City of Whitehorse impounds dog allegedly involved in attack in Riverdale neighbourhood

A dog that recently became the subject of social media furor was impounded by the City of Whitehorse on Thursday.

Speaking to CBC’s Yukon Morning on Friday, city bylaw manager Ryan Leef said officers responded to a complaint on Main Street, where they observed a “dog and dog interaction.”

Leef said the dog they impounded had bitten another. He confirmed the animal was the same one involved in an alleged altercation in the Riverdale neighbourhood in late July, which the city said it is investigating. 

“Given the fact that the dog was involved in more recent incidents and an ongoing investigation … because of the frequency of it, that was serious enough to impound [the dog],” Leef said.

Other reasons for the seizure included the severity of previous alleged incidents, the owner’s ability to control their pet and other steps to minimize future risk, he said.

‘Lucky to be alive’ 

Riverdale resident Sharon Young was a party in that prior incident. Young said she was walking her dog Cinnabun when she crossed paths with a man holding the leash of a large dog. 

Young said without provocation, the larger dog lunged at hers. She said during the attack, the larger dog’s owner let go of the leash as it bit Cinnabun, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that fits easily in her owner’s arms.

“I can’t get the image of that dog shaking my tiny dog in its mouth out of my head,” Young said. “I’m still having nightmares about it.”

Cinnabun suffered puncture wounds and two broken ribs. Young said the veterinarian bills totalled close to $1,000, and the vet told her it could have been worse.

“She said, ‘Your dog is lucky to be alive’,” Young said.

Because bylaw officers impounded the dog downtown and their vehicles were on scene, Leef said the city predicted “a fair bit” of public interest would be generated. A public service announcement followed.

“It’s garnered a fair bit of public and media attention and social media attention, so we felt it was prudent for us to get out front of this, provide a public service announcement to the citizens of Whitehorse just to let them know what was going on,” Leef said.

The city said it would not comment on the specifics of an active investigation but assured such matters were being taken seriously.

But as the Riverdale incident circulated online, numerous people questioned the city’s statement.

Alleged previous attack

Whitehorse resident Betty Kociuk recalled being at the dog park with her Boxer Mr. Bones in 2020 when she says she passed by the same dog that attacked Cinnabun.

Kociuk said the dog mauled hers. While trying to defend him, Kociuk said her arm was slit open — Mr. Bones had worse injuries. 

“He had stitches all over his body. He was shaved all over. It was horrible. They had to keep him overnight, if I remember correctly, because he was in such bad shape,” she said.

The vet bills cost more $1,000, Kociuk said, adding she complained to the city at the time.

“I phoned bylaw and they said they’d make note of it. And I said, ‘Is that all you’re gonna do? Who’s gonna pay for my bills?’ And they said they didn’t know and I never heard back from them,” she said.

Betty Kociuk says her dog Mr. Bones was also attacked in 2020. ‘He had stitches all over his body,’ she said. (Submitted by Betty Kociuk)

Leef acknowledged that many members of the public wanted to see immediate action taken with the dog in question. However, he said that the right process needs to be followed.

“We can’t simply take a dog. In this case, we had the authority to do so for public safety and to prevent what was a continuing offence at the time. But there are limitations of actions that we have to work under,” he said.

Young has shared emails from the city regarding the alleged attack on Cinnabun with CBC News. 

One dated July 28 said the owner of the other dog had been charged for two offences, including biting her dog. 

It also says the city will ask for restitution for vet bills and that the owner has been served a letter warning that the dog could be declared dangerous. If that were to happen, some restrictions may be ordered as per the city’s bylaw, such as muzzle and leash requirements, neutering and insurance.

Young said she will continue to press the city for answers and to hold dog owners accountable.

From now on, walks with Cinnabun will look a lot different.

“I will not let any other dogs approach her, that’s for sure. Because now I think I have PTSD,” she said.

“I grew up in what I think is the friendliest, best neighbourhood in the world and I would like to help remove the sense of danger and fear off the streets.”

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