MLA decries ‘inaction’ in Hilliers

No action has been taken by the Regional District of Nanaimo against the owners of dogs who have been allegedly killing livestock

Two weeks after the slaughter of five sheep in Hilliers, a Regional District of Nanaimo official says a decision to seize pit bulls accused in the killings has not been made because positive identification of the dogs in question has been elusive.

That comes as a surprise to Amber Dawes, the owner of the dead sheep.

“They got us to ID pictures of the dogs and they have distinctive markings,” said Dawes. “We’re not getting any answers from the RDN. Hopefully we will hear something soon. It would be nice to know if they are going to do something.”

Dawes was asked if the dogs she saw chasing her sheep, and the ones who killed her quail some weeks previous, could be a breed other than pit bulls.

“Oh, God no, they are pit bulls,” said Dawes, who has operated a dog kennel in the past.

It seems everyone in the area knows where the alleged attack dogs live, which makes Dawes wonder why the RDN has not acted.

She said she wonders if it’s because the dogs are in a new enclosure.

“Nothing is 100 per cent foolproof and these are dangerous dogs,” said Dawes. “And this (the alleged slaughter of the sheep) was not their first offence.”

The RDN’s director bylaw services, Tom Armet, told The NEWS this remains an active investigation.

“We’d like to see these dogs off the street, but we have to do it properly,” said Armet. “We’ve been having some challenges with identifying the dogs that did the attack. We can’t go in (to court) and make something up and ask the court to destroy some dogs. We are working hard on it.”

Armet confirmed things have changed at the property where the dogs that are suspected of doing the attacks live.

“I don’t want to suggest this (the attack on the sheep) was a one-time event,” said Armet. “But the apparent dog owners have taken steps in regards to the ability of the dogs to be at-large. There doesn’t seem to be any public safety concerns at this point.”

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser said Wednesday that while there are larger issues that need to be addressed in regards to legislation protecting livestock, he said the fact nothing has been done in relation to the deaths of the Dawes’ sheep more than two weeks ago is “unacceptable.”

“The only action we’ve seen so far is inaction,” said Fraser, who attended a meeting Tuesday night in the Hilliers area with local farmers and ranchers that he said lasted more than two hours and was also attended by RDN director Julian Fell.

“I can urge the RDN to look at this very seriously,” said Fraser. “Any reasonable interpretation of their (dangerous dogs) bylaw gives them jurisdiction to act.”

Fraser also said there are larger issues about the wording and interpretations of both the RDN bylaws and the provincial livestock act. While it seems it would be within a farmers’ rights to shoot dogs that are attacking their livestock, Fraser said he’s not sure that’s a good idea on the small farms of his constituency that are part of small communities like Hilliers.

“That (discharging a firearm) might work if you were in a remote farming area, but these (farms) are in our communities,” said Fraser. “It’s putting all the onus on the livestock owners, the farmers. In essence, it’s also pitting neighbour against neighbour.”