Dogs, politics, media, and more

And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground,
no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws,
his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death. -- George Graham Vest

Dog Bite Related Fatalities in Canada (January 1983 to February 2012)

As promised, here is a list of all human deaths caused by dogs in Canada since 1983. As of February 29, 2012, there were 35 attacks resulting in 36 deaths.

I have chosen not to provide the original spreadsheet. Instead, I have reformatted it into an easy-to-read, web-friendly list.

Please read and understand the following few paragraphs before reading the list.

Regardless of the fact that I have included breed in the list, it is crucial to understand two things:

First, breed identification is ALWAYS suspect. Breed information may be supplied by the owners of the dog, by the victims, by animal control personnel, by police officers, by neighbours, or by members of the media. It is NEVER reliable.

Second, even if breed identifications were accurate, the breed is far less important than the circumstances.

Here’s an example:

The majority of these attacks are blamed on “huskies” or “sled dogs”. So is any dog up north that has some husky characteristics going to be called a husky? In addition, the term “sled dog” (and “farm dog” in an early incident) is a description of function, not breed, so those dogs could literally be anything that can pull a sled.

When you consider that a large number of these attacks occurred in northern communities with little or no animal control, sometimes on First Nations reserves, is it surprising that the dogs involved are northern types of dogs?

As you read through these accounts, it should become apparent that breed is not the issue. Circumstance is the key. Children not supervised. Dogs running loose or breaking loose. Dogs chained in areas where wandering children could enter. Dog/child interactions not supervised.

These things are what caused the deaths of the children in particular, not what type of dog was involved.

Here is the list updated as of February 29, 2012:

Mar 1983. Edmonton AB. 3-year-old boy. 2 Farm dogs. Free roaming dogs attacked boy near his home.

Apr 1987. Vernon BC. 5-year-old girl. 1 German Shepherd X. Girl went to play with grandmother’s chained dog.

Jun 1988. QU. 17-month-old boy. 1 German Shepherd. Wandered over to neighbour’s dog.

Apr 1990. ON. Newborn girl. 1 Chow Chow. Family dog overturned bassinet.

Jul 1993. NWT. 6-year-old girl. 1 Sled dog. Tried to feed bone to tethered dogs.

Dec 1993. AB. 11-year-old girl. 5 Sled dogs. Attacked by loose dogs while walking home.

Sep 1994. ON. 17-month-old girl. 1 Maremma Sheepdog. Attacked when got between male dog & female dog in heat.

Aug 1995. ON. 22-year-old man. 2 American Staffordshire Terriers. Evidence indicated drunken roommate provoked dogs.

Dec 1995. SK. 6-year-old boy. 2 German Shepherds. Attacked while playing in yard by uncle’s dogs.

1996. Cross Lake MB. 3-year-old boy. 4 Strays. Killed on Cross Lake Reservation by stray dogs.

Sep 1997. SK. 3-year-old boy. 1 Sled dog (Husky/Shep X or Husky/Wolf X). Attacked in junk-filled yard by chained dog, loose puppies also in yard.

Nov 1997. ON. 3-year-old boy. 1 Rottweiler. Resident dog broke loose from chain and attacked boy.

Mar 1998. Iqaluit NU. 6-year-old girl. 4 Sled dogs. Wandered to dogs staked on sea ice.

Apr 29 1998. Stouffville ON. 8-year-old girl. 1 Bullmastiff. Attacked while playing in neighbour’s yard.

Aug 23 1998. Zacharias Island, Hopedale Labrador NF. 10-year-old boy and 44-year-old woman. 8 Sled dogs (Labrador/Husky X’s). Mother & son killed while picking blueberries on island where pack of sled dogs was left for summer.

Dec 21 1998. Cross Lake MB. 8-year-old boy. 6 Strays. Second child killed by stray dogs on Cross Lake Reservation.

Mar 1999. BC. 3-year-old girl. 1 Husky X. Attacked while playing in neighbour’s yard.

