The parents of a five-year-old girl who was attacked by two dogs in Winnipeg’s North End last month say their daughter is still dealing with the emotional effects of the attack and the fines against the owner aren’t enough.
Gregory Ducharme was walking his daughter Semiah home from kindergarten on April 23 when two dogs that live across the back lane from the family came through an open gate and grabbed her.
“It all happened so fast,” said Ducharme. “Both of them were just rushing at her.”
The girl suffered cuts to her chest, underarm, jaw, ears and the top of her head. She was taken to hospital, and received dozens of stitches and surgery to reattach her ear.
The dogs’ owners have been fined $350 under the Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw, the city said, for failing to prevent their dogs from injuring the girl. They’ve also been handed two $250 fines for not having licences for the animals.
Ducharme and his wife, Lolanda, said that doesn’t seem fair, given the fine for not picking up a dog’s waste is $400, according to the city’s online fine list.
“It’s insulting,” he said.
Fate of dogs unknown
In addition to the fines, a hearing was held with the owners to determine what should happen to the dogs. Due to privacy reasons, the city said the outcome of the hearing will not be made public unless the owners appeal the decision.
If the dogs earned an “exceptionally dangerous” designation by the city, and the owner appeals the decision, the matter will be heard at the standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks.
Both the decision and appeal would then become public, the city said.
Lolanda said she was told by the city that the dogs’ owners plan to appeal.
The Ducharme family says they haven’t seen the dogs in the owners’ yard recently, but don’t know if the dogs will return.
CBC News spoke with the dogs’ owners after the April 23 attack, but the mother and son did not want to be interviewed.
They said the dogs are American bulldog-border collie mixes and had never shown aggression before. The owners insisted someone had left their gate open. The son said he didn’t want to see his 1½-year-old dogs put down, and expressed remorse.
Lolanda said it’s unfair the family doesn’t get to know the outcome of the city’s decision and thinks the owners shouldn’t be allowed to have more dogs.
Toys and cards delivered
After the initial story of the attack was published, several people reached out to CBC News, wanting to send messages of support to Semiah.
Cards and gifts were dropped off at the CBC’s building on Portage Avenue that were delivered to the family.
“It feels nice knowing that other people are trying to show her support and help her get through this,” said Lolanda.
“Thank you for everything. Everything helps. She really enjoys her presents,” said Gregory.
Semiah is recovering at home, but her mother says she has noticed some changes in her behaviour.
“She seems more angry,” said Lolanda. “She seems angry towards us and her siblings.”
They say she doesn’t remember most of the attack, but knows it was the dogs that hurt her.
“She’s really scared of dogs, hearing dogs in the neighbourhood barking,” said Gregory.
“She always wants our gate shut. She doesn’t want to go far from us, even in our yard,” said Lolanda.
Her parents hope to get her into counselling to help her deal with emotional stress.
The girl has not yet returned to school as the family is waiting for a followup appointment to see how she’s healing before sending her back.
When her daughter does go back, Lolanda said, she’ll take a different route.
“She’s terrified to walk by the back lane,” said Lolanda.
“She either wants them to move or us to move.”