Dog’s fate in question after attack on four-year-old in Shelburne

Amy Woolvett, The Vanguard
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SHELBURNE - A complicated situation has fallen into the hands of the Municipality of Shelburne after a four-year old was attacked by a dog at Roseway Park.

There were no adults around when the four-year old approached the dog.

The six-year old beagle, lab and duck toller mix named Stormy was tied in its own yard.

When the child crouched down to visit, the dog bit the child in the face. The child suffered bruising and puncture wounds from the attack.

The mother of the child, Shirley Oikle, took her son to the emergency department where he was treated. 

Oikle said she had been standing in her backyard two doors down when she lost sight of her son. It was in those moments the dog attacked.

The bylaw enforcement officer took the dog from the home and as per custom, it was held for 10 days to see if the dog was rabid. According to its bylaws, the municipality could at day 14 destroy the dog.

What the municipality realized soon after taking the dog was that she was pregnant and due any day.

She has since had her puppies while in captivity.

According to Silvia Jay, a dog behaviour specialist from Nova Scotia, this could be a mitigating factor in the attack.

“If she never has bitten before or showed aggression, the bite could have been circumstantial,” she said. She said the hormones from the pregnancy could have played a part but without seeing what actually happened it would be difficult to determine.

The SPCA manager in Yarmouth, Carol Denomme, said the pregnancy of the dog could have been a factor.

“The dog was older at six years and pregnant for the first time,” she said. “There was no one around, the dog could have been growling and giving out warning signs but children don’t listen to warnings."

But she did admit even a pregnant dog should have walked away rather than attack.

“We don’t know if the child fell on the dog and she was protecting her puppies,” she said.

The family of the dog is upset and wants its dog back.

“I felt really bad when it happened,” said Claire Brown. “She has never been in trouble before. It was totally out of character.”

She said she didn’t even know there was a child visiting in her yard.

They have searched the bylaws and are attempting to get the dog back before it is destroyed.

Within the municipal bylaw, there is a stipulation stating a long list of requirements if owning a dangerous dog.

Brown’s children have been building an enclosure, posting signs and the family has been doing its best to check off all that needs to be done to keep the dog.

But Shelburne Municipal CAO Kirk Cox said even that if they complete all the requirements, they still might not have their dog returned.

“Yes, (these) conditions would be irrelevant if the dog was deemed a considerable danger,” said Cox. 

“Next week things will be more clear,” he said. “But for now, we know of the incident, we have met with both parties, we are assessing and trying to determine the facts…but our bylaw is clear about our options…return the dog with conditions or put it down.”

Denomme said she believes the SPCA would have approached the situation differently.

“A dangerous dog is a heavy label,” she said. “I don’t think I would have removed the dog from the family. I can’t say to Shelburne you’re doing this wrong but I think they are.”

She thinks the dog should be reassessed after the puppies are weaned and even offered a kennel at the Yarmouth SPCA to house the dog and her puppies.

“The bylaws are in place to protect the people not the dogs and I understand,” she said. “It’s a bit of a 'you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t' situation.”

Brown and her children have been visiting their dog outside the fence of the municipal compound where their pet is being held and said she is disgusted by the conditions the dog is being kept in.

“There is pee and feces all around, and her bowl is empty every time I go …it is not the conditions (she) should be kept in.”

She said she has all of the conditions met and is waiting for the municipality to get back to her whether she can have her dog back.

“I'm upset. I just want to make sure all the pups are nursing properly. I've done everything I can and still feel like I'm fighting them,” she said.

“We want to get the dog back,” she said. “It’s the kids’ pet.”

But the family of the four-year-old who was bitten is very upset about the entire situation and wants the dog put down.

“It’s a safety measure any parent would take,” said Oikle. “I don’t care if the dog was pregnant …an aggressive dog is an aggressive dog whether pregnant or not.”

She said she doesn’t understand why Brown wouldn’t have warned nearby parents that her dog was pregnant and potentially a threat.

“Now I just feel total disgust,” she said, adding her son was devastated an animal would hurt him.

Geographic location: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Yarmouth

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Recent comments

  • Hard to believe
    June 03, 2014 - 11:28

    I'm not a dog lover.... The parent that lost sight of her child for a min is lucky that a bruise and some scraps that will heal is all this poor child has to deal with.... Good thing he wasn't hit by a car or picked up by a pedophile... Then maybe you'd have something to bitch about... let the dog go home and deal with the real problem.