May 1999. Saint-Charles-de-Mandeville, Lanaudière QU. 2-year-old boy. 1 Husky. Victim tangled up in chain of one of 24 dogs kept in yard – cause of death was single bite to throat.

Jul 1999. NWT. 2-year-old boy. 1 Husky X. Attacked while with mother at grandfather’s home.

Nov 1999. Garden River AB. 6-year-old girl. Pack of dogs (4+). Girl playing with loose puppy, killed by pack of starving dogs (reservation).

Jan 27 2002. Woodland Beach ON. 4-year-old girl. 2 Labrador/Rottweiler X. Attacked in field by father’s dogs while visiting father’s home.

Mar 1 2003. Kingston Peninsula NB. 4-year-old boy. 3 Rottweilers. Visiting at home with father, killed in yard where 2 males and 1 female were kept.

Oct 13 2003. Nelson House MB. 3-year-old boy. 4 German Shepherd X. Killed by 4 of grandmother’s 15 dogs (chained and broke free) – playing with puppy – Cree Reservation.

Dec 27 2004. Maple Ridge BC. 3-year-old boy. 1 Border Collie, 3 Rottweilers. Killed by 2 of own dogs (Border Collie & Rottweiler) and 2 visiting Rottweilers while mother slept.

May 29 2006. Wellburn ON. 77-year-old man. 1 Jack Russell/Collie X, described by authorities as Pit Bull/Labrador Retriever X. Man “playfully” shoved wife – dog attacked him and bit throat.

Jun 15 2006. Sayisi Dene First Nation in Tadoule Lake MB. 3-year-old boy. 2 Husky X. Two loose-running dogs, NOT STRAYS, attacked child. Multiple unsupervised children.

Jul 27 2006. Hollow Water First Nation MB. 2-year-old boy. 2 Husky X. Unsupervised child wandered into group of loose and tethered dogs. 2 identified as killers (one loose, one tethered). Tethered dog part of sled team. 17-year old babysitter noticed child was missing one hour later. Uncle found child.

Nov 16 2006. North Tallcree First Nation (near Fort Vermilion) AB. 5-year-old boy. 1 Rottweiler, 1 German Shepherd X, 3 Unknown Breeds. Five loose-running dogs. Only two were found (both owned by same owner). Child unsupervised. Neighbours saw attack and tried to stop it.

Jan 18 2007. Cumberland House First Nation Reserve SK. 5-year-old boy. 6 Unknown Breeds, both large and small. One report describes dogs as strays, another as owned by a neighbour who let them run loose. Death from bites and hypothermia. Child unsupervised on way to school.

Jul 1 2007. Smiths Falls (Montague Township) ON. 17-month-old girl. 1 Rottweiler/German Shepherd X. 10 year old dog at grandparents’ house. Family visiting. Child wandered into backyard where dog was chained.

Jan 30 2010. Canoe Lake First Nation Reserve SK. 9-year-old boy. 4 Unknown breeds. 9 year old going to visit cousin’s house. Found dead.

Mar 22 2010. Pangnirtung NU. 4-year-old boy. 3 Huskies. Sled dogs described as huskies broke loose from chains while owner was out of town and attacked boy, Town coroner discovered dogs tearing body apart while he was driving past. He killed all three dogs. Boy was unsupervised.

Jun 7 2010. Saint-Barnabé-Sud (St. Hyacinthe) QU. 3-week-old girl. 2 Huskies. Baby in car seat in kitchen near balcony sliding doors (with dogs), parent(s) on balcony 10 ft away having cigarette. Dogs attacked baby. Third dog in crate with puppies!.

Aug 21 2011. Mosquito First Nation SK. 1-year-old girl. 2 Husky X. 1 year old wandered into dogs’ yard.

Feb 16 2012. Airdrie AB. Newborn boy. 1 Husky. Baby in crib, dog in crate in basement, baby cried, female dog got loose and killed baby (maybe trying to move it).

UPDATE Mar 2 2012: Changed Feb 16 2012 from “newborn girl” to “newborn boy”.

