Five sheep are dead and three others — pregnant ewes due to deliver in three weeks — are fighting for their lives after allegedly being attacked by a pack of marauding pit bulls in Hilliers last week.
The owner of the sheep is concerned children in the area are also at risk of attack.
One of the dead sheep — its name was Shirley — was raised as a pet by Amber Dawes’ son Taylor. The dogs, who live across the Alberni Highway from the Dawes farm, killed Shirley and four other sheep on Thursday, Taylor’s seventh birthday.
“They (the dogs) killed her on his birthday,” said Dawes. “They ripped her apart — she was the first to go.”
Dawes offered some photos of the carnage, but The NEWS determined they were too graphic for these pages.
“They (the dogs) chased them (the sheep) through the field and left a string of bodies,” said Dawes. “These dogs need to be put down.”
Dawes said she has been in contact with Oceanside RCMP, the SPCA and animal control. She also said this isn’t the first time dogs have come on to her property and attacked her animals. A number of quail were killed by dogs a few months ago.
“They (the quail) were my kids’ pets,” she said. “They (the dogs) had to chew through heavy-duty plastic to get to them (the quail).”
Dawes said she was under the impression the federal Livestock Protection Act allows for domestic farm animal owners to shoot dogs who come on to their property and are attacking their livestock.
“I don’t want to shoot the dogs, I love dogs, but it will be a kid next,” she said, adding that children must walk past the property containing the dogs every day to and from the school bus.
Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman confirmed Tuesday police are investigating the incident involving Dawes’ dead sheep. He also said vicious dog situations are handled at the local government level, in this case the Regional District of Nanaimo. As for the Livestock Protection Act, The NEWS was getting conflicting reports about its relevance in this situation.
The regional district and its contractor for animal control services is also investigating. There’s a process to follow that includes collecting statements and other evidence, and talking to the owners of allegedly dangerous dogs. The RDN’s manager of building and bylaw services, Tom Armet, said Tuesday provisions of the Community Charter do allow local governments to step into situations quickly, if required.
“When you have a serious situation occuring, the regional district can apply for a seizure warrant,” said Armet.
Dawes said she has operated kennels in the past and she said she believes bad owners are to blame for the bad acts of their dogs.
“But once they (dogs) are on something, you can’t stop them,” said Dawes. “There are bad ones (owners) that make everybody look bad.”
Other reports from the same rural neighbourhood by hobby farmers indicate there have been problems with dogs — and not only pit bulls — chasing and attacking livestock in the area for months. Hilliers is a small community about 10 km west of Qualicum Beach.