  • Sarah M
    June 01, 2014 - 07:23

    How is the dog or it's owners at fault in this? Their dog was tied on in it's own back yard when someones unattended child trespassed and approached! Maybe someone should remove the child from it's home due to lack of supervision. That might be the solution to the real problem.

  • Bazzy 1
    May 30, 2014 - 20:13

    I was stunned when I read this article about the dog being seized and possibly being put down by the Shelburne Municipality, you cant be serious. Let look at the facts, the dog was tied on her own property , the owners land, an unsupervised child, wandered in and went to the animal. The animal reacted, why? Did the child hurt the animal, no one knows? If I read this right , we are going on the word of a four year old child who has been injured , and who is also probably scared of getting in trouble from wandering from home! And one mad mother, who was negligent in ensuring the safety of her child by allowing the child to wander off, oh that's right she only lost sight for a few minutes, you cant be serious! So is the Shelbure municipality saying then that anyone can come onto someone's property, their dogs are not to react, and it is ok, you cant even be serious! The dog reacted for what ever reason, pregnancy being a big factor and should not be destroyed because of this! . The child in question is the Parents responsiblity and not the neighbours and for this child's parent to have the audacity to say that the neighbours should have told people that the dog was pregnant and a potential threat is beyond contempt. Were is your parental responsibility to ensure your child is safe. I for one know, that I would be hiring a lawyer and taking the county to court. And if the facts are true about the conditions that this dog is living in under the municipality dog pound, this is blatant animal abuse! This animal deserves better and you are not above the law when it comes to abuse charges for neglect!

  • Samantha Fougere
    May 28, 2014 - 14:03

    I think is is total non sence!! If my dog would be tied up in my yard and any kid or adult would come over and try to pet my dog, its at their own risk let alone , trespassing in my yard? like where the heck was his mother like honestly at 4 years old wondering around.. 2 houses away? Where's child services in all this?? I am a dog lover and i am totally disgusted by this!!

  • Wandy
    May 28, 2014 - 07:51

    Wow, speechless. They are actually thinking about destroying this poor dog who was tied in its OWN yard? The whole thing has gone too far- the dog shouldn't have been removed in the first place. If ANYONE should be removed, it should be the child who is not looked after. Talk about displaced blame!!- The mother should blame HERSELF, not the dog. I feel for the child who did not know better, the poor dog who had her puppies while away from her family...but the mother, no way. She needs to be accountable for her own actions.

  • Lucky Gilbert
    May 27, 2014 - 20:28

    What a stupid world we live in. A mother looses her kid, he wanders two houses away and she still doesn't know he's gone. He goes after a pregnant dog in her own yard and does God knows what to the dog. I know how cruel kids are with animals and no witnesses to say otherwise. The dog, in her own yard, feels threatened and shes the bad guy in this. That is total BS. The town of Shelburne needs to get it's head out of it's butt and give the dog back immediately. To the mother of the kid, it's your own fault, put down your cell phone and take care of your kid and this wouldn't happen.

    • Buttercup
      May 28, 2014 - 10:06


  • John Harquail
    May 27, 2014 - 19:47

    As a former dog owner (my Alaskan long haired malmute passed away 3 weeks ago. i find it hard to understand why a mother that let her 4 year old inadvertely wonder away, wants a dog that was tied and in his own yard put down, does she know all the facts of what happened in the yard. no she does not here is a case of guilty and prove yourself innocent, out society is innocent till proven guilty was the animal provoked no one knows. i know as a large dog owner that has grand kids when they were around even though i had a gentle giant she was never left alone with the kids. not like this child was, i say common sense none of which society has today should prevail. the animal was protecting her space from an intruder after the owners did all the things they were suppose to be, i say put down the mother for letting the child wonder away oh wait we can't there's no by-law for stupidity

  • John Harquail
    May 27, 2014 - 19:45

    As a former dog owner (my Alaskan long haired malmute passed away 3 weeks ago. i find it hard to understand why a mother that let her 4 year old inadvertely wonder away, wants a dog that was tied and in his own yard put down, does she know all the facts of what happened in the yard. no she does not here is a case of guilty and prove yourself innocent, out society is innocent till proven guilty was the animal provoked no one knows. i know as a large dog owner that has grand kids when they were around even though i had a gentle giant she was never left alone with the kids. not like this child was, i say common sense none of which society has today should prevail. the animal was protecting her space from an intruder after the owners did all the things they were suppose to be, i say put down the mother for letting the child wonder away oh wait we can't there's no by-law for stupidity