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8 Responses to “Dog Bite Related Fatalities in Canada (January 1983 to February 2012)”

  1. Selma said:

    I have a list going back to 1964 but it’s from KD who gets her info from news reports. I guess we all do since there’s no national database of this kind of info, for obvious reasons.

    I prefer to use ‘alleged ……… type’ overall, since most people are incapable of identifying most breed characteristics, nobody is verifying ‘breed’ type, nobody is verifying whether the dogs are purebred or not.

    And, in full agreement with you, I feel that the shape of the dog involved is the only factor that is completely unimportant to the tragic event.

  2. Dirk Emde said:

    Your point about sled dogs is well taken. I have used a couple of Dobermans to pull a sled, not sled dogs by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. Kat said:

    HI Steve,
    Thanks for the info. I only have one question for you; how did you compile your records? Is the spreadsheet taken from another source? I would simply caution that it is important to cite your sources so that we can provide a credible argument when discussing these, and other, statistics. As Selma mentioned above, the only other one I am aware of is KD’s list which can be found on the NCRC website. Hopefully, you can add your source as well, otherwise the BSL lobbyists will burn you at the stake for it and claim you are spreading myths! :) I myself typically refer back to our Canadian DBRF stats to show the inconsistency between what is actually happening in Canada in terms of dog attacks and what the media, and the Ontario government, has created in terms of a horror story. Thank you so much for your time and efforts!

  4. Karen said:

    Thank you so much for this article. I too would like the location of the reference articles I want to fight in my town where pits and pit types are always mid identified. And blamed in situations where those breeds were not even involved.

  5. Steve Barker said:

    Replying to both Kat and Karen.

    In early 2004, Karen Delise of the National Canine Research Council sent me a list of Canadian dog-bite-related fatalities that she had compiled up to the end of 2003. The list was not entirely complete, sometimes missing ages, names, and specifics. I then searched the Internet for as much of the missing information as I could find.

    From 2004 until today, I have compiled the list myself.

    The information has come from the following sources:

    1. Media. Although I am always suspect of media accuracy, there is a tendency in fatal cases, after a week or so, for most of the media to get most of the story correct. Obviously, breed is the most suspect part of the story, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Other than that, eventually most of the details iron themselves out as the media is able to speak to more people, especially police.

    2. Members of the Dog Legislation Council of Canada making phone calls to authorities to try to get more details. Naturally, these authorities are reluctant to talk to anyone, especially if there is the potential for charges to be laid. However, we do the best we can.

    3. In a couple of cases, we had people living in the areas who were able to get more information through the “local grapevine”, so to speak. In some cases, we were unable to publish all the information obtained because it placed significant blame on specific individuals but was not able to be unequivocally proven (for example, cases of drug or alcohol abuse at the time of the incident).

    I do NOT, for one second, believe that I have been able to get the whole story in each case. This is somewhat the nature of the tragedy. Nobody wants to talk and, in many cases, walls of silence (and local protection) are built around the families involved to understandably protect them from more emotional trauma.

    I do believe that I have enough details in each case to illustrate the potential for prevention, which is my primary reason for doing this.


  6. John said:

    In reading Pierre Burton’s books of the history of the gold rush all types and crosses of dogs were used to pull sleds. Speaking personally I use descriptors rather than try and name breed or mixtures thereof.

  7. Lesley said:

    I find it interesting that a number of the dogs were chained. More evidence that chaining can result in agression with tragic consequences.

  8. JoJo said:

    I am so disgusted by the blatant hate that goes on towards certain breeds. ie the pitbull! I mean thats almost the equivalent of racism. if a kid kills a cat or a puppy we slap them on the wrist…. but if a dog which is more animalistic just bites someone, they are put down. Most dogs are provoked. Most dogs are afraid or intimidated and then attack. most little cchildren dont understand to approach a dog slowly and allow it to come to them and sniff before trying to just play with it. and then we want to be angry at the dog. Teach your kids. Treat your pets better and stop leaving them chained outside. There is no such thing as a bad dog! or a bad breed. Only an inability to be the alpha male or female of your pack. and a dog needs a pack that will give it a role! make a change people!

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