, because of his age,” she said of the decision to not euthanize the pet.
“It was so hard to make the decision, he’s one of our loved ones,” she added.
Ms. Hoffman said that this was not an isolated incident. In November 2012, what she believes to be the same two dogs had an altercation with Max, this time on Ms. Lavigne’s property.
[pullquote]“I brought it to the owners’ attention at the time, but got a nothing response,” she said.[/pullquote]
Ms. Hoffman said she contacted the owners again the night of the attack, but they said that an eyewitness saw a total of four dogs, and not just three, and stated that it may not have been their dogs.
Max came home to rest following his surgery on Wednesday. “We haven’t slept all night—he cried the whole time,” she said. “I asked Max to give us a sign as to what to do. As soon as I got off the phone with Mary (Dr. Yett), the dog got up himself and onto the couch. He told us that he wanted to carry on.”
Ms. Hoffman said she spoke with Central Manitoulin CAO Ruth Frawley about the incident who explained that there was nothing they could do as the incident appeared to have occurred on the highway, but she did pass the matter on to the community’s bylaw enforcement officer.
Early Thursday morning, not 24 hours after Ms. Hoffman spoke with this reporter, Max passed away surrounded by his family.
“These dogs were trying to kill him,” Dr. Yett told The Expositor, having received Ms. Hoffman’s permission to speak to the press. “They bit him in the neck, shook him, trying to break his neck.”
Dr. Yett said Max received 12 bite wounds, six of which penetrated to the bone. An eight-inch gash “you could stick your fist through” ran the length of his neck. The dog’s wounds were also filled with road sand which, the veterinarian explained, is almost impossible to remove.
“He was such a nice dog,” she added.
That same day Dr. Yett also saw a shih tzu, which arrived at the clinic dead on arrival. He had also been attacked by dogs.
“The big part of this was that Max was not neutered and he smelled of testosterone,” she explained. “It’s a natural instinct for dogs to kill/and or drive away all of the ‘intact’ males. The shih tzu was also not neutered.
“I see it all the time,” the veterinarian continued. “There’s a real danger in this, for humans too who try to break up a dog fight, and spring breeding season is upon us.”
Dr. Yett said she sees between six and 10 cases each year of injured and dying dogs because their masters chose not to have them neutered. “I have seen four cases already this spring,” she added.
“It is very important to get your male dog neutered,” she continued. “Just having a sweet dog in the backyard is not any protection. I wish municipalities would enact the ‘don’t let your dog wander’ rule more too. Neuter your dogs and don’t let your dogs wander—avoid tragedy,” she said matter-of-factly.
[polldaddy poll=7953582]Constable Al Boyd, community services officer with the Manitoulin Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), said that OPP did respond to a call on March 31 about a dog attack in Big Lake.
“There were no witnesses to the actual dog attack and it took place off the property and on the highway,” he said. “Normally a case like this would fall under the Dog Liability Act which states under section 2 that ‘the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal.’ If the other two dogs were on the property, it would have been a clear cut case.”
“I don’t dispute that the dogs weren’t in an altercation, but because there were no witnesses and it didn’t take place on their property, it’s basically a civil matter between the two parties,” he added, noting that the officer investigating the case did speak to both of the owners about keeping their pets on a leash “and both parties agreed to keep their dogs tied up.”
The Expositor caught up with Ms. Hoffman again on Monday.
“If I had another dog, I’d have it neutered now,” she said. “Absolutely. I feel that this is a good thing for the public to know, I certainly didn’t know anything about that,” she said of not having Max neutered. “My next dog will definitely be neutered or fixed.”
“Even though Max was here and well behaved, it’s a really hard learning experience,” she added.
After posting her family’s plight on the Pets Reunited Facebook page, sharing that the veterinary bill as a result of the attack was over $2,000, the public has been coming forward to donate to the cause. Headed by Mindemoya’s Annette Pearson, who was moved by the story, as of Friday afternoon she had raised over $300 toward the Hoffman vet bill.
[pullquote]“I owe a great thank you to Annette and to people I don’t even know,” she said.[/pullquote]
Ms. Hoffman said the family is having a hard time with the loss of Max. Rachel missed three days of school last week, but the family is blessed with 11 years of fond memories of their dog, a yearly tail wagging and champion presence at the Central Manitoulin Public School Fall Fair.