  • Pam Cusack
    May 27, 2014 - 13:55


  • Sharon
    May 27, 2014 - 12:36

    Instead of putting the dog down.. She was in her own yard (as she should be & pregnant) why aren't the people worried about the 4 yr old that the parent "lost sight of" this child was two houses away!! He could have gotten hit and killed by a car!!!! Parents have to watch their children! Yes I'm a dog owner (westie) BUT if he got out of our yard and bit someone I would bring him to the vet ASAP to be put down... This is NOT the case here. The parent wasn't watching her child and he went to the dogs " home"...

  • PLC
    May 27, 2014 - 12:24

    It will be very sad to see this dog destroyed because of the bad parenting of a 4 year old boy who should have been being watched by his parents. Shelburne has to step up and do the right thing here. This dog should be returned to its owner and the owners should put a fence up right away to keep the 4 year old out. I hate to be sarcastic but does this mean if someone ever breaks into my house and my dog bites them the city will come take my dog away and put him down???

  • Pauline
    May 27, 2014 - 12:04

    So let me get this straight. The dog was tied in her own yard. The 4 yr old wandered *two doors down* and went into the dogs yard. The dog bit the trespasser. Sounds right. First of all, the mother should be charged with neglect and abandonment. *Two doors down* could be quite a distance depending on the property sizes. The dog was defending her own territory. Where oh where is the common sense here.

  • Carol
    May 27, 2014 - 11:48

    Why was a four year old child wandering around by himself in the first place?

  • Diane
    May 27, 2014 - 11:44

    The mother of the child is at fault. There should be no debate in the issue and the dog returned to its owner. How would she feel if the child was taken away for her being neglectful and not properly watching her child. The dog was just watching out for her babies and being a good mother.. Obviously she wasn't.

  • Mark
    May 27, 2014 - 11:41

    A 4 years old full of beans is going to run off the moment they can. That's why they need to be watched like a hawk or put in a safe area the can not get out of. Take the responsibility parents, and don't pawn off your poor parenting mistakes on others! Give the dog back.... zero fault to the owners! You think a 4 year old is going to hold his hand out for a strange dog to stiff and then judge if it's safe to pat it?? No..... they are going to wrap their arms around it, climb over it and maul it. It's not the childs fault, they don't know any better. That's why they're supposed to have sensible parents or guardians watching them.

  • A little common sense
    May 27, 2014 - 11:18

    Seems the mother of the child is trying to use a "dangerous dog" to cover her own ineptitude as a mother. I have a 4 year old and feel they need to be watched whenever they are outside. Let's face it, the dog was tethered in it's own yard, not roaming the streets. I think the mother of the child should just drop it and learn to look after her child. Trying to get people to jump on the dangerous dog train is not going to work thistime by reading the comments, good. The municipality should give the dog back and get child welfare services involved to make sure the child will be looked after. Seems the dog already is.

  • Jackie Quinn
    May 27, 2014 - 11:13

    Perhaps the child should be taken from the mother. Her small child shouldn't have had the chance to disappear from her sight and make it a couple doors down to where a responsible pet owner had their dog tied in their yard. Or charge the child with trespassing....Honestly there are so many things that could or should be done here, but the dog should not be the one that suffers. At least not in this situation.

  • Ellen
    May 27, 2014 - 11:06

    Truly a sad situation. I feel bad for the child, feel terrible for the dog but have no sympathy for the child's parents. Good thing he wasn't picked up by some sicko only takes a second.

  • dog lover
    May 27, 2014 - 11:03

    Well lets hope the mother of this child reads this as what i am about to say . You are wanting to have this animal put down for the actions of what the animal has done to your son. I understand totally that this animal should be put down for his actions . Now after this animal is put down i would like to know what you are going to do when someone calls Social Services on you for neglect and lack of parenting skills you have for looking after your son . As the animal you are wanting to have destroyed I also believe that you should be reported for not properly looking after your son. You let your son leave your side and walk into someones yard and you let him get bit by a dog. You put that child in danger of being seriously hurt by the animal and you put him in danger of being hit by a car or truck you put him in danger of being kidnapped You neglected to keep your child safe . Your child should be taken away from you as you do not have the ability to look after him.He should be placed with a family that would not let him out of their site so this doesn't happen again . I hope you dont think that the destroying this animal is gonna change the way you look after your child .It will just mean you can let your child do what ever he wants to do without the danger of an animal that is in his own yard tied to his own property attacking you son when he enters a yard he inst appose to be in . Your a good mother for letting him out of your site .

