Another alpaca has died in Errington after being brutally torn apart and left to die. The owner suspects a dog — or pack of dogs — roaming freely in the neighbourhood.
Skye Donald said she returned to her 13-acre property in Errington Thursday afternoon to find her oldest, alpha-female alpaca slaughtered.
"I saw something on the ground that was white, got my binoculars and just had a feeling," she told The NEWS. "During the brief time we weren't at home the dog(s) must have come in (to my property) — we saw paw prints."
Donald now has 19 alpacas — one less than last week — nine sheep and chickens on her farm.
It's the second casualty for Donald, who lost an alpaca last year in a similar situation. "These are dogs — they don't kill the animal before eating it," she said. Donald said dogs killing livestock is emotional, stressful and, unfortunately, not an uncommon story in the area. And now she's calling for change.
"I'd like to see some kind of municipal discussion on this. Let's have a community forum run by the Regional District of Nanaimo to discuss this."
Donald admits the Area F community, which includes Coombs, Errington, Hilliers, Whiskey Creek and Meadowood, has long advocated for less rules than more — but now it might be time to change that.
“Is our freedom from rules more important than our freedom to keep livestock?” she asked. “If the community thinks it’s time for a bylaw, let’s get that going.”
Donald said she wants to have a conversation about the implementation of some kind of animal control bylaw that would make ‘dogs at large’ an offense.
She said this may require dog licensing, but right now there is no bylaw against dogs roaming freely.
RDN director Julian Fell, who represents the community, called the ongoing issue “a headache.”
Fell said it’s almost impossible to deal with dogs because of the precedents.
“The way the law is at the moment a farmer has to catch the dog in the act of actually attacking their livestock, which is very hard to do,” he explained, adding “there’s also a frustration with identifying the dog itself because a lot of them look alike and tend to bolt when chased and don’t come with licence plates … unless you can identify a dog it’s hard to take action.”
Fell said “dogs by nature are predatory and livestock by nature are prey.”
But he said the power lays at the provincial level.
“The province calls the shots and local government can only do what they allow us to do,” said Fell. “It’s a B.C.-wide issue and livestock producers in the Cariboo are just as upset.”
Fell said the RDN is fully aware of the frustrations of residents “but it always goes back to provincial legislation.”
Optimistically, he said RDN staff have been in conversation with the province about changing legislation to better protect farmers.
Janet Thoney, president of the Coombs Farmers’ Institute, sits on the Agricultural Advisory Committee.
She says Donald’s story is “infuriating. This isn’t a one-off event,” she said sympathetically. “We deal with this on a daily basis.”
Thoney called the problem “complex,” but said regulations are under review and farmers, like herself, are providing input on behalf of their communities.
“Our constant message we are giving all legislative bodies is that the laws seem to put the onus for remedy on the livestock owner, not dog owner, and we’re asking that anytime they look at reviewing or rewriting legislation that focus be changed,” she explained.
“The responsibly has to be put on the dog owner, not the livestock owner to build better fences or have better management practices or to run out and take photos of offending dogs, that’s all putting the burden on the livestock owner.”
Thoney said she couldn’t speak to what kind of changes are in the works right now, but remains hopeful that farmers like Donald will one day have legislation that protects their livestock and livelihood.