  • speck
    May 27, 2014 - 10:24

    The dog was clearly protecting it's (unborn) young, chained in it's yard. This clearly negligent "mother" wants to destory the dog on the same grounds because it seems she couldn't be bothered to keep an eye on her precious snowflake. Maybe she needs a sign of her own.

  • Pamela
    May 27, 2014 - 10:07

    Sorry for every party affected,but none more than the dog! A tethered, pregnant dog in their OWN yard is not a threat! We all have to take responsibility for ours, be it our children and our pets. While scary and potentially tragic, the child should have been no where near that dog. Simple. The mother should count her blessings the child was not more seriously hurt. Destroying an animal just for the sake of it serves nobody! I hope cooler heads prevail and the dog is returned.

  • S.A.
    May 27, 2014 - 08:44

    This is ridiculous. The muncipality needs to do the right thing and give this dog back to the family! Yes, horrible that the child was bitten but the he was trespassing. Where were the parents of this child? You can't turn your back on a four-year-old especailly when you know that there is an uknown dog tied in your neighbour's yard. The Brown's have done their part by fencing their yard. The Oikles' need to accept some responsbility for this and that these people have children too and this was their beloved pet. The dog was vulnerable; tied and pregnant and nobody witnessed the event take place! If this dog is put down, the by-laws need to be changed. It 's not always black and white!

  • momtoboys
    May 27, 2014 - 08:14

    I totally agree! There are circumstances here that should not be ignored. It is horrible that this child was bitten but he was on someone elses property. The dog was tied and pregnant and nobody was there to witness the events. Ms. Oikle is as much at fault for this as Ms. Brown is for her dog biting. I have a five-year-old and I would never leave him unattended in our yard. As a parent you know you can't turn your back for a second. You always assume that an animal could be dangerous if you don't know otherwise. She would have known the dog was there. I would have been more cautious because of this. The Browns' did their part by keeping the dog in their yard and have now put up a fence and have added signage to their property. The muncipality needs to do the right thing and give this family back their dog!

  • L.A
    May 27, 2014 - 07:47

    I totally agree with you AuroraGG. This dog was leashed in its OWN yard and very pregnant ready to give birh at any day. And a child left unnatended trespasses ( legally the child did eventhough it wouldn't know it ) into the yard and approaches the TETHERED dog . No witnesses were present to see what the child may have done to have the dog react the way it did. You back a dog up in a corner with no where to go what do you think the dog will instinctively do? Throw pregnant and motherly instinct Into the mix and it's not a good situation at all. The mother of the unnatended child should take responsibility in her part of this unfortunate situation because her lapse in attending her child resulted in what happened to her child and what's happening to this dog and the owners family . The poor little kid having to suffer through that ordeal , the mother is fortunate her child did not get hit by a car or kidnapped !!!

    • Kelly Morrison
      May 28, 2014 - 05:28

      I am sorry that a child got bit but the poor dog was tied and we don't know how the child approached this dog. The parents should keep an eye on their child as he was trespassing in the dogs territory and the dog should NOT be put down. Keep a better eye on your child.

  • Flabbergasted
    May 27, 2014 - 07:45

    I am the first one to agree when a child is hurt that the dog should not be trusted in the future, but in this case, I do not agree. To the parents of the child that "lost sight" of your the same way that you would like to protect your child, that dog would have those same instincts. This was a horrible turn of events but the dog should be returned to their owners. She is probably suffering a great deal to be taken from her family while also going through the birth of her first litter!

  • Gamma
    May 27, 2014 - 07:32

    The dog was in its own yard, tied up. The mother of the little boy should have been watching him closer. The dog should not be put down as it did not go after the little boy off its leash or property. People are too quick to have dogs put down when their child is bit due to the child's parents negligence.

  • AuroraGG
    May 27, 2014 - 06:55

    She (the mother) said she doesn’t understand why Brown wouldn't have warned nearby parents that her dog was pregnant and potentially a threat. Probably for the same reason she (the mother) didn't warn the dog owners her child would be unattended in their yard. Because neither were able to predict the future and see this happening. There are times when dogs should be put down and dog owners fined, and there are times when we feel devastated that someone, especially a child, was hurt… but this doesn't read a like a case where the animal should be